Liam and I were sitting in Kahve Dünyası, a superior coffee shop in Bodrum. We were with magnificent Murat, a handsome Brit of Turkish Cypriot extraction. Murat is blessed with a cheeky smile, dreadfully naughty eyes and buns you could bounce a penny off. Murat’s not gay, but healthily gay friendly and a diverting companion. A waiter approached to take our orders.
‘Sütlü americano lütfen,’ I said in my best Turkish (I realise only two of these words are actually Turkish). The waiter stared at me quizzically. Murat intervened. The conversation, in Turkish, went as follows:
‘What did he say?’
‘He asked for an americano with milk.’
‘So what’s the problem?’
‘He’s got a foreign accent.’
‘Yeah. He’s foreign.’
‘What does he want then?’
‘You know what he wants.’
‘An americano with milk?’
‘So why didn’t he say that?’
‘He did say that.’
‘Huh! Bloody tourists.’
I don’t know why I bother. I should just shout loudly in English.
The serious point to this tale is that the British are more forgiving of people who speak bad English. Maybe we’re more accustomed to the weird pronunciations from first generation immigrants. Globalish, the reduced vocabulary version of our mother tongue, is prevalent at international conferences, on the streets and in many social situations. Of course, just to confuse people, the British have developed a countless number of regional British accents to baffle people everywhere.
Language can be such a barrier to communication.
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