September 23rd, 2008

Caricature

A scene from Tallinn

There we were, sitting in the Café Mademoiselle in Tallinn Old Town, drinking our coffees and browsing the web, when we noted a couple attempting to order. Since pretty much everyone working in the Old Town speaks English (Estonian is a nice language, most closely related to Finnish, but the number of fluent speakers worldwide is probably less than two million), that is what this couple was doing. However, they were obviously having a vocabulary problem of some form.

And then the waitress switched language.

To Russian.

Suddenly everything went much better, since the couple was Russian, and the waitress, an Estonian of an age to have been educated while Estonia was still part of the USSR, sounded pretty much as fluent in it as they were.

I did find it interesting that the switch only occurred when the waitress had decided that English wasn't going to cut it, and that it was her rather than the Russians who did so. Given history, I can imagine that starting off in Russian in Estonia would invite a certain hostility.