Monday, February 28, 2005

A Man of Few Words 

A chat I had this afternoon and Ari's wonderful post reminded me of a zillion situations where two people, who speak different languages, show off their limited knowledge. So one of them tries to impress the other with the few words he/she speaks of the other person's language. I've been a player on both sides of the spectrum. I know how to say "f*ck you" in at least ten different languages and am also well versed with the one-ten counting system in these tongues. So I've literally had conversations with people where I first counted one to ten for them and then offered them sex, something which, I believe, doesn't exactly create the best first impression. In my defense, I once had two girls who came up to me and told me that they speak a little bit of Bengali. In quick succession they told me that they loved me ("ami tomakey bhalobashi"), that my dad was an ass ("tomar baap gadha") and the name of a Bengali sweet that they wanted to eat ("Rosogolla khabo"). You never know how to react to these things - so you smile and this gives the speaker the impression that they indeed are multi linguists. So don't be surprised if some of these people put this "skill" on their resume. However, to be perfectly honest, in many jobs you just need to count from one-ten and then ask everyone else to "f*ck off". So that's not too bad!

To end this post I have to mention Toomar, the extremely witty and charming rafting guide we met two years back in New York. The girl asked us to teach her one greeting and one expletive in an Indian language. Kind that we were, we taught her to say Hello ("Namaste") and "dumb arse" (a crude Hindi word that I shall refrain from using). Fifteen minutes later another raft full of Indians went past us and Toomar looked at them, bowed and said "Hello". Needless to say the family was mighty pleased and started exchanging warm smiles when Toomar gave another smile and called them "dumb arses". Sweet words of nothing!

:)) I'd forgotten about Tumar. Good times.
Man starting from the rafting trip to the whole Time Square during blackout incident - those were indeed good times :)
The question remains do you feel flattered because they're making an effort to learn a little of your language and find a topic for conversation, or do you feel patronized and insulted because to some extent they're implying that your entire culture can be so crudely summarized and that you'll be pathetically grateful that he deigned to speak to you in pidgin-Bengali/Afrikaans/Tagalog-whatever?
@Sivani - a little bit of both. for starters (a) and then (b).
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