As the old joke goes, someone who speaks four languages is quadrilingual, a speaker of three languages is trilingual, someone with two languages is bilingual, and someone who knows only one language is an American. To continue, there’s a stereotype that Americans don’t need to learn another language because everyone speaks English – and if they don’t, they should.
While I am an American (but I’m bilingual so don’t shoot me!), I don’t necessarily believe everyone should speak English. In fact, Engrish has provided me with some of my fondest travel memories. The signs posted on my dorm in Hangzhou were a bit rough, but they were good for a chuckle, and sometimes our Chinese friends wore shirts that left us either doubled over in laughter, or scratching our heads trying to make sense of the phrase.
Because Hong Kong was under British rule for so long, I figured there wouldn’t be too much Engrish around – but I was pleasantly mistaken. The translations on signs and menus were fine (albeit a bit formal), but fashion….oh, the fashion. There was plenty of Engrish to go around, and what was even better were the shirts with incredibly random lists and graphics. They might have been grammatically correct, but they were so odd to me…
While the sartorial purchases I made were tame and (gasp) normal (a New England Patriots long sleeve shirt, and two scarves – one with lobsters and one with seahorses), I had to talk myself out of buying some of the others. Just for the looks I’d get at home if I wore it out. Like I said, one of the best reasons to go to Hong Kong is for the shopping.