Posted on | June 16, 2011 | 7 Comments
At my very first dinner in São Paulo, I asked the waiter if he spoke English. He replied ‘não’ with a cold face, as if I was ordering something off the menu. There was nothing wrong with him, just me.
Most people in São Paulo don’t speak English, and they are not ashamed of it. There is nothing wrong with them, just the foreigners who cannot speak their language. I kind of like this attitude.
Today, my colleague back in Toronto was shocked to receive from our Brazilian client a document all written in Portuguese. It was just a set of simple instructions to access their computer network, with screenshots. I told him to use Google Translate, but he insisted on having the document translated into English.
So I relayed the request to my Brazilian colleague, who replied with frustration, “Can’t he use Google Translate?!” He added that the Brazilians have to use English inconveniently when dealing with us. Can’t we be more considerate? Besides, the two languages are not totally incomprehensible between each other.
I really felt for him. Why do so many people expect others around the world to speak English? I don’t refer to just English native speakers. Many non-English native speakers also expect other people to speak English to them.
This is only my first week in the city, and I already appreciate many locals I met here who insist on speaking to me in Portuguese, even though I am not very conversational in the language.