Whoever invented tonal languages needs to be fired.

To give an example, I'm a voracious tea drinker, but despite my best attempts I've never successfully ordered it in Thai. No matter how I try to pronounce it - cha, caa, tza, chaa, shaa - it just never works. I'll pantomime drinking from a hot cup, pouring from a pot - nothing ever works. Eventually I'll break down and say "hot tea" and they'll say "Ohh.. you want cha." We'll have a futile language lesson as I practice a dozen identical forms of pronunciation, and the experience repeats. The depth of my misery is so great that I've went out and bought a thermos, and carry around my own tea. Besides, their tea sucks anyway. But non-tonal languages suffer no such problem. Like, I write this from a sushi counter in Bankok, having just ordered from a Thai waitress in Japanese (a non-tonal language which is native to neither of us). Our conversation goes: [Me] "Um... hamachi, saba..." [Her] "Sashimi?" [Me] "No, nigiri. Maguro..." [Her] "No maguro." [Me] "Oh, hm... tekka maki?" [Her] "No, no maguro." (we laugh) [Me] "Ahh... sake.. tobiko.. you have salmon skin hand roll?" [Her] "Yes" [Me] "Good, that's it." (she turns to leave) [Me] "Oh, and hot tea." Somehow I can express a full sushi menu in Japanese without trouble -- to a non-native Japanese speaker, no less -- but a single syllable of Thai confounds me.

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Red Swoosh The Ajax P2P Bandwidth-Saving Dojo » Blog Archive » Do I remember operation Red Swoosh? says:
September 3rd, 2006 at 4:05 pm

[…] During the conference I met a fellow named David, who tells me that my software was in some ways similar to the software at this slighty-odd named company “Red Swoosh”, and that they’re looking for someone like me. After more discussion and a trial project that I work on back in Australia (me now also enrolled in my PhD at this point), and suddenly I find I have a dream job waiting for me in San Francisco. After a little while I make the decision to drop my PhD and fly on over. This of course is via a month stopover in Thailand, where instead of writing P2P software in my room and Uni as I had been doing, I’m was now writing it from the beaches of Thailand. And now, in Silicon Valley. I had gone from my home Separation Creek Valley ( set in a town of 7 people ), to Silicon Valley. […]

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