Your English is perfect, where are you from?

I couldn’t help but chuckle at this video, which I think a lot of us traveling folks can relate to:

I actually get this once in a while in Lufthansa first class. I’ll talk to the crew exclusively in German, and then another passenger will start a conversation with me in English. I’ll respond and they’ll say “your English is very good, where did you learn to speak it?” When I respond with “thanks, I learned in New York” they’re usually pretty embarrassed.

Anyone else experience similar situations to the one in the video?

(Tip of the hat to David)

Comments

  1. As a college freshman in the 1990s, I was forced to sit through a full year of ESL courses, despite having an SAT verbal score in the 96th percentile. My crime (in the eyes of the University System of Georgia) was having been born in India, despite having spent much of my childhood in England and Australia, and having suffered my entire education in English.

    Yes, I’m still bitter.

  2. This is awesome and so spot on! The ultimate quest of our society to find the truth behind the extra “from”, as in, “where are you from from?” It’s crazy but when folks usually say to me, “oh my god, you speak really good English”, I usually respond with “oh my godddd, so do youuu :)” Thanks for sharing.

  3. I laugh not only at the funny video, and the situation you sometimes find yourself in, but mostly that it happens “while in Lufthansa first class”, as opposed to simply “while flying Lufthansa.”

  4. @Sean, what is your “real” name? You know, the one where your people are from? Because, like, um, you know, “Sean” is not what people name their kids in India.

    😉

  5. I find that the “where are you from” question is very confusing to me. Often I do not know what to respond, especially when I am in a country not where I am living or F-r-o-m. Many times I answered “Guess”. A guy in Istanbul said that was a great country. LOL

  6. Funny, because when I said I am from Singapore, some Germans persisted in asking me where am I really from.
    People can really be quite insistently insensitive or silly, can’t they?

  7. @bluecat – Another sore point. I don’t want to go off topic here, but soon after 9/11 I once spent many hours in an INS holding cell being asked exactly that question. Evidently, to quote the INS agent, “you camel jockeys have fucked up names like Mohammed and Singh and shit like that”. But I digress. 🙂

  8. Flying Lufthansa intra-Europe last year, it was more than a little amusing to hear the FAs speak better, more proper English than this southern boy ever could lol

  9. I get it the other way – I’m American but speak fluent Italian (I’ll claim 2 dialects, but that’s it). Italians ask me where I learned it. It’s my first language, but since I look American (they can tell by the way we dress), it catches people off guard.

  10. Haha. Mohammed and Singh. Now that covers a lot of ground on the map, which is ironic because I’m sure that INS agent never left the country.

  11. Ha, that sort of happened to me on my CX F flight. The FA was speaking to me in English, and then another FA came along a we talked a bit in Chinese. She says “Wow, your Chinese is really good, where did you learn it?”
    I say Vancouver 😛

  12. @Sean M. – we are still waiting for the answer to @Bluecat’s question….lol

    @Ken Y. – could also be “Shanmugapriya” or “Shankar”

  13. I am German born and grown up, but living in Dubai for about 8 years with constant worldwide travel. And yes, I get that a lot as well. Quite funny reactions when they here I am German. 🙂

  14. Hehe great video 🙂 I’ve been complimented on my English before when on a Greyhound bus from Boston to a small town in New Hampshire. I’m British 😉

  15. Same as Alan; I’m British (Scottish) and people are either asking me what part of Ireland I’m from or complimenting my English.

  16. This can go both ways. For example, I can instantly identify a South African/Zimbabwe/Nambia accent, and even whether the accent is English or Afrikaner. This usually just amazes the speaker. But can anyone tell me whether the Aussie and Kiwi accents are different? I fear I am tone deaf because I can’t tell.

  17. Two of my closest friends back in high school were Sean and Shawn. Indian. Back in India.

    What’s so surprising?

  18. @Tim Kelly – I love the difference between an Aussie and Kiwi accent. It’s pretty cool to be able to visit somewhere long enough to tell the difference in near neighbor/regional accents. (I never actually ask the person, though, usually I quietly ask a local friend, because I love the guess the accent game).

  19. Lucky,

    Actually, New York English is not the Queen`s language.

    And if you go by sheer number of people speaking it for “correct” accent, the Indians or Chinese probably have it. (Although each region speaks its own English language)

    @sean (2) I feel for your esl man

    @ Kim (4) Tha place matters. My friend ha a typical Oxford accent and in various parts of Southern US has been told “your accent is bad, why can`t you learn English” and in Washington DC in the Ambasadors reception, “what a wonderful accent you have” (Also see how I managed to get the place in – 🙂 ha)

    PS
    This keyboard is useless and skips characters so please forgive spelling

  20. When I was living in Taipei to study Chinese, since growing up we spoke mainly english at home, I was at a cafe where a cousin of mine was the manager. I’d always go on the weekends cause they had wifi. Once there were a couple of tourists. Forgot from where. Maybe Canada or the US. Anyways they were trying to break a large bill w/ the cashier to buy a train ticket later. My cousin couldn’t understand what they wanted. So she called me over to help translate. My chinese at that time was just okay, but managed to help. One lady said, “Wow your English is so good.” I didn’t want to say I was born and raised in the US. I just said thanks.

  21. Ignorant is part of life but unfortunately there are just too many people that just dont show the sensibility or proper manner. Funny aside, I take that situation with an offense as an asian american. and always instigated by a caucasian. I would not take into offense if a statement start with, what is your ancestry rather than “where you from really “

  22. @ffi – actually, if you’re saying american english isn’t the “correct accent” then you might disqualify “chinese” since that has quite a few accents and dialects that are further apart than uk/us english.

    the video is all too familiar and hilarious, but to be fair, as a taiwanese-american living in beijing, chinese people would always ask “where are you from?” and when i say “america” they’ll pretty much ask the “really from” question.

  23. As an expat, having lived in different countries, I get the question, “Where are you from?” all the time. Sometimes I respond,”Very deep philosophical question! Ultimately, stardust! Goin’ back there too!”

  24. This happened to me where a older man came up to me and said “You speak english good.”

    I said, “thank you, I speak it well because I have been speaking it all my life.” (Emphasizing the use of well.)

  25. When white people would refer to me as oriental, I would refer to them as occidental. Nobody ever got that…

  26. I’ve got something related: I speak fluent Spanish, but I look very much North American/European: blonde, blue eyes, 6’9. When I’m with my fiancée in Venezuela (her country), people really do their best to talk with their hands, talk slowly, etc. The smile on their face when I reply in Spanish is funny.

    Better yet: the people that think you’re a ‘gringo’ (which I’m not, I’m European) and make fun of you in Spanish. I think my look of ‘what are you saying, I don’t understand a word’ is good enough for people to actually believe it. So, while they think I don’t understand, I just wait until they’re done, only to reply in a very nice and polite way that actually I did understand everything. It reminds me of a MasterCard commercial every time 😉

  27. a friend of mine( educated British, but some years in the US) was in US hospital. The nurse saw that she was writing a letter in English and asked who it was to. Jo replied- “to my mother”. The nurse commented ” Oh, your mother speaks English” Jo replied ” Madam, we INVENTED the language”.

  28. Sean M, they tried to do the same to me at Carnegie Mellon, and I said HELL NO! I then took the main Freshman English composition class, and was basically was one of the best student in the class full of Americans.

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