Thursday, June 4, 2009

Learning the local language

Not Arabic. Arabic is quite hard. My vocabulary hasn't progressed much beyond the last time I mentioned it: dog, cat, milk, bread, boy, girl, man, woman, bicycle. I could maybe write a haiku.

No, I'm referring here to the language spoken most often in Abu Dhabi taxis, broken English.

It's frustrating for several reasons. First, because I don't want to learn broken English. I want to learn Arabic (see paragraph 1). Second, because it makes me part of the problem: by communicating with taxi drivers, etc., in this half-baked version of my native tongue, there is a better-than-even chance that at least subconsciously, the folks at the other end of the conversation think this is the way it is supposed to sound.

And yet. It's a little scary how much better results one gets by saying:

"Signal left" -- turn left at the traffic light, good yeoman.

"Parking" (accompanied with point toward curb) -- this would be an appropriate place to stop the car so that I may disembark.

"Too much hot" -- Hot enough for ya?

"Too much traffic" -- My, the roads are certainly congested on this otherwise fine afternoon.

"How long in Abu Dhabi?" -- You appear to have a good working knowledge of this municipality's road system. Have you been living here for a while?

"I am from Canada" -- I am from America.

All this aside, I have had some great conversations with many taxi drivers. Most of them are from Pakistan or Bangladesh, have interesting stories and are eager to talk. And their English is roughly a million times better than my Arabic. So perhaps I should stop worrying about what they are learning and more about what I am not.

No comments: