As part of the Foreign Disney Travel Experience, tourists and expats alike take on a persona of exaggerated enthusiasm or escalated engagement. They revert back to that persona, who used to talk to small babies with big eyes and slow speech and exaggerated hand movements. This persona is used to deal with every Mexican they meet, and in particular children.
It is an interesting persona, because at the base of it, is the failure to understand that the person or baby you are talking to in no way understands a single word you are saying yet there is a persistence to continue the communication despite the only response of giggles. This behaviour is the result of living where everything being said is understood. Not being understood is never a reality. When that person moves into an environment of a foreign language and no understanding, then there is no learned structure to support movement in that culture.
The first strategy, many use, is to talk slower, believing that they only reason the person you are talking to you can’t understand you, is because you are talking too fast. With slow speech comes the enunciation of each letter and vowel. I waaannnntt tooooo gooooo toooo the busssss sstttaaatttiooon. At the root of this belief system is the belief that English is really some innate or intuitive language, possessed by all, that can be summoned up with slower exaggerated speech.
If slow speech fails to stir intuitive English then frustration begins to set in but at no time does this person resort to sign language or acting out what they want. The fault of no understanding is transferred completely to the foreign local. They wait for the foreign local to take the next step and offer no clue as to what problem they are trying to communicate. Perhaps at the heart of the inability to act out what is wanted, is the inherited English coldness where using one hands to express oneself is regarded as stuff foreigners do.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the tourist has in no way prepared themselves for the experience of travelling outside an English speaking area. A phrase book is never in hand. No research has been done about how to do something. “We’ll just ask when we get there” appears to be the operating system for travelling.
If they find someone who speaks some English, they then believe that this person has a complete grasp of English but with a funny accent. They then use complete sentences to ask for what they want. The foreign local is faced with a barrage of English words of which perhaps 20% in intelligible and perhaps 25% of those words decipherable. The puzzled look and lack of expected response by the local, frustrates the tourist, even more, so they double their effort to use different words. For some reason focusing on one verb and one noun and inflection such as Bus Station where? instead of Could you please tell me where the local bus station to Queretaro is? is beyond their comprehension.
Frustrated, exasperated and having bought nothing, they decide to retreat to a place where people speak English – San Miguel de Allende and other expat communities such as Ajijic. Learning nothing about their experience in a non English speaking world they then start to communicate with locals. The easiest targets are babies and young children. They have experience with pre verbal younguns. They know BABY TALK. BABY TALK is how you talk to children. Faces get animated. Every little movement of the Baby is applauded, words get shortened, voices get lower, speech gets slower until the COMPLETE IDIOT has emerged to talk to local Mexican Children.
That must be how Mexicans see Tourists and non spanish speaking Expats – as the COMPLETE IDIOT.