Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hef you got a lassance fer theez minkey?

There’s nothing quite like getting off a plane (or a bus or a train) in a country where the only things you can say are ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and—perhaps inadvertently—‘can I put my ferret in your handbag?’. The struggle to be understood makes babies of all of us, unable to get even something as simple as air conditioning that works or a caesar salad with the bacon on the side. It’s frustrating, disabling and infuriating; it somehow strips away our ability to be ourselves. So why not do it for fun?

It would be great if you could convince everyone in your town to speak a different language for a day so you could recreate that feeling, but, let’s face it, the chances are slim. Short of having your eardrums removed, you’re going to be able to understand your neighbours. As a compromise, why not make it so they can’t understand you?

Spend a day speaking in an impenetrable accent. If you’re a perfectionist, research your accent and try to get your Latvian or Ghanian pronunciation to the point where it would fool a Lithuanian or Senegalese. If you’re not a perfectionist, take some tips from Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau (of ‘Pink Panther’ fame) and just pretend you’re French. The main thing is that no one should understand a word you say.

‘Ken ee eff a zeesoor sawad weez zee barcon ern zee zoide?’
‘I’m sorry sir, I couldn’t quite hear you. You wanted a?’
‘Zeesoor sawad weez zee barcon ern zee zoide.’
‘I’m afraid we don’t sell wristwatches here sir. Have you tried Kmart?’

After a day of being hungry, lost and excluded, you’ll once again appreciate how good it is, sometimes, to be home.

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