How Not to be an Asshole About Language

Last night I finally had an encounter with someone that got me fired up enough to really write. I’ve come here to write several times since arriving in Benin but never gotten around to doing it. I’m back.

There are nice people all over the world and there are assholes all over the world. I find them both everywhere I go. This post is not a commentary on Benin culture. I’ve been here 4 months and so far I have absolutely loved it. This post is commentary on human beings.

In my travels I’ve found that when in a foreign country and not quite speaking the language yet you encounter two types of people and these two people exist in every city, every village, every country worldwide:

Type One:

Hi! Welcome to my country! How long have you been here? Are you learning the language? Oh yeah? How long have you been studying? How’s it going? Can we speak a little? Wow! You’re really good! I can’t believe you know so much after only studying for x amount of weeks! I’m impressed. Keep it up! If you ever need to know how to say something feel free to ask. I look forward to keeping up with your progress.

Type Two:

May or may not say something in English first. Immediately speaks high level of their language then looks at me and expects me to respond. I say I’m sorry I don’t understand. He/She says I’m speaking your language you should speak mine. I’ll only speak in English but you should answer me in French. I explain I’ve only been studying you’re language for x amount of weeks. I can’t do that. He/She says how dare you come to my country and not learn my language. I tell him/her they are being rude to me and I don’t appreciate it. Then there’s the inevitable insult and statement about how I am disrespecting his/her culture and how rude I am for coming to a foreign country and not learning the language. He/she repeatedly says insulting/condescending things to me and repeatedly tells me that I’m the rude one for pointing out how rude they are being.

Don’t be type two. No one likes him.