Somewhere in my murky past I was a sailor. There was blood involved, although not in the way you might think. The reason I’m bringing this up now is the cross-language working environment, as recently seen in The Bridge. As was mentioned in my paper, when it was shown in Scandinavia people also needed subtitles. Half subtitles, for when the actors spoke the ‘other’ language.
In theory you shouldn’t need them, but in reality of course you do. And I’ll let you in on a secret. The only reason those actors seem to do so well is that they are speaking lines. Someone else script-wrote their replies to what that Dane/Swede said to them and they didn’t need to understand a single thing.
Now, many of us, including the young Seawitch, do/did work with speakers of the other language, under conditions that allow no instant kind of subtitling. It’s fun. Challenging. Often incomprehensible. You get more used to it after a while.
All together now; say ‘remoulade’ as though you really mean it. Try to sound a little more Danish, would you? We’ll be moving on to more advanced stuff any minute now. Rødgrød med fløde. That tastes far nicer than the easier to say koldskål. The latter looks very tasty, but at least in the crew mess on Europafärjan III it didn’t do much for my tastebuds.
Try being shut into a walk-in fridge with a Danish chef, and see how you like it. Sleep in a cabin with a Danish cleaner who smuggles cigarettes in her bra. We never did feel entirely certain what she said as she talked to us, the three Swedish washer-uppers. Quite likely she didn’t understand us either.
One of my tasks – other than not being sick while operating the dishwasher – was to serve the lorry drivers their lunch. This involved going to the galley and asking the Danish chef what was on the menu. You had to try and keep that in your head for long enough to be able to repeat it in the cafeteria, making it sound roughly the same as it did before. Lorry drivers were invariably Danish. Not sure why. And because they were regulars, they got special treatment.
(And yes, I did ‘promise’ to tell you about my postal work, as well. As soon as anyone can remember why I meant to tell you about it, I’ll be off. Writing.)
I forget where I picked up this particular piece of wisdom, but apparently there used to be a Danish saying along the lines of ‘do your good deed for the day, and accompany a Swede to the ferry.’ I am guessing these days you take them to the bridge and make sure they are just past the middle. All of them. Not just the upper or lower half.