Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Speak 'N' Spell

There's been something of a theme, recently.

The most recent addition comes from the other night, when Earl Grey, his girlfriend Belief, and I went clubbing.
I wanna dance. I just want to express myself through the art of dance, Mike.
We are dancing. It is happiness. We decide to get shots of tequila and, all of a sudden, the reason for this post presents herself.

By grabbing onto my shot glass-holding wrist. I twitch in self-defense, thinking she is falling over or something, not wanting to spill my drink. She says, Mozhno vas sprosit' -- [Can I ask you something] and hasn't let go of my arm yet. I try to shake it free so I can take the shot. I say, Sejchas, sejchas [One sec], nodding at the shot in my hand for lack of better gesticulation (seeing as my other hand is a bit out of commission for the gesticulating, what with the salt and lime holding).

She is relentless, repeats Mozhno vas sprosit', and bodily pulls me towards herself. Earl Grey is laughing. I allow myself to be dragged over. She asks, "Vher you from?"

Cue the rage. Really, this is the important question you needed to ask me? I think. Iz Ameriki [From America], I say, and tear myself free. We take our shots and walk away.

We notice, later, that she is dancing with some guy, and Earl Grey and Belief laugh at me. Belief says, Ona prosto xochet kogo-to. [She just wants anyone.]

I think, but don't respond, And her pick up line is to ask the obvious?

The reason I bring this up isn't to emphasize that I "struck out," if you will - as the Dane Cook reference above implies, I really just wanted to dance, not to schmooze. I'm still upset that this girl - and, as experience is coming to show - any other Russian who happens to hear my accent - has a set conversation they once learned in high school English, and their only hope and dream is to run through that set conversation with me.

It's not just me. Briullov says,
It would be different if it were a rarer language, English, like if a Russian was in the US, and s/he was trying to figure out where you're from.
Briullov says,
It would be different if s/he weren't initiating a conversation solely because you speak English, and s/he wants to show off.
A fellow historian (I might have given her a nickname before but I'm too lazy to check so she'll remain anonymous) says that without fail, every Russian man asks her:
1. Where are you from?
2. What are you doing in Russia?
3. A historian? What are you studying?
4. Why are you studying that?
5. Are you married?
I don't get asked question #5, myself, but the rest is true. And the order never fails. I hate to say it - I know it's rude and me refusing to be a good cultural ambassador - but sometimes I feel like I'm not conversing with humans, but rather sitting in front of a poorly written Turing Machine entered for the Loebner Prize.

Briullov says,
They're exactly like those computer programs you train to converse. If you say the right answer the conversation continues. If you don't, the conversation stops.

1 comment:

Kara Dugas said...

I feel for those girls. My drunken self likes to converse with cab drivers in Spanish. However, my spanish actually improves greatly when I'm drunk since my biggest obstacle is my insecurity, and the booze helps that a bit.