Saturday, May 9, 2009

Of English and the lack of it

Prague is so incredibly tourist friendly... Almost everything is in English apart from Prague, and it's such a relief after visiting some of the bigger western european cities... which seem to be under the erroneous belief that everybody in the world knows their language or the pompous one that everybody who comes there should learn it. Now, I don't mind a country being so proud of it's language that it refuses to have anything else almost anywhere. But to have all sorts of vital information in spots where usually only tourists would read it, only in their native language is rather pushing it and defeating the purpose.

So I was actually thrilled when I kept discovering that they had taken the effort to explain things almost everywhere in English. Even the ticket machines at the small tram stops had English instructions, which, ironically, did not help a group of German tourists at all, who were wondering what to do when faced with a choice of 2 languages, neither of which they seemed to understand much of.

Subway stations in Prague have these large LCD screens which keep showing some videos on subway etiquette. I ignored these, initially, since all of them were only in Czech, but a curious look on the last day made me wish I had observed them properly, for they were the amongst the most brilliantly funny and cute ads I have ever seen. It's remarkable how something as dry as subway etiquette could be taught in a manner so entertaining that you want to let the next train go and keep watching. I was cracking up after watching them one after the other, something which amused Lydia a bit, I think. All the text was in Czech, but it was fairly obvious what they wanted to, for there are not too many different ways in which you can interpret an ad showing a bunch on youngsters occupying all the available seats, and an old lady flying like a flag, holding on to a pole desperately as the train starts, or when a football bounces over a line of passengers' heads on it's way from one youngster to another. Why these range of ads should be only In Czech kind of beat me, but they were still worth watching. I wish I could get them from somewhere off the net, unfortunately, google did not really throw up much that I could make sense of.

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