My name is “Prawo Jazdy”?

I keep on meaning to fill in this blog, and then I forget, but I just couldn’t resist commenting on this news story from the BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7899171.stm?lss

OK, it’s harmless, and amusing, but it also prompted some more serious thoughts.

The first, oblique one, was the scene at the end of the film “Spartacus” where all the captured slaves shout out, one after another “I’m Spartacus!” in order to show solidarity with the real Spartacus.

The second, is that although it is tempting to poke fun at the Garda, we should remember that Policemen are not recruited on the basis of linguistic ability. The words really don’t look like anything recognisable in English or Irish, so if you have two people who don’t speak a common language trying to communicate using something written down, then misunderstandings will occur. And to make matters worse, in this case the Garda aren’t really that interested in the details of the driver, and the driver isn’t really that interested in being identified.

The problem is made worse, because people from Western Europe have a sort of word-blindness for things written in Eastern European languages (even if they are written in Roman script).

Third, this got me thinking: with the global nature of communication (where are you, dear reader?), we have to be careful about the assumptions we may make when reading what someone else has written. “Driving License” becomes “Prawo Jazdy” and goodness only knows what it becomes if it is written in Cyrillic (Russian Script – see how twitchy one can get!) or, even more extreme, something Asian, like Chinese.

There is an English saying “It’s all Greek to me”, meaning “It makes no sense to me”. This is all very well, but just look at it from the point of view of a “Greek”!

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