A Weekly Journal Chronicling My Life
As It Intersects With The Garbage Dump Community Near La Ceiba, Honduras

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Complaint #153: English Arrogance

is this a legal firm from west philly?

So here's something I loathe about Honduras generally - A Base Need to Show Off. This takes myriad forms here in the land of eternal heat but the one that drives me up a wall and hits closest to home is the shallow and ridiculous show that many Hondurans (especially the privileged youth) go through to prove that they know English. Let me be clear, I think there is a difference in trying to show courtesy by not assuming that a Gringo knows Spanish and the arrogant display of hatcheted English. The courtesy doesn't bother me, I rather like it but rarely can it extend beyond simple, salutation-like remarks and thus, even then I prefer to cut to Spanish and dispense with the nonsense. No, what really bother me are the shows people go through to prove that they are better than the poor masses or have some sort of marketable advantage to offer to the world. Let me give you some examples beginning with the stupid and progressing towards the absurd.

Stupid: I run 5 days a week, out of those 5 days it's the rare occasion when I'm not bombarded with people sticking their heads out of cars and busses to show me that they learned some English in their elementary school classes. I get things like, "Hello, how are you?" "What is your name?" "Hello baby!" and my favorite "Gringo, go home!". I guess I'm just dumbfounded by this culture because what would posess someone to stick their head out of a moving vehicle and shout the 3 words of English they've managed to pick up in their lifetime at a perfect stranger who obviously cannot respond? Do they really expect me be able to reply: "Fine thank you, and yourself?".  Even if I did they probably wouldn't know what I was saying. Can you imagine something similar occuring in the United States? I can just picture my mother shouting "Mach schnell!" and "Ich liebe dich!" at every Amishman she passes on the highway - she'd be locked up for harassment.

Stupid: Very often I find myself in line at a store or being waited on at a restaurant and after I've begun to order or talk in Spanish, the person serving me starts slipping in certain words in English, sometimes whole phrases. This bothers me. I appreciate that somewhere back you learned your numbers in English and I can understand your enthusiasm to want to share them with a real live Gringo but this presents for me two problems.
Problem # 1: I never know if I should respond back in English or switch over entirely to English because who knows if you'll understand that I want the Garlic Chicken as opposed to the fried variety and
Problem #2: Your pronunciation and heavy accent make it very difficult to understand if you're saying "two" "you" or "jew" so please, stick to what you're good at.

Sophomoric: I find that the need to "show off" in English plagues the privileged and "bilingual" youth of Honduras more than any other demographic and here's a fine example. Very often as I'm walking downtown and especially when I walk through the mall I'll happen upon groups of students from one of the 362 "bilingual" schools that seem to abound in La Ceiba. Can I just digress here for a moment and say that
a). La Ceiba as per their capita of bilingual schools must be one of the most lingually advanced and metropolitan of cities the world over and
b). just because you tack up a sign with titles like "Kinder Happy Day Child Caring Kingdom Jesus The King" does not a bilingual school make you.
Ok, so where was I? Mall, groups of students, bilingual school - I'll be walking along and here comes this group of teeny-bopping "bilingual" students, I know they're talking in Spanish because I can hear it and see it flowing from their chapsticked lips but the minute they see me, another Gringo or another group of "bilingual" students they slip into their best adaptations of Lady Gaga English. It makes me want to slay them.

Mildly Ridiculous: The other day I was in Wendy's (I might add that I never eat there but because Girlfriend loves it, there we were) and I as I was standing in line a very wealthy family came in behind me. The teenage son entered the establishment chatting it up with his father in Spanish but upon making eye-contact with me he immediately and with deliberate force in his pre-pubescent voice, began telling his father what he wanted from the menu in English. I wanted to smack the child and tell him that the sandwich is called "Wild Mountain Burger" not "Waaaald Maawntaawn Burrrrrgerrrr.". But I'm a Mennonite so I resisted. And finally, the

Absurd: Girlfriend told me the other day about an aqquaintance of ours and an episode that occured a few years back in University. This particular aqquaintaince, let's call her Doris, was obsessed with a certain group of boys that rode a particular bus from university back into downtown La Ceiba; Girlfriend also happened to ride this bus, Doris did not. One day as Girlfriend was sitting patiently on the bus waiting for it to depart who should appear but loud, obnoxious Doris with an equally vivacious friend entow. Doris spotted Maureen ran up to her and asked (in Spanish mind you) "Is this the bus that passes by Central Park?" Girlfriend responded in the affirmative and almost under her breath because she really can't stand Doris; and Doris in all her showy stupidity turned to her bouncy friend and loudly enough for all the bus to hear, particularly the boys she was trying to impress, declared (in English this time): "Jes, dis iis da bas!". To their credit the boys she had been hoping to impress began howling with laughter at her absurdity and the entire 20 minute ride into town they chanted "JES, DIS IIS DA BAS!".

I love Honduras.
Gracias y Buenas Noches.


Chito said...

West Philly, yes...

Chito said...

I guess the West Philly law firm has a new office in your hood...nice.