Friday, August 16, 2013
The foreign language phrase book is a highpoint of misplaced optimism. We buy these little books in the hope that we will be able to communicate with the locals. It's good to know the words for yes and no and a couple of expressions like Good morning, and Where's the toilet? but it seems silly to ask Where is the local internet café? unless it's within pointing distance. You might be able to make the native know what you're asking for, especially if you point out the sentence in your phrase book. But you're never going to be able to understand his directions. No way. But maybe he's going that way. Or maybe he speaks a little English. I remember a tourist on an early morning train who was badly in need of an eye opener. He had told our group previously that he could make the locals understand him by talking baby talk in a loud voice. But he was having no luck with the conductor as he pointed to his gullet while hollering out "Me want-um drinky-poo."