As a word nerd, as well as a recent visitor to a handful of foreign countries, odd sentence construction is one of the biggest WTFs you can come across if you’re not entirely fluent in a language; even if you speak a fairly decent textbook version thereof.
But I mostly write this tale as a woman, horrified by a man’s conversational skills on a moving vehicle, where everyone can (unfortunately) hear every word of his awkward conversation with two girls from Switzerland.
It’s good to be home.
Let me start the tale of awkwardness by explaining the body language in this situation, for which I fully craned my neck to get a gander at. Two girls, maybe 20, but probably younger, were standing on a crowded bus, chatting among themselves. A man, who was probably around 30, was standing behind them, attempting over (and over) again to engage them in conversation. I think we all know that it’s a bad sign when the object of your conversational interest: 1) doesn’t ask you a single question back, or 2) only turns around to face you when you ask one of your many questions.
But off he went anyway. Here’s a sampling:
Guy: So what goes on in Switzerland?
Swiss girls: What?
Guy: What do you do there? Like, for fun?
Commentary: “What’s going on?” is a very oddly worded phrase on its own. Turn it around like the way he did, to people who aren’t fluent in English, and you get this.
There’s a reason foreign English is funny; we never say things like “The reason for this is because…” unless we’re directly translating from another language. So a phrase like “What’s going on?” definitely loses something in the translation.
Guy: So there are a lot of mountains and stuff in Switzerland?
Swiss girls: Um, yes. Many mountains.
Commentary: Clutching at straws then, aren’t we? This kind of question is always the low point, on whatever end of the conversation you’re on. I personally ask questions like this when I don’t like someone, but am forced to be in their company, or am horribly uncomfortable.
But he continues with the kicker!
Guy: So, how old are you girls? 15? 16? 17?
Swiss girl 1: What’s the saying? You don’t ask a woman her age?
Guy: Nah, that’s only for women in their 30s!
Commentary: Good answer from the girls, and probably a good indication that they spoke better English than they first let on. Also, you’re a creepy asshole if you look anywhere near the vicinity of 30 (or older) and ask such a question. You then earn more creepy points for denouncing the statement as something for women…in your own age group.
Everyone eventually got off the bus, leaving me to stew in their residual cloud of awkward.
Yeah, it’s good to be home.
Tara Ramroop has only been let down a handful of times by Muni in the week since she’s been back. Progress?