Every place in the world speaks English with its own Colloquial flavor. Because of this there have been many mirthful situations over the years. The Spanish speak English in rapid-fire bursts, only stopping in between to take a breath or two. The French seem to have trouble with the ordinary word “It” and use “He” and “She” most indiscriminately. The Germans pronounce almost every other English word with a “Z” in it. In theFar Eastthere is liberal sprinkling of the word “La” and here in my Hometown of Hyderabad, English is spoken with a strong Urdu or Telugu flavor.
Indeed it gets difficult at times to keep a straight face when someone gives me directions to their house and adds helpfully, “It’s at the backside of Reliance so you won’t have very much trouble finding it.” It seems as if we will never see the back of the word backside and people still have trouble side lining the word much! We also seem to co-opt the word “Co” endlessly and needlessly albeit very harmlessly as in “I met my Co-brother and Co-sister today.” Brother-in-law or sister-in-law seems to be outlawed words! There is also much laughter whenever I try to speak Telugu and if I can smile good humouredly at their English, then my spoken Telugu must surely give many people their laugh of the day!
I have found it very easy to converse with people in most parts of the world, but whenever I visited any country in South America, I always felt like I had suddenly landed on another planet. The people looked familiar as there is a riot of color and complexion due to their racial mix but they always seem to be talking Greek and Latin! There are enough English and American tourists all over Europe for shop keepers to know a smattering of the Universal Language but not in Central and South Americawhere only Spanish and Portuguese are spoken. The one time I met someone speaking fluent English was in the port city of Puerto CabeloinVenezuela. Conversation was flowing well with the taxi driver who had just returned from the US and he was selling me the charms of his tiny but beautiful city. To drive home his point he said, “Our women are so beautiful and so is our country, you can visit a different bitch every day.” I was speechless with shock and awe until I realized that he was referring to the coastline and the beaches!
Visiting Thailand was great fun for all of us. The travel agent asked me to take the children to an amusement park on Sunday, as it would be funnier on that day. I asked if there would be a parade or some special event with jokers and clowns on that Sunday, but she only looked at me blankly and then said “Lots of people on Sundays, so it will be funnier”. My children seemed to find it very funny that I could not make the connection between having fun and being funny. The lilting Thai accent fell flat on my ears and I felt as if I would have to ask my children to lend me their ears for the duration of my stay in Bangkok. I had always thought that I was an ace at bargaining and even tried to exercise this skill while buying camera batteries. The lady asked me for 70 baht and I told her that I had bought some earlier on for 50. My children doubled up with laughter as their young ears had correctly heard her asking me for just 20!
Our stay in England was wonderful, except for the English accents! There was a liberal use of endearments and I had to come to terms with all the darlings, loves, sweethearts and even duckies thrown my way especially by the older generation. No British stiff upper lip when it came to terms of endearment.