I just saw the statistics on this little blog of mine. There’s a page that shows you a map of the world and highlights countries where you are being read. And guess what. I’ve got a viewer in Russia!I wish I knew how to say “thank you” in Russian. In fact, I wish I was a better linguist generally. I once studied Hindi for a few weeks in India. I can still count to five, and I think I remember that the taped course told me how to say, “Waiter, please take your finger out of my wine glass.”
I can find a toilet in France and ask the price of things in a whole lot of countries. But it’s dangerous to speak a little bit of another language. I have a friend named Phred, who once told a group of Spanish peasant women that he had recently experienced an orgasm. He was trying to say that he was tired.
I used to speak Swahili. That’s a fact, though you wouldn’t believe it now. When I lived in Kenya it was essential, but it’s not all that useful in London. So, ni me sahao yote (I’ve forgotten it all). I do still speak Spanish. I learned to do that in a village in the mountains of The Dominican Republic where no one spoke a word of English. The method was simple: learn or starve. I recommend it.
When I first got there I was asked to say a few words to an assembled group of local farmers. I went into a room with maybe a hundred hard-faced peasants, sitting with their hats in their laps. I had stayed up the night before, employing the “word for word” method. It works like this: you take an English word and look up its equivalent in Spanish. Never mind grammar, syntax, colloquialisms and all that. Put a big smile on your face and go for it.
I still marvel at the hospitality of those people, who sat without a twitch or a murmur or a guffaw, as I said, “Ladies and horses, I am very pregnant today.”