Text by Henrylito D. Tacio
Among Asian countries, the Philippines has an edge in terms of speaking English.
As Honesto General wrote in an article published on a national daily: “We are way ahead of everybody. Ever since the American colonizers sent over a shipload of teachers on the transport Thomas a hundred years ago, we have been grappling with the nuances of the English language.”
But such is not the case anymore.
A survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations some years back found that the national proficiency in the English language has declined by ten percentage points in the last 12 years.
According to the survey, only two out of three Filipino adults, or 65 percent, understood spoken and written English. Some 14 percent said they were not competent at all in spoken and written English.
If you think Filipinos are no longer good when it comes to speaking or writing English, think twice.
A few years ago, a newspaper in New York printed some quotable quotes from student-evaluation reports written by public school teachers. A student “does not take to many things serious,” wrote one teacher. Another reported that one student in his class had a “studdering” (should have been “stuttering”) problem.
Then, there was one teacher who wondered about one of his pupils. “Why is he not learning or learning so but so little,” she wrote. “How comes his past teachers have been passing him from grade to grade without he advancing or progressing academicly. I will like to know what is causing the mental blockage.”
I want to know, too! But then, Filipinos and Americans are not the only people in the world who have committed “murdering” the English language. Consider these signs spotted from all over the world:
A Bangkok dry cleaner in Thailand asks its customers to: “Drop your trousers here for best results.” A laundry in Rome, Italy proves it knows la dolce vita: “Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.”
A Norwegian cocktail lounge isn’t asking for much: “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.” In the window of a Barcelona travel agency in Spain that may not last long: “Go away.”
Hotels are good sources of humorous signs. In a Yugoslavian hotel, a sign said: “The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.” A Japanese hotel enticed: “You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.”
You will definitely get a nosebleed if you read this one in an Austrian hotel catering to skiers: “Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.”
I am not sure what the owners of a hotel in Zurich really wanted to impart when it urged: “Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.”
Warnings about elevators are almost always funny. In Mexico, Hotel de Paseo pleads: “We sorry to advise you that by an electric desperfect in the generator master of the elevator, we have the necessity that don’t give service at our distinguishable guests.”
In Bucharest, a hotel posted this notice: “The lift is being fixed for the next four days. During this time, you will be unbearable.” In Hotel Deustschland, Leipzig: “Do not enter the lift backwards and only when lit up.”
A hotel in Tokyo has this notice on its elevator doors: “Do Not Open Door Until Door Opens First.” Another Tokyo hotel placed this elevator sign: “Keep your hands away from unnecessary buttons for you.” Still another in a Tokyo hotel: “Is forbidden to steal towels, please. If you are not person to do such, please not to read notice.”
So, please read the notice well – or else! In a Belgrade hotel elevator, this warning was posted: “To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.”
Restaurants have their own share of hilarious signs. From a little restaurant in Mexico City: “U.S. Hots Dog.” Don’t worry about not getting tea drinks anytime at the Restaurant des Artistes, Montmartre: “We serve five o’clock tea at all hours.”
And this notice was placed on every table in the dining room at a restaurant in Nepal: “All vegetables in this establishment have been washed in water especially passed by the management.”
Travel is always exciting. No wonder some travel agencies have their own way of attracting customers. In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency, this sign was posted: “Take one of our horse-drive city tours – we guarantee no miscarriages.” “We take your bags and send them in all directions,” said a Copenhagen airline ticket office.
A brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo offers something new for tourists: “When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”
Some entrepreneurs have their own way of promoting their own line of business. A butcher in Nahariyya, Israel, boasted: “I slaughter myself twice daily.” A dentist in Hong Kong claimed: “Teeth extracted by latest Methodists.”
A barber in Zanzibar advertised: “Gentlemen’s throats cut with nice sharp razors.” A barber in Tokyo topped them all when he publicized: “All customers promptly executed.”
Why are you laughing out so loud?