…you likee soupee?… #TBSU…

…having lived in the Far East and Middle East for the last 35 years, it never ceases to amaze me when I hear expatriates attempting to converse in English with people whose native tongue may not be the same as their own… the garbled ‘language’ they utilise when they talk to folks of other nationalities is painful to the ear… a sort of mix between pidgin English and a slowing down of the speech delivery, almost like the slowing down of the old vinyl records from one speed to another, with excruciating long drawn out vowels and all the rest of it… harks me back to a story I heard when I first arrived in Hong Kong in the late nineteen-seventies… at that time, the colony was still under British rule and administration… a thriving Hong Kong Chinese/British Association was an active business body, with members of some of the top Chinese and British corporations among its executive officers… it seems a delegation from Hong Kong embarked on a business foray to Noo Yawk in ‘Merika… a productive couple of weeks was spent in the Big Apple, with visits to factories, corporate plants and banking institutions… the hosts were, not surprisingly, a prominent Noo Yawk Business Liaison group… side trips to Museums, and Art galleries were included… after this whirl of two weeks, the final event was a Gala Dinner in a swanky hotel’s banqueting hall… the local outfit arranged for partners to be present at the dinner, one of whom was a celebrated Noo Yawk society dame…

dame

…on the evening of the Dinner she arrived, jewellery-bedecked, expensive gown and all, with her husband, and as is the custom, she was designated a seat next to one of the visitors from Hong Kong, a diminutive Chinese gentleman, togged out in his immaculate tuxedo… problem for the lady was that, being accustomed to hobnobbing as a society hostess to counts, lords, and captains of industry, she was at a loss as to how to make small talk with a Chinese man…

chinaman

…as the evening began, she quickly pounced on the printed menu as a source of conversation, and started a series of interlocutions with her table guest, along the following lines… ‘…you likee soupee?…’..the response was a repeated nodding of the head by the gentleman… next came the meat course, ‘…you likee roastee beefee?’, with similar silent nodding on his part… having struggled like this through to the end of the dinner, she thought she had coped admirably… the head of the Noo Yawk delegation then asked for silence as he introduced the Head of the Hong Kong group and asked him to address the assembled guests… to our heroine’s consternation, her seating partner pushed back his seat and made his way to the rostrum… from his inside jacket pocket a sheaf of notes appeared, from which the Chinese gentleman proceeded to deliver an excellent, erudite, and witty twenty minutes worth of faultless English… the room gave him a standing ovation as he returned to his seat… she didn’t know where to put herself… as he took his seat once more he turned to her and, with a knowing smile said quietly, ‘…you likee speechee?’… I hear similar stuff every day now… see yeez later… you likee bloggee?…LUV YEEZ!

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “…you likee soupee?… #TBSU…

  1. Seamus, excellent article it reminds me obliquely of going to an Indian or Chinese restaurant with my ex who is Czech. The waiters and my ex spoke English after a fashion but always heavily accented and without a normal rhythm. I ended up repeating In English english what they were trying to say to each other and acting as translator, because I could understand them, but they could not understand each other. I struggled not to laugh at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • …hi, Giselle… that must have been entertaining… 🙂 …what I was driving at in the post was the expats who automatically assume that the folk they are talking to me don’t understand them… many times, the locals speak better english than the expats! 🙂

      Like

  2. Reminds me of an old job I had. You could always tell when a non English speaker phoned in because all off a sudden you could hear someone three aisles away say loudly and slowly ‘I’M GGOOOOOIING TOOO TRAAANSFERRRR YOOOUUUR CAALLLL TOOO SOOMMEONNEE THAAT SPEEAAKKKS SPAAAANNNNNIIISSSHHHH. OOOOKKKAAAYYYY?” It was absolutely hilarious. I kept wanting to yell back ‘He doesn’t speak English. He’s not deaf.’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a class story. I loved it. That’s how to make a point. Go Mr small Chinese dude.

    Cheers

    MTM

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fabulous. I had a mechanic from AA ask me if I could read one of their instruction cards on how to tow my car…One hopes I would be able to as I was working at a hospital as a doctor in the UK but…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on bhalsop and commented:
    It is a wonderful thing, language. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to hear stories like this, even if they are very funny?

    Like

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