Monday, March 22, 2010
Get it Right
Anyone who has visited another country has probably had the pleasure to hear or read "engrish," or delightfully mangled English. I loved getting to experience it while working in Japan, where I never quite blended into the background completely.
I lived on a peaceful street in a suburban-like neighborhood of Miyazaki. Once, on a day off, two young sisters were riding their bikes past me and they stopped.
"Are you gaijin (foreigner)?" the older girl asked me Japanese.
"Yes, I am from America," I answered.
The sisters looked at each other, their expressions lighting up in recognition of the place I came from.
"Oh, hello!" Big Sister said to me. She seemed proud to be able to speak English to me, even a single word. She rolled her L's, the way R's are rolled in Spanish. It sounded more like "ha-doh" the way she pronounced it.
I am used to the Japanese accented version of English, but I deliberately replied with my own Southern California accent. "Hello."
Little Sister piped up, and boy did she have an attitude. "No, it's not 'hello'" she informed me in Japanese. "It's 'ha-doh!'"
I bobbed my head in a small, meek bow of apology. "Sumimasen (Excuse me)."
I could just hear the unspoken words probably going through their minds: "Stupid American!"