That’s how many languages there are in the world. That is truly a large number, and the fact that I made the number up makes it no less astonishing. Most of these languages are spoken by foreigners. But did you know that if you went to a foreign country the people there would consider you strange? Better to stay home and be considered strange by people who at least speak your language.
Once I thought I might try to learn a bit of Spanish. Spanish is a language that they speak in Spain and in most other soccer- playing nations. They use it in Mexico too, but why go to Mexico when we have a New Mexico now? After all, no one goes to York anymore, do they?
Anyway, rather than knowing a little Spanish, it would have been better for all concerned if I knew none at all. To illustrate: a Spanish- speaking person might ask me, “Donde esta la biblioteca?” If I knew no Spanish I would just shrug my shoulders apologetically and the two of us could get on with our business. But instead, since I think I know a little, I think he is saying, “don’t go to Bible camp”. I would confidently shrug my shoulders and say, “Si.”
Knowing just a few words in a language, combined with losing your hearing can be especially dangerous.
On a hike in Moab recently we passed a couple coming back the other way and we said a friendly hello. They replied in a friendly way but my wife thought she detected a foreign accent. She asked them where they were from. The man said, “The U.K.” (which is a section of London).
But my wife thought he said ‘The Ukraine’ and for some reason she decided to try out some Russian on him. “Priviet” she said with a smile. The stunned Brit just looked at her. So she tried the maneuver which is so often effective with foreigners; she said it again but louder. “Priviet!”
Then the Brit said, “Why yes, we used the privy before we began the hike.” I could sense my wife’s horror as she realized what happened, but to her credit she had enough of her wits about her to continue to say Russian -sounding words.
The Brit looked at me. I shrugged and said, “We are not from around here.” The lesson here is a simple one; language barriers can be a lot of fun. Also, I must agree with my British friend, it is better to go to the privy before a hike.