Thursday, June 02, 2005

America the (Phrase) Book

On tonight's Daily Show with Jon Stewart, "down under" actor Russell Crowe (Kiwi by birth, but grew up in Oz) made the stunning suggestion that America might benefit from having more Americans travel outside America. Canada and México are important, but it's good to include at least a few countries that require actual airplanes to get to. Russell Crowe noted that only a small percentage (he said 14%; estimates range up to about 22%) of Americans even own passports. I put it to you that even when we do go abroad, we are so insular in our approach to the experience that we often offend. I certainly realize that not everyone has my facility with foreign languages, but seriously, the absolute minimum is to learn how to say "Do you speak English?" but you get bonus points for "I don't speak [your language]" in their language.

Here, then, for your edification, are a few entries in my American Phrase Book, just off the top of my head. I don't guarantee that any of the following is correct, but I do guarantee that it's better than "No speakee Eenglish?"

FrenchJe ne parle pas français.Zhuh nuh pah luh pah fron-say.
SpanishNo hablo español.No ah-blo es-pan-yol
GermanIch spreche kein deutsch.Ick spreckuh kyne doytch.
DutchIk spreekt niet nederlands.Eek sprayk't neet nay-der-lahnss.
HungarianNem beszelek magyarul.Nem buh-say-lek mudge-your-rule.
IrishNil laobhrim nGaelige.Neel luh-vreem nile-guh.
GreekΔεν μιλώ τα ελληνικά.Den mee-LO ta ellenee-KAH.
ItalianNon parlo italiano.Nohn parlo italiano.
ShoshoneTsaanggu beaichehkuTsahng-goo buh-AY-cheh-koo
FinnishPuhetteko ranskaa?poo-hay-tay-ko ranskaa?
EnglishMy hovercraft isfull of eels.
CzechČeskychess-key (shake head "no")
PortugueseEu não falo o grego.ay-oo now fah-lo o gray-go
Japanese(don't ask me!)Boku-wa nihon-go hanashi mas sen
RussianКомитет Государственной БезопасностиThis tobacconist is scratched.
SwahiliMboga woga mkubwabata mguu
Deaf LipreaderJust speak clearly,don't over-enunciate.
Mayan¿Cómo se dice en maya...?ko-mo say dee-say en maya
Hawai'ianHo'o pohopoho(said with a deep bow)
LakotaHecel lena oyate kin nipi kte.umm, uhh....
Korean가각갂ai goo chom nay
Seriously, if you're travelling to a foreign country for more than a day, don't be a kanga-bloody-roo. At least learn how to ask politely that the damned fur'ners speak English just like Jesus Christ.