Your shit or you're shit?

The menu in one of the local restaurants in Siem Reap.
They say grammar is knowing the difference between your shit and you're shit. Well, I have news for you babe, more than half the world doesn't give a shit!

Go to China, where you'll probably stand for hours on the road if you're lost, and you're looking for someone who speaks English to help you. (Yes, I am speaking from experience though admittedly, the incident happened 9 years ago, well before the the Beijing Olympics.)

Go to Brazil, where you're expected to learn their language - Portuguese, and not impose your language on them. Same goes for Vietnam. And even in most of Latin American countries, especially outside of tourist areas, where Spanish is still the only language. 

Except for English teachers (and call center trainers), you can tell whether someone has traveled a lot or not based on how they treat people who are not "experts" in the English language. Because that's what travel does to you, it teaches the bitter fact that though English may be an international language, more than half of the world's population does not speak it.

Traveling teaches us that just because we are "good" in English, by virtue of being an American colony before, it does not make us any better than anyone who does not speak it, and more importantly, it does not give us the right to expect that everyone else should speak it or understand us when we use it.

I don't understand tourist (not travelers, fyi) who go to a place and get frustrated when a local can't understand what they're saying, when in fact they have made no effort at all  to learn the local language. You are the visitor, you should be the one to adjust.

One of the most racist remark I've heard while on the road was from an American, a fellow passenger on a bus from Hanoi to Vientiane, who told a local "Do you speak English? Good! I thought you're as stupid as those pigs." My biggest regret up to this day was not doing something when I heard this. It was my first backpacking trip, and I'm still learning, still unsure of what to do. But if this would happen now, things would have been a lot different (see a similar story here).

Language should only be used to communicate, not to judge people on the basis of whether they speak your language or not (or in the case of some Filipinos, whether they're good at it or not).

Take for example the picture above, a menu in one of the restaurants in Siem Reap, Cambodia (personally I think one of the best, and it's cheap!). It may be amusing but at the end of the day, we understand what they mean with "look expansive but not, same same but batter." If you'll skip this resto based on this menu, then you'll miss out on great Khmer food.

Same goes for people I guess, when you judge them based on their capacity to speak your language, then you'll also miss out on the opportunity to get to know them.

(On a personal note, it's better to judge people with the way they kiss. I'm kidding, of course.)

Tara, byahe tayo!

Froilan Grate | Last Row Traveler
Visit also No Bystanders | Planet Run | Customer Wow | Halo Halo and more


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