Linguistic humor, Multilingualism, pros and cons


Source: The Nolo news. Winter 1998. 28.
A Mexican bandit made a specialty of crossing the Rio Grande from time to time and robbing banks in Texas. Finally, a reward was offered for his capture, and an enterprising Texas ranger decided to track him down.

After a lengthy search, he traced the bandit to his favorite cantina, crept up behind him, put him trusty six-shooter to the bandit's head, and said, "You're under arrest! Tell me where you hid the loot or I'll blow your brains out."

But the bandit didn't speak English, and the ranger didn't speak Spanish.

Fortunately, a bilingual lawyer was in the saloon and translated the ranger's message. The terrified bandit blurted out, in Spanish, that the loot was buried under the oak tree in back of the cantina.

"What did he say?" asked the ranger.

The lawyer answered, "He said 'Get lost, gringo. You wouldn't dare shoot me.'"


Source: Via Mark Liberman.
A Swiss guy, looking for directions, pulls up at a bus stop where two Americans are waiting.

"Entschuldigung, sprechen Sie Deutsch?" he says. The two Americans just stare at him.

"Excusez-moi, parlez-vous français?" The two continue to stare.

"Parlare italiano?" No response.

"¿Hablan ustedes español?" Still nothing.

The Swiss guy drives off, extremely disgusted.

The first American turns to the second and says, "Y'know, maybe we should learn a foreign language."

"Why?" says the other. "That guy knew four languages, and it didn't do him any good."