I spend a lot of time inside incomprehensible sound. My co-workers chat and make jokes on the way home in the office van. All kinds of words are shared while I sit there in my linguistic deepfreeze. One thing that penetrates the curtain of incomprehension is the light tone of the conversation, interspersed with laughter and guffaws. No surly folks in my commuter van.
One unexpected side benefit of my cocoon of incomprehension is my isolation from commercial messages. An invocation to buy a lottery ticket has roughly the same value as the bus attendant’s destinations rap. As yet, the visual commercial messages are muted in Yangon and mostly absent outside of the big city. Religious messages have a slightly different tonal value. They depend more on ritualized language and ritual sounds differently than commerce: more repetitive, certainly, but also more plaintive.