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Coffee In Any Language

, , | Right | June 9, 2019

(I’m a white woman who has just returned from a four-month trip to India. My coworker is of Indian heritage, but doesn’t speak any Indian languages. We get a lot of Indian customers and some of them speak little to no English.)

Coworker: “Hi, what can I get for you?”

Elderly Customer: “Big order! You Hindi?”

Coworker: “No, I’m afraid I can’t—“

Elderly Customer: *in Hindi* “I would like three small hot coffees, a vanilla latte, and two chocolate muffins.”

Coworker: “[My Name], I need you to translate!”

Elderly Customer: *in woeful Hindi* “Oh, no, he does not understand. This will be difficult for me.”

(The remainder of the conversation is almost entirely in Hindi.)

Me: *in Hindi* “Hello, sir! It shouldn’t be too hard! Can you tell me your order?”

Elderly Customer: *looking almost alarmed* “You understand me? He doesn’t know, but you know? How do you know my language?”

Me: “I lived in Delhi for four months. I studied Hindi and taught English.”

Elderly Customer: “You married Indian boy?”

Me: “No, I was a teacher. I studied Hindi to be a better English teacher.”

Elderly Customer: “But no foreigners learn Hindi. I’ve never met a foreigner speaking Hindi! You are a special girl!”

Me: “Thank you! What was your drink order? [Coworker] can get it started while I ring you up.”

Elderly Customer: “You are a better Indian than this Indian boy! This will be very easy for me!”

(My coworker was facepalming in the background. The Indian customer took a few minutes getting over the shock of me speaking Hindi, and now comes in regularly!)

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