You never know when you’re going to need pre-fab phrases in other languages, things you memorize phonetically and keep in your mental list of important things to know. Like, “I need a doctor,” “Please call the police,” and “Please call my embassy.” I can say all of these phrases in English and Urdu easily enough, though if I ever traveled through the Middle East I suppose I would have to learn them in Arabic. Otherwise, in the event of an emergency I’d just have to pull the sleeves of passers-by and plaintively ask, “Anta Tabib?”* (Tabibi, Tabibi, Tabibi ya nurul ain…)
You know, one of my students got into an accident just two weeks after coming to Pakistan, and he injured his head rather badly. (driving on the wrong side of the road. It happens to all the foreigners in the beginning.) He tried to ask people passing by for directions to the hospital, but he couldn’t make himself understood, on top of that, the driver of the other car that he had collided with was hopping mad and also injured. It was turning into a nasty situation, and it was just by chance that one of his coworkers from his embassy drove by and saw him and then rushed him to the hospital. He was ok, Alhamdulillah, after they stitched his forehead back in place. And that was when he decided that learning a language other than Turkish might be helpful.
So, in an attempt to enrich my life through the enrichment of my language skills, I am collecting useful phrases in other languages. For example:
relacher mon chameau (release my camel)
I tried to get this useful dialogue in Russian, but I don’t know how reliable my source was. I don’t have it in German, (Yaz, a little help here?). I do, however, have the following:
Du bist ein aufrichten shlingel. (you are a mealy-mouthed scoundrel)
Of course, I had to look up ‘mealy-mouth’ first, because I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant if your mouth was full of meal. Incidentally, a mealy-mouthed person is one who does not state facts in simple, direct words, who speaks insincerely. Right. Ok, I feel smarter now, and more likely to use that phrase at the appropriate time. I’ll keep it handy if I ever find myself conversing with any badly-behaved and insincere Germans in the future. All of the Germans I know are very nice people though. How disappointing.
Anyway, feel free to fill my comments box with useful phrases. Usman, I’m relying on you to release my camel in Turkish. Yaz, you can do the German. Anyone out there speak Russian, Hyderabadi or Japanese? Colloquial Arabic?
* You doctor?