My friend Richard - a wonderful big Mississippian with a civil-war beard
and a slow drawl went to Paris to play classical saxophone. You know
they always say that thing about "If you just /try/ to speak their
language, they'll appreciate it and everything will go so much more
Richard went into a corner patisserie or something and said to the
beefy, angry-looking Frenchman behind the glass case: "Ave vous . . . un
. . . croisant du . . . chocolat?" You have to imagine this done
haltingly in a heavy Mississippi drawl.
The big Frenchman leans toward him, hands on the glass case and says, "Spick Anglish! Do nut /waste/ mah tahm!"
2) From Mike Schilling, of the East Bay area in NoCal:
True story: I was out for a walk in Amsterdam and discovered that I was a bit lost. I stopped a passerby to ask directions to the Rembrandt museum.
“Excuse me, do you happen to speak English?”
(*very* irately) “Of course! I went to school!”
Something I like about the Chinese approach to their own language is that it resembles America's approach to English - and differs from the French (or Japanese) attitude about their respective languages. The French and Japanese, in my experience and in general, are prideful about the special elegance of their language, and the unlikelihood that outsiders can communicate effectively in it, let alone elegantly.
Americans are much more utilitarian in their view toward English: they've heard a million versions of it within their own borders (Brooklyn, Alabama, Little Havana, Nigerian emigrants, etc) and expect that everyone should give it a stab. Something roughly similar applies in China. People have heard a million versions of Chinese; often the regional variations make it hard for people to understand each other; but they expect that outsiders should make a stab. So, try we do.
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