Friday, 10 April 2015

The Amazing Race 26, Episode 6

Schliersee (Germany) - Munich (Germany) - Nice (France) - Monaco (Monaco) - Èze (France) - Cap Ferrat (France)

Jackie and Jeff, the team eliminated from The Amazing Race 26 this week, were one of the “blind date” couples brought together at the starting line of the race around the world by the “reality” TV show’s casting directors.

I don’t know if the TV producers were trying to create on-camera love affairs or on-camera arguments and breakups with their “blind date” pairings. At the finish line of this stage of the race, after being eliminated, Jackie and Jeff talked about how they had actually found they liked each other (unlike, although they didn’t say this explicitly, some of the other “blind date” couples), and suggested that they considered future romance at least a possibility.

Contestants who are eliminated from The Amazing Race before the final episode of the season are not sent home immediately. To avoid spoilers, all the eliminated teams are sent to a resort where they are “sequestered” by the TV producers until filming of that season of the race is complete. Even the racers’ friends and family members aren’t supposed to find out how they did until the race is broadcast on TV several months later.

So Jackie and Jeff will have (actually, already did have, in the real world) a couple of weeks at a resort with little else to do except, if they so choose, getting to know each other and the other eliminated racers better.

Racing, although stressful, probably gives partners of better sense of their compatibility than time together at a resort where few decisions need to be made and little work needs to get done. Nonetheless, as I’ve written about in The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around The World and during previous seasons of The Amazing Race, compatibility while traveling is as poor a guide to compatibility while living together in the same place as compatibility at home is a guide to compatibility on the road. Travelling together is not the same as living together in one place, It puts different stresses on a relationship, and brings out different features of our personalities and patterns of behavior.

If you meet someone and fall in love on the road, you should expect a second period of getting to know each other when you try to settle down somewhere together. And you should expect to find that the person you are now living with at home is a different person in some respects than the person you had come to know on the road.

Part of the pleasure and danger of travel romances — to put it another way, part of the romance of travel and of the traveller — is that even people who have no intent to deceive or act out a “role” often find themselves taking on different personas when they are travelling. Travel changes us, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. That’s part of the value, the attraction, and for some of us the addictiveness of travel.

An unexpected footnote to this week’s episode in France and Monaco was that none of the racers appeared to speak French, or not enough French to ask for directions.

In the first few seasons of The Amazing Race, the TV producers had a strong bias against casting people with too much international experience or linguistic expertise, as was confirmed in post-race interviews with some of the racers. Most native-born US citizens have never travelled outside the USA, and I think the TV producers assumed that ordinary TV viewers wouldn’t be able to identify with racers who seemed too cosmopolitan. That seems to have changed. There are still teams in every season who have never left the USA before. But in more recent seasons more cast members have had international travel and/or living experience and have been functional in a variety of languages.

More of the racers have been able to communicate at least a little in Spanish than in any other language besides English. But somehow I would have expected, perhaps naively or reflecting my age, that out of fourteen people left in the race at the start of this episode, at least one would have spoken some French.

One of the most popular pages on my Web site is an article I wrote in my blog more than a decade ago in response to a reader’s question about which languages would be most useful for world travel.

The most heated debate prompted by my article, in comments on my blog and in other forums about language learning, was whether I should have included French, and with what priority relative to other languages.

I included French on my short list (although I ranked it below English, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, and Arabic), not because of the number of people who speak French as a first language around the world, but because of its value as a “link language” in places where few people speak English. French is no longer the international language in the 21st century, as it was through the first half of the 20th century. But when nobody around speaks English, I’ll always try French before I give up and resort to sign language. It has proven useful in some unexpected places where there are few if any native speakers of French.

I’ve found myself speaking Spanish in Africa and French in Asia with other non-native speakers. You can find someone who speaks Mandarin in almost any city in the world. You never know what language(s) someone may speak. In a pinch, try any and every language you know.

Bon voyage!

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 10 April 2015, 23:59 (11:59 PM)

I have never watched The Amazing Race, but I'd be curious to know whether any of the contestants has ever been a native bilingual Spanish/English speaker from the US.

Posted by: Wayne Bernhardson, 16 April 2015, 08:42 ( 8:42 AM)

@Wayne -- Yes.

Danny and Oswald, who finished fourth in the second season of "The Amazing Race", are bilingual Cuban-Americans from Miami. I believe they both were born in Cuba and came to the US as (young?) children. I don't know if they are "native" bilinguals, but they are native Spanish speakers and fluent in English.

Since then, there have been several bilingual Spanish/English teams and individual team members.

Not surprisingly, more of the racers have spoken a little (and in some cases more than a little) Spanish than any other language except English. Some viewers have jeered when racers tried speaking Spanish in Brazil or other countries where it isn't the main local language, but that's a reasonable thing to try, and at least in Brazil, likely to be effective.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 16 April 2015, 10:45 (10:45 AM)

I speak some Portuguese but don't use it very much and thus I tend to lapse into Spanish when I'm in Brazil. I always apologise for that, but it doesn't seem to bother the Brazilians much. Whether I understand their reply is something else entirely - I find Italian more comprehensible, even though I've never studied it.

Posted by: Wayne Bernhardson, 20 April 2015, 08:23 ( 8:23 AM)
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