Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ghosted in translation

SN L and SEN MY are both from the same nation, one which borders China. SEN MY is half-Chinese and grew up near at a border village which frequently trades with travelling Chinese merchants. Thus, she speaks fluent Chinese. SN L, on the other hand, understands only a few Chinese words and has an English-speaking Indian grandfather.

One day, a patient's grandmother was speaking to SN L in Chinese. She probably thought that SN L understands Chinese based on her nationality. SN L only caught the keywords, “有很多...?” and “小孩” ["Are there many?" and "children"].

Thinking that the grandma was asking about the patient census, SN L replied, “很多,很多。” ["Yes, there are many."]


The next day (day 3 of admission for the patient), the patient was for discharge. Of course, most parents are eager to bring their children home. In this case, the patient's father chased the staff several times for discharge immediately after the doctor has reviewed and approved it (while the doctor was still reviewing other patients). I thought that he was extraordinarily eager to get his pre-schooler out of the hospital.

Towards the end of the shift, SEN MY gave me the answer to my puzzle. She was tickled and eager to share her joke. It was due to what patient's grandmother told SEN MY earlier that morning.

On the 1st night of admission, the patient was fretful and refused to sleep. The next day (day 2 of admission), the patient told the grandmother about seeing "someone" under her bed, which was near the door. Thus, the parents insisted on changing to the bed nearer the window (in the 2-bedded room) when the neighbouring patient was discharged that morning. The grandmother asked SN L in Chinese if there are many ghosts in the ward and if any of the children were frightened. “這里有很多鬼嗎?小孩害怕嗎?“

As mentioned above, the meaning was lost-in-translation and thus the ward became (haunted) "ghosted"-in-translation. The patient's grandmother then expressed her concern over the ghosts to SEN MY on day 3 of admission, the morning of discharge. SEN MY had to explain that the ward is not ghosted, but the grandma remained sceptical. Thus, I think that explains the patient's father's eagerness to be discharged.

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