Reporters on the Job

PARLEZ-VOUS FRAN├žAIS? The Monitor's Ilene Prusher reads French, and speaks it well enough to set up interviews and get around town. But while working on today's story about the use of French in Cambodia (page 7), she was surprised to find that the language of Proust was not more useful in the former French colony. "I tried using it with moto [moped] drivers, and I got nowhere. I would sometimes try English with people on the street, and then switch to French, thinking that was a better alternative. But people just looked at me like I was even more crazy. I was told that French sometimes was useful with older Cambodians, but I never found one.

If you ask for the FCC, they'll take you to the Foreign Correspondents Club. But when I asked for the other place with the same initials - the French Cultural Center - none of the drivers seemed to know where it was. I thought that was a sign because these drivers seemed to know the location of everything in the city."

EUROPEAN IDENTITIES: Reporter Lucian Kim has two stories in today's paper, one about Hungarian rights (page 7) and the other about a Roma businessman (page 9). If they share an underlying theme, says Lucian, it's the issue of identity. "Ethnic Hungarians have it easy, with a common language, common churches, and ties to a homeland that is a nation-state. Roma, or gypsies, on the other hand, have no state to defend their interests. They have a much more fluid understanding of who they are. Many deny their Roma ethnicity, often to avoid discrimination or persecution.

Meeting with both ethnic Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania, he found it remarkable that they all preferred the regional identity of 'Transylvanian' before their larger ethnic affiliations. "I liked that - it was a pre-nation-state identity, in another way it was a very modern concept of a 'Europe of regions.' "

CULTURAL SNAPSHOT

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