Published: August 24, 2009 at 10:30 AM
I used to be able to say "Get down off of the rocks" in at least 20 different languages after nearly five years at Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground!
I have a great language story that's not theme park related though. I spent a year traveling with a musical show, and we ended our tour for the holidays in Europe. I could either fly home to the US and back to Denmark to rejoin the cast, or could wander around Europe on my own. I was invited by a friend from the show to stay with his family in Poland and I accepted. The father decided to teach me some Polish. He spoke no English himself, but he taught me a few words. Since it was the holidays, he decided to go visit some of his school friends and he took his visiting American with him to show off. (This was right after the fall of Communism in Poland, and anything American had been once forbidden and was now exciting. "Gone With the Wind," was the big event on TV while I was there for example.)
Every home we visited was the same. "Father," would introduce me in Polish, then would begin to speak with his friends about old times. I could tell when they were talking about me because the conversation was always the same. Then, as the two would be discussing who I was and why I was visiting, "Father" would indicate that I spoke Polish. He'd nod to me and point.
He'd point to the light over the table.
"Lampa," I'd recite dutifully.
He'd nod, then point at the table.
He'd nod, then point at a chair.
He'd then get a wicked grin on his face and gesture dramatically at me.
"Podaj mi krzesło." I'd state with authority.
He'd then get up and with great flourish, hand me his chair over the table, the old friends laughing uproariously over the silly American asking someone to "Give me the chair!"
The old friends would then go on to discuss how I didn't drink enough (raise a glass to me) and didn't eat enough (pat their bellies and nod over to me with a disapproving look while pushing another plate of cakes in my direction). That visit over, we'd go on to the next house to do the same again.
It was a wonderful way to really meet the Polish people. To this day, when meeting someone who speaks Polish, I tell them to "Podaj mi krzesło" explaining why I know that phrase. We laugh at the silly things we Americans say and do!