Following the 37 Steps :P


Oh my word, I just found this old post that was printed in the (UK) Telegraph newspaper, which made me smile.

I have to give this lady respect for her honesty, that’s for sure. A few choice quotes:

As my third anniversary in Bucharest passed, I realised I was becoming that person I had previously derided: the expat who has spent years in a country and still doesn’t speak the language. Laziness, imperial arrogance, intellectual slowness – all were charges that that could be levelled at me.

Definitely a common syndrome (as I’ve noted many times).

And this right here is 1000% accurate:

At the beginning, when we [foreigners who are learning Romanian] are struggling with the basics, [Romanians] enthusiastically encourage us, and each phrase we stammer is met with ecstatic applause.

But when we progress a little, to form simple sentences, they become exacting masters of precision, frowning their incomprehension and making us repeat ourselves until they emit a contemptuous grunt of recognition and say the sentence correctly themselves.

Oh my word that made me laugh. Hilariously just a few days ago I was riding in a taxi with a guy who had an incredibly thick Hungarian accent and I was helping him say a few words correctly. Too funny.

Oh yeah, where were we? This poor lady then gets swamped by textbooks and a Romanian teacher, the worst mistake of all time. People in this country believe in old school heavy, labor and rule intensive mental work and not short, elegant methods. I sincerely doubt a third of all adult Romanians could pass their own Romanian-language test on the baccalaureate (the test given to graduate from high school).

I have to confess here I too once took a formal Romanian language class and I almost gasped when my tutor lugged in a tremendous tome. It was easily an 800 page monster, made even bigger because it has been xeroxed one page at a time from the original, a Communist-era behemoth chock full of i’s with a hat (the old spelling) though sadly no emotional paean to Ceausescu.

Since I’m not planning on becoming a lawyer, I plucked a few useful bits out of the book and went on my merry way as soon as I could.

But back to this lady. What did she want?

One reason I want to learn [Romanian] is to be less vulnerable to the shysters who prey on foreigners. Like the taxi driver chattering away pleasantly as he circumnavigates the city, whose impressive English suddenly vanishes when you ask for your change.

Alina has asked me what phrases would be useful to me. “That’s daylight robbery”; “The turning was back there”; and “I know this city so don’t try to take me via Bulgaria” will do for starters.

I do need vocabulary for the jungle.

Ahh… that’s a word I completely forgot! Clearly shyster is identical to the Romanian word smecher.

As noted, most tourists clearly believe they’re heading into the “jungle” or the “wild west” or some kind of chaotic, Indiana Jones, adventure when they get to Romania. That’s why they don’t want a friendly local to help them. It’s by far more fun to bravely make your own way through gypsy-infested waters.

For the record, I’d say that translating “that’s daylight robbery” to be a little useless to learn since presumably you’d only be saying it after you’ve been fleeced. Better to be proactive, understand how to ride in a taxi and know a few phrases and things will go a lot more smoothly.

And last but not least, I speak Romanian just fine and sometimes taxi drivers have no change simply because they’re idiots. Once again this is why learning the Scolding of Righteousness is of such critical importance! :P

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