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<   No. 1750   2007-11-11   >

Comic #1750

1 Long Tom: {to savage-looking natives} Arrr. We be white man, be comin' in heap big canoe.
2 Long Tom: Er... We be comin' in peace. You be leadin' us to heap big tree wi' roots like buttresses? Chop chop!
3 Long Tom: Savvy?
4 Native: Actually, we speak English. And a fair sight better than you do, I daresay.

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I find the problem with travelling and trying to learn the native language is that when I try to speak Italian or German or Thai or whatever, the people I'm speaking to simply switch to English. Yes, it's good for communication, but it's a pain for trying to actually learn and absorb some of the new language.

2018-06-28 Rerun commentary: I've been teaching myself Italian for several years now and am moderately comfortable with simple conversation. Last time I was in Rome, I went into a gelateria and, reading the flavours available on the menu board, said: "Vorrei una coppa con tre gusti: cioccolato extranoir, liquirizia, e caramello con sale, per favore."

Without missing a beat, the guy behind the counter said, in clipped English tones: "Would you like some whipped cream on that?"

I can only presume that my accented Italian gave away the fact that I was an English speaker.

The other extreme which I've experienced can be difficult too. When you say something in your carefully rehearsed foreign language, and the person you're speaking to assumes you can speak fluently and answers with a barrage of sentences that you don't understand any of. And then you have to try to explain that you don't actually speak their language very well.

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