Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Do You Speak English?" by Simon Collings Review


The short story "Do You Speak English?" was written by Simon Collings and was first published on the free web-resource www.short-stories.co.uk


The plot includes only one scene. The main character Manuel watched mechanically (it didn't bother him so much) the process of catching fish by a ten-year-old boy. One fish leaped out of something like a bucket and was gasping in convulsions. Manuel thoughts were mostly about some issues from his everyday life (about paying rent etc). Manuel saw two tourists, a woman and a man, who must have got lost because that poor district was of no interest to visitors.


The author described the scenery in a very rich style, he drew an ugly picture of personalities and an everyday life:
  • for fish "The gill flaps opened like two gash wounds on the sides of its head as it thrashed helplessly in the gutter.";
  • for the boy who was "barefoot and grubby, and his skin was marked with insect bites"
  • for the woman who "had shoulder-length reddish hair and pale freckled skin".  
  • for the man who "was tall and flabby, his stomach protruding from under his T-shirt."


People used to be composed seeing caught fish. "Fish is what we eat" - this is a usual attitude of people towards caught fish. This was another case. "Look at the   poor   thing,' said the woman, stopping beside the fish, which lay where the boy had kicked   it, probably now gasping its last breaths." Her partner tried to persuade her to avoid being involved in any actions here, but without any results.


She asked the boy about this fish but he didn't understand her. And then she saw Manuel and asked him if he spoke English. She said: "Can you ask this boy what he means to do with the fish? It seems so cruel, it ought to be thrown back". Manuel thought that she wasn't able to understand the boy who lived in the squalid shacks as if she was from another planet. He translated that the boy intended to sell the fish. Persisting in her strange wish, she asked how much the boy wanted for that fish. Even the overrated price didn't stop her. She paid, the fish was thrown back into the water and as it had been already dead, it was grabbed again by the boy after the couple had gone.


This story conveyed the idea of the remoteness of people from each other. The contrast between people was in the focus of the writer's attention in this story. Not only the language separate people, but most important is the fact that they belong to different social groups.

The author drew a very clear picture of the place where this story occurred. He used a lot of adjectives with a mostly negative connotation. Surfing the Internet I’ve seen that this story has been chosen a lot of times as a class material for English lessons. Probably one of the reasons is a very rich vocabulary which the author used. In a brief manner this story raises very actual questions, they give good food for thoughts.

I found out that the author had published this story on his blog https://simoncollings.wordpress.com/do-you-speak-english/
This resource for blogging is similar to the platform which I use for my blog (blogspot.com). Maybe someday I will write my own short story and will publish it on my blog ...


Simon Collings Do You Speak English?