I can’t sleep on airplanes – in 1969 I was on a propeller plane, crossing the Atlantic ocean, when I watched one of the engines catch on fire. The plane did a slow 180 degree turn, we landed in emergency mode at Shannon airport and spent 3 days waiting for parts. Not something you forget – so no sleeping on planes for me.
Why the story? Well – I just flew from Korea to Montreal – 12.5 hours in a plane with nothing but the video system as company. So I watched 5 movies – and this was easily, hands-down, my favorite. It’s a must see movie if you travel to countries where you don’t speak the language – or if you live in a big city and have ever run into a tourist trying so hard to manage without a clue. Trust me – this movie is an attitude changer!
Here’s the link to trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnvfVKxu6oU
I leave it to better users of Google to figure out how to watch the movie – I’m pretty sure you can do it – I’m just not that good at video links!
On to the review.
The story line of “English – Vinglish” is simple – a Hindi wife and mother of 2 children living in India is embarrassed by her lack of knowledge of English – a lack that is made critical by the fact that her sister’s daughter is getting married in New York City, and as auntie she is expected to help organize the event. This puts her in New York City for 5 weeks – with literally no grasp of English and not much to do. So despite her conservative up-bringing, and very shy nature – she decides to take English lessons, one of those ‘Learn English in 4 weeks’ immersion courses. The story then follows the class and what happens there and contrasts it with what is happening in her family life, both in New York and in India.
Why did I love the movie? Because I just experienced exactly the things they so carefully show her trying to survive. Going thru immigration, ordering a meal at a restaurant and having to ‘see’ the food to order, getting flustered if the service person rushes you, and worse, getting embarrassed when you realize your stupidity is holding up a line.
Been there – done that!
The Intrepid Traveler and I didn’t have the heroine’s ability or desire to learn a language (Korean in our case) in under 5 weeks – but we did learn to avoid lines – to wait till there was a break before attempting to place an order, knowing that it might take us a bit longer. And we got really messed up on the ‘metro’ system – it’s not easy to know which train to get on – thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. Even on our last day in Seoul – someone over heard us saying where we wanted to go and kindly directed off the ‘wrong’ train and onto the right one.
Like the heroine of “English – Vinglish”, we know the palatable relief you experience when suddenly someone speaks to you in your language! You immediately go from being an idiot – to being intelligent.
The movie takes the bird-eye view on her classroom situation, and if you’ve ever taught, you can readily appreciate how frustratingly hard it is to learn to communicate complex thoughts in a foreign language.
Watching the movie – and thinking about how terribly hard and scary it can be to travel in a country where you don’t speak the language – is a bit of a game changer. And you might even be nicer the next time you realize that a visitor to your home town is having a challenge. Trust me – they will appreciate the smile, and the effort to help them help themselves!
Signing off – the Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveler.