The importance of pronunciation seems to be a common theme around here, but when you mispronounce a word it really does provide some funny stories. Before we moved to Kyrgyzstan we lived in Almaty, Kazakhstan for almost two months. Almaty is a very modern city in a lot of ways and we were shopping in one of their many larger grocery stores. I needed to buy some cinnamon, корица (koreetsa) in Russian. We looked all around the store, focusing special attention on where the other spices appeared to be. Alas, we were now at the point of either giving up and going home without the cinnamon or asking for help.
This is one of those occasions when I just feel like playing paper/rock/scissors with Scott to see who has to sound like the fool while asking for help. Well, we worked together and he looked up cinnamon in his Russian dictionary while I looked around for an employee. We found the word, and the employee. We were ready. However, being very new to a Russian speaking country we knew very little about reading Russian, let alone pronouncing it correctly. I asked where the корица (koreetsa) was but apparently what I actually asked for was курица (kooreetsa), chicken. I knew my guide and I were not on the same page when he started leading me away from the spice aisle toward the frozen meats. When we got there and he pointed to a bag of frozen chicken I told him no and thanked him for his help anyway. I was ready to give up, exhausted by my limited language skills. He however, was more determined than me.
He kept showing me other chicken options and, not knowing what else to do, I just kept saying no. After a detour around the store we found Scott again and I had the bright idea to show the employee the word in the dictionary. Eureka! Now we were communicating! He walked back to the spice aisle and he started looking and then asked another employee. Unfortunately they didn’t have any in stock, but I was pleased that we were able to leave the store without wondering.