While in Myanmar, I have been trying to pick up little bits and pieces of the language. I have learned how to say “Mingalaba,” which is Hello and “Chei-zu tin-bar-te” which is Thank you. Most folks smile when I say these simple words, maybe because of my accent or maybe because they are not expecting it. Either way, I get such a delight out of the interactions.
Yesterday, while riding in a taxi, our taxi driver made a comment in English. He spoke well enough for us to have a lovely conversation about music. Then I shared that I was trying to learn his language and wondered how to say “what is your name?”
He responded “Sim ma mah.”
I repeated, “sim ma ma.”
He said, “No, Sim, ma mah.”
I tried again but he was not satisfied and spoke slower, really emphasizing each sound. I listened intently and repeated exactly how I had heard. This time he was pleased, smiled and said: “yes, that is correct.”
I sat back in my seat for a few moments and then leaned forward, tapping his shoulder and said with confidence, “Sim ma mah?”
He paused, glanced back at me and in a quandary said, “Yes, that is my name.”
“Ah!” I exclaimed, “I asked you how do you say, ‘what is your name?’ And, you actually told me your name.”
Everyone in the car burst out laughing as we all realized the misunderstanding. He then proceeded to tell me how to say “what is your name?” but for the life of me, I can not remember how to say it. I’ll never forget how to say his name though.