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English as a Foreign Language

Mixed-up communications in foreign countries are often the funniest things we experience. As an example, here's a true story of a stay at a B & B on the Isle of Skye.

Our hostess was an dour lady who stood in her kitchen silently ironing while we ate our gargantuan breakfast. Grasping for topics of conversation, one of us commented that as we were driving, we had noticed that the local sheep were not fenced in but rather allowed to wander at will over the countryside and along the very narrow winding roads. The lady agreed and said her own sheep were indeed completely free to roam.

Using the British term for a car, we asked her if she wasn't worried about her sheep being killed by speeding autos. She looked both puzzled and amazed at our question as she calmly responded, "No, indeed! I've never heard anything of our otters doing harm to our sheep."

We sat stunned by the miscommunication. But not wanting to embarrass her - or ourselves - we ignored the impulse to clarify the issue and let the subject drop.

Now, every once in awhile, we pause to reflect on the tales she must tell her friends and neighbors about the crazy Americans who believe river otters are scary predators that lurk in the bushes to ambush their sheep!

We hope she even occasionally smiles at the thought.

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