07 October 2009

Yes, We Spik English

"There is no debate that English is the global language that will serve you well in any country for any of your basic and survival needs; however things get a little messy when you end up in a country where not only the language is weird but the alphabet looks like it was created by a clown on acid" said one of my associates when he first landed in Ukraine some time ago.

For a russian speaker (with a hint of Ukrainian in it), I sometimes tend to overlook the joy of public communication in post soviet union and the agony that the non-speakers suffer. This suffering is alleviated by the "legendary" hospitality of the natives, some of whom owe this hospitability to their lack of language skills. They simply cannot reply back because they cannot understand English or they simply do not care about you (this includes the front line service personnel whose main job definition is the "care" for the customer)

But hopefully there is some awakening through the new generation who lived their pre-adolescence with a soviet passport and a pioneer badge; but had enough youth left after 1990 to reap the benefits of the newcoming capitalism. Since there are tourists and expats who have money to spend lavishly, they should deserve some care and here comes the notorious sign "Yes We Speak English" on the doors to some high street pharmacies and bootleg DVD stores. The former is a good sign for a non-russian speaking person on the urgency for a drug but the latter also works fine when you end up chatting for an hour with a ukrainian guy with a receding hairline who had his post-doctoral dissertation on French New Age Cinema but ended up selling pirate DVDs in a forgotten corner of a shady supermarket in Kiev.

But don't take this as an upheaval of the age long brutality of soviet customer service, it is just a minor breakthrough. Still don't believe me? Check out these gems I have collected...still more to come

This sign is up on The Minsk Airport walls for months, WELCOMing us to the slavic wonderland

The radiation shelter-cum-internet cafe in Kiev

No wonder this place is our favourite lunchtime hideout in Kiev...it is the only place to grab some decent food in 20 miles!

When you come to Kiev, try Cabbage Salad with "Green"...

1 comment:

gatortail said...

There is a site dedicated to poor english printed by non-english speaking people: www.engrish.com - Have fun with it - www.utkan.info