Shevek (shevek) wrote,

I went to the same Indian restaurant two days in a row; yesterday with a friend, today on my own. The owner was jocular. "What do you want, boss?" and "Your friend not with you today?"

"She ate earlier," I explained. He didn't understand. Of course, first language not English.

When I was travelling for conferences in Europe, I learned rapidly that everyone communicated just fine in English - except with me. My vocabulary is too flexible, or my phrasing too subtle, or my accent too weird, or I simply didn't take the same English classes as everybody else. "Spot is a blue dog." - I've never met one. Pink, in a poodle parlour, but blue, never.

So now I found myself struggling for the American vernacular. It feels like speaking a foreign language. It is. Really. "She had dinner already." - "already" is a key word. It works.

"Perhaps she doesn't like my food."

I said something like "Well I like it, so I'll have to bring another girl." This took a couple of attempts, and I'm still not sure I got it quite right, because his next offering was, "Does she want to do you?" and just in case I didn't understand, "Do you get like this?" with generous gesticulation. Naturally, I'm somewhat taken aback. The slightest thought hadn't even begun to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing my mind.

The correct explanation turned out to be "No, just talking." (again, with further gesticulation from the proprietor) and I escaped some way into an introduction to his son and a description of his many girlfriends.

My next, and totally natural act, was to visit and relate the story to the absent party, who I feel was equally amused.

There's also the story of the very nervous Australian backpacker who approached me in Athens, asking tentatively, "Do you speak English?" While the first thought that popped into my head, after a moment's surprise, was "Yes"; the second was most definitely along the lines of "Jah rastafari, yo in dem inglish good, wut dem roun' here, yo?" This did not go down so well.

Why was I in Athens? Well, I started somewhere in Greece. I wasn't even sure where, I'd just gotten out of one of those airport-taxi-office-taxi-airport jobs. So I got on a fast-looking bus and said "Athens." It was the only thing I knew. So Athens it was.
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