Thursday, May 13, 2010

Um... Something's Missing, but that's OK

Having lived overseas for some time, I don't knock anyone's accent, lack of pronouns or spelling skills.  Whenever your language group is the minority, you're just tickled pink when someone is willing to try to speak your native tongue.  Most of the well-traveled areas of Amman are signed in English and Arabic.  When you get off the beaten path, well, things go mono-lingual pretty quick.  Many of the cabbies can make out what I'm saying, but I've met very few cops who can give directions or write tickets in anything but the local dialect.
Not that they should... We're in Jordan in the Middle East... I should be speaking their language.  These characters in the States who are all about the "Speak English or Get Out" should spend some time in a box where the exit instructions are in Sinhalese (I'll give you a hint: pretty looking hieroglyphics that say, you're staying in that box).  Yes, I understand it costs more to have multilingual translations of your tax forms or baking instructions, but having been in the situation, I have to say I don't mind the extra effort.  Like everyone else, I'm just here to do my job, help my family and go on my way.  I  always apologize for my lack of Arabic anything, much less grammar, and offer my sincere thanks to anyone who gives me a little English respite.
That all being said, the rest of the world really, really wants to help us English speakers out.  They want us to understand and benefit from the multi-lingual world around us.  So, when I get in a cab, I'll know it's got Electronic Fuel Injection.  Or not to sit in the restricted row.  And what Major Corporation hasn't made the mistake of calling physically fit, single females... um, misfits?  But there are times when I'm at a complete loss.  Just because there are English letters, doesn't mean I totally get the concept you're trying to sell me.  I want to be fashionable and update my closet.  And I want to understand why the trashcan that's shown up at shops all over town (from a recently unloaded Chinese cargo container?) and even at Carrefour is encouraging me to Tea myself.  Green Tea?  Black Tea?
Maybe I'll treat myself to some cereal, sit down and be thankful I can read it at all.  Hello, World... I'm one of those Americans who skipped out on language study... and I really appreciate your English skills.

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