Sunday, October 26, 2008

We are the pigs

1492, Conquest of Paradise. Christopher Columbus (alias Gérard Depardieu) sees his empire crumbling down and turns towards the indian native (alias nobody cares who he is) he befriended with to get a bit of a cheer up. The guy replies something in his mother-tongue dialect and walks away from him. Columbus barks at him: "I didn't get a thing you said. Talk properly for God's sake". The guy turns back and answers: "At least I've learned your language. Have you learned mine?" And then he leaves back to the jungle to play Choctaw frisbee with his friends the jaguar and the aracari toucan.

The language here was Spanish, and he was the pig. The indian native was the pig. What about now? Who are the pigs? Well, my friends, unless you own a british or an american passport, I'm sorry to announce you that you are the pig.

English is a predatory language, as were French, Spanish and German before. Being a predatory language and the king of all predators, it doesn't even have to hunt to get its prey. The preys come by themselves to feed the beast or amuse it.

When you meet an English-speaking person, a Briton leaving in Britain being the extreme, you'll first face a test of classification. Can you or can you not speak the king-language? There are very few chances he or she knows your dialect, so you at least have to give it a try.
Let's say you do speak the king-language. That puts you in the first category, the enviable one: you get a visa from its Majesty. You're still a pig, but a talking pig.

Then goes the conversation. You being a pig and the Briton being the lion, you try hard to please the lion before he gets bored to speak with the pig. You grow confident, your words get flowing and after a while the lion turns to his other fellow-lions and says: "look at this one, he can really speak English." So you're an attraction now. You surely must have something to say since at least you're intelligible.

But how will you be judged? How far can the comedy go? Well, pretty far to tell the truth... For the lion lost his teeth and talking pigs multiplied all around the Kingdom. Too many to be repelled by the thin army of lions.

Along with the other pigs you speak the king-language, your clumsy English being your only show window. Things get lost in translation but you still manage to survive. Italian, Poles, Irakis, Albanian, Ukrainian immigrants all queuing in front of job centres, waiting for the door to open. Some of them qualified, some of them full of wit and humor, some of them local stars at home. But when the nice lady from First Recruitment lets them in to hear their pleading , none of this is relevant.

There is no local star here. Just a bunch of talking pigs exhibiting their tricks to the King's henchman.

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