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    Category: Language & Words

    This category features customers whose mishandling of vocabulary and grammar are so bad that we literally have no words to describe them!

    Totally Estúpido

    , | Barcelona, Spain | Language & Words, Theme Of The Month, Tourists/Travel

    (I am in a very popular burger chain restaurant in Barcelona. I have placed my order with the very helpful assistant, and am waiting for my food. The next two customers are large British men in their 50s. I am British, but speak reasonable Spanish.)

    Customer: *in a broad North Yorkshire accent* “I want a large burger, a large fries, and a large Diet Coke.”

    (The girl behind the counter, who doesn’t speak English, looks blank and then says in Spanish that she doesn’t understand.)

    Customer: *speaking loudly and enunciating each word slowly* “I want a LARGE BURGER, a LARGE FRIES and a LARGE DIET COKE!”

    (The server is now looking distressed and uncomfortable, so I take pity on her, and tell her what the customer has ordered in Spanish. She thanks me profusely and places the order. The first customer shakes his head in disgust and turns to me.)

    Customer: “Thanks, love. These f****** foreigners, eh? They don’t speak the language.”

    Me: “Wow.”

    Translation Kollaboration

    | NY, USA | Language & Words, School

    (Campus security has stopped a lost visitor, and is trying to work out where he wants to go. The visitor speaks very poor English, but the officer is trying his best.)

    Visitor: “I want go, skink labatree.”

    Security: “You wanna go where?”

    Visitor: “A skink labatree.”

    Security: “Oh, that’s, like, a little lizard. Reptile lab? Lizards? Snakes?”

    Visitor: “No, no, a skink labatree. Kell skinky.”

    Security: “Kill? Like, animal disposal?”

    Visitor: “No, no! I want call my daughter, but…”

    (The visitor holds up a cell phone.)

    Visitor: “No battery!”

    Security: “Ahh, okay. Wanna try mine?”

    (Security offers the visitor his phone.)

    Visitor: “No, no, I don’t know she kell. No battery my kell.”

    Security: “Hold up a sec.”

    (Security points to his cell phone.)

    Visitor: “Kell phone, no battery!”

    Security: “Kell laboratory?”

    Visitor: “Kell labatree!”

    Security: *scribbling on a piece of paper* “Skink?”

    Visitor: *overjoyed* “Yes! Skink labatree!”

    Security: “Okay, let’s go!”

    (On the paper: “SCIENCE.” I later learned that the visitor had taught himself English almost entirely by reading, and assumed all ‘C’s were hard ‘K’s.)

    Poo Poo Your Oui Oui

    | Canada | Bigotry, Language & Words

    Me: “Hi! Welcome to [restaurant]; will it just be the two of you dining today?”

    Woman: *in a thick French accent* “Yes, two.”

    (The female customer then turns to her male companion and begins speaking very angrily in French.)

    Woman: “This is just terrible; no one here speaks French. This is discrimination; we should be able to get service in our own language.”

    Me: *speaking French* “I apologize. I didn’t realize that the two of you spoke French. I’d be more than happy to help you today!”

    Woman: *speaking English* “Ugh! Your French is just awful! Don’t even bother; I’m going to speak English. I don’t want to have to listen to your terrible accent for our entire meal.”

    Lost In Their Own Translation

    | Belgium | Bigotry, Language & Words, Top

    (My husband and I are from America. We move overseas to Belgium for his job, and make every effort to learn the native language. I am shopping for a computer part, but am tripping over the technical terms. The clerk mercifully switches over to English for my benefit. As he is helping me, a few native men queue up behind me and overhear us.)

    Customer #1: *in French* “Such a typical American; expecting everyone to cater to them and their stupid language.”

    Customer #2: *in French* “Can’t blame her. This b**** looks too stupid to learn French.”

    Me: *in French* “Looks can be deceiving, gentlemen.”

    (The customer turns red and quickly wanders off. The clerk is laughing so hard, he has to sit down.)

    She Also Speaks Ironic

    , | Brisbane, QLD, Australia | At The Checkout, Bigotry, Language & Words, Top

    (I manage a fast food restaurant. I’m currently serving a customer who is from East Asia. She is clearly new to the country, as she is having significant trouble with the transaction, and I’m finding it difficult to communicate. My coworker steps in.)

    Coworker: “Excuse me, where are you from?”

    Asian Customer: “I am from Korea.”

    (Suddenly, the next customer in line speaks up.)

    Customer: “Racist! You’re a racist!”

    Coworker: “Excuse me, ma’am?”

    Customer: “I said you’re a racist! It doesn’t matter where this young lady comes from, she should be welcome in your store. You should feel ashamed!”

    (The shouting customer turns to me.)

    Customer: “You! Do something about her!”

    Me: “I absolutely agree. You see, my coworker here is studying a master’s degree in Asian studies. She was just asking because she could process this transaction in Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese or Indonesian, and didn’t want to look like an idiot by making an assumption about someone she didn’t know.”

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