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parla inglese?

May
23
2006

Suspend disbelief, this is one of those stories you couldn’t make up.
A 30-year-old Italian woman gets on a plane in India. She tries to make conversation with her seat mate, saying she has a really bad headache. Maybe she’s hoping to cop an aspirin. Maybe she’s looking for sympathy.
In any case, to convey her message she says, “I have a bomb in my head.”
Say what?


Instead of getting a little Advil and sympathy, her fellow passenger calls security. The plane is evacutated while they search for the bomb and the Italian woman is questioned by intelligence and police.
Three hours later, when they discover the only real hazard was the Italian’s makeshift English, the plane takes off.
It’s an extreme case of lost in translation, in Italian the unnamed woman would have said something like “my head is exploding,” and that would’ve been the end of it.
Instead what she said sounded to the Indian woman seated next to her like: “I have a bomb on my mind,” which is, understandably, not the kind of idle chit chat one wants to hear from a foreigner before take off.
Makes you wonder whether, sooner or later, leaving the country will require a language passport assuring that the traveler can communicate. The question is, in what language?
Globish? Spanish? Mandarin?
Of course, everyone can communicate in their home country language but if that’s a one-country deal like Italian, well, maybe they should just stay home.
Every once in awhile, you hear a story about how poorly Italians speak English. It’s like the cats in the coliseum story, a great little evergreen, full of color.
In this story, Italians who don’t speak English are pronounced “doomed” by a researcher in Brussels. And they rank just 15 in an EU survey of English speakers. The underlying idea is that Europeans should all be English speakers — not for cultural or historical reasons but out of the need for a linguistic common denominator.
Maybe someday soon, we’ll just wipe out these little languages. Italy, never known as a nation of flagwavers, still hasn’t named Italian as the official national language.
And they have been less rigorous than the French in defending Italian from the creeping invasion of English in everyday speak. So they could just pick another language, a passport language, and drop this pesky italiano before it really gets them into trouble.
Perhaps Spanish would be a safer bet.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 10:13 AM | Permalink

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