You Broke My English!

Whichever part of the world we go, English is the primary language that we use to communicate with people. When I first came here in UAE, I was talking in straight English but all I got was a blank stare. Gemma taught me how to talk in “broken” English.

Scenario: Photocopy shop. Indian guy.

Me: Hi, good morning! I’d like to photocopy some documents please, thanks.

Indian guy: (Blank stare) Ha?

Gemma: Brother, make copy (pronounced as ko-pi) ha? One each, no?

(Then Gemma whispers to me in Tagalog) “Wag ka magsalita ng diretsong English, di ka nila maiintindihan…” Don’t talk in straight English, they wouldn’t understand…

Scenario: Taxi. Arab driver.

(I let Gemma do the talking because I don’t know where to go.)

Gemma: My friend, Sheik Khalifa Hospital. A/C please, it’s hot no? Why you don’t open ha? Shuhada brother we are paying no? Yalah open!

Taxi driver: No open. It’s broken. No problem, I open window, oke?

Scenario: Mall. Arab security guard.

Me: Hi, um, can you tell me where the nearest toilet is?

Arab Security guard: Ha?

Me: Um, toilet?

Arab Security guard: Go straight, no problem.


Scenario: Pharmacy. Arab sales lady.

Me: Hi, um, I can’t find any sanitary napkins. Do you know where it is?

Arab Sales Lady: Ha?

Me: Sanitary napkin.

Arab Sales Lady: (Blank stare)

Me: You know, Always, Carefree, like that?

Arab Sales Lady: I don’t understand…

Me: Bleeding. Monthly. You know, here (pointing my vagigi).

Arab Sales Lady: What?

Me: You don’t bleed?!

Arab Sales Lady: (Looking confused)

Me: (Rummaging my bag for a spare sanitary napkin) Like this! You don’t know?

Arab Sales Lady: Oooohhh! Here, come.

Me: (almost fainted).

You know, when I came here in UAE, I speak straight English no? But now, see? My English is broken already. When I am at work, I call admission office if my patient can discharge and I say, “My patient can discharge?” And they say, “Yah, no problem.” Everyone says no problem no? Why like that? Always there is problem, but here no problem. And everybody calls each other brother and sister or my friend. One time, you know? I went to a sister and I tell, “sister, if there is problem you call ha?” There you go. It’s very difficult no? When I go to break, I tell my other sister, “I will go to eat ha? I will take tea.” And then when I finish I tell them, “You take break now, I finish already.”

Whew! That is why I don’t stop reading English books and watching English movies. Good thing I know how to change my accent and correct (some of) my grammar depending on who I’m talking to. When I have English (British ), or Australian patients, I easily acquire their accent. When I have American patients, my accent changes also. But right now, Indian/Arabic accent is my specialty. 😉

I talk that way (broken English) in order to be understood by most people here. It’s just the way it is. You just have to blend in to feel that you belong.

If I will have to retake my IELTS exam now, I will surely fail. 😉


2 thoughts on “You Broke My English!

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