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28 May 2009

The Foreigner Card: When to use a bad accent?

I was just browsing through some of my fellow gringo-in-Chile blogs and I read this post by Margaret. It's terrific. She brings up a good point. There are some people who will actually fake a bad accent, or horrible Spanish to get out of a tricky situation. I may have even done it on occasion when walking through a market place with a throng of annoying men pestering me to buy their fruits and vegetables. Generally their English is limited to "boo-ti-fuul gee-rul" so that's not a problem, or they just shout out all the random English words they know like "RabbitBatMonkeyApplePoop" (Thanks to Lydia for bringing that to my attention!)

Now, I take particular offense to people speaking to me in English. It's like they are insulting my Spanish (or German teehehehe). Hello, I didn't go for four years to a crazy liberal arts school and study abroad in three countries for this! So, I might be a tad arrogant, too.

Anyways, all bantering aside, when do you think it's best to fake a bad accent, or fake that you don't know what's going on when you really do?

I would maybe consider doing it to get out of a parking/speeding ticket or for some other such offense. I have once done it to avoid standing in the eternal line of bureaucracy hell that is otherwise known as where you have to go to return crap at a local department store. I simple smiled at the lady with my cutest, most convincing gringa smile, and said "NO.ENTENDER." She huffed off and returned my garment for me. Perfect.

But, is it fair to always play the foreigner card when traveling or living abroad? Have you ever done it in your own city? (I may have also done that once, but I'm not sure I want to brag about it here).


Margaret said...

Hi- Great blog! and thanks for the plug (to Cachando Chile)... about the language card--a double-edged sword if ever there was one! True, some people will go out of their way to help take care of you, but others will jump to take advantage of the "dumb foreigner." I've always found it best to do my best to speak the language--at least that way I show I'm trying!

Amanda Lynn said...

Fair to always play the foreigner card? No. But beyond that, fair is relative. I'd say it depends on the situation.

ResidentExpat said...

this is very funny.

People are fascinated when I speak because I have an English accent. but what they don't realise is that there are a lot of accents in Britain....and some people think i'm from South Africa....

It has never worked for a speeding ticket though...sigh...

CancunCanuck said...

One word: Telemarketers!!!! "Sorry/perdon? Yo (pronounced "Joe") no hablo Spanish, bye".

But that's about it. Usually having Spanish is going to help, not hurt, though I have heard that it can work with police to play dumb. I still think it's better to speak Spanish with them and let them know that you are not a dumb tourist who will pay the bribe.

The only other time I have deliberately played dumb was when sneaking into hotels. It's a big no no for locals to visit, so I had to pretend to be tourist to get to play by the pool. :)