Ensalada lengua, tom yam bahasa…

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Grand bizarre in Istanbul…

If there’s anything more annoying than gringos speaking incorrect Spanish, it’s—wait for it—Spanish-speakers speaking incorrect Spanish, for the presumed benefit of non-Spanish speakers, creating a mindless muck of incomprehensibility that is more annoying than anything else, as if I would never know what country was being talked about unless the Spanish-speaker said ‘Your-a-guey’ instead of ‘Oo-roo-guai’, which is the correct way, for Uruguay, or ‘Pair-a-guey’ instead of ‘Pah-rah-guai’, as actually happened once, from a Spanish-as-a-second-language speaker before she knew that I could speak Spanish, too.

Actually I’m not sure if she ever acknowledged that I could speak Spanish as good or better than she, even though she had actually lived there a long time, and I never really did. That’s all too often the problem, of course, dueling with dual languages for supremacy and the upper hand at whatever dignity might be at stake. And it’s justified, too, in that anybody should have the right and encouragement to speak the language of whatever country he happens to be in.

Thailand is the worst, though, only grudgingly relenting to speak the native tongue with a farang unless he can physically pass as a brown-eyed black-haired Asian or similar half-breed luuk kreung, insisting almost to the death that any English they speak will be better than any Thai you can speak. The books tell them that. The problem with such a mish-mash of languages is that when you can’t understand something, then you don’t even know what language it is you can’t understand! One must persevere…

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