Understanding foreign-language jokes

I remember that reading year’s ago Werner Lansburgh’s Dear Doosie (in a translation, of course, but I believe a congenial one) I was troubled by one of his observations. He said that you may tell just about any joke to learners of a language – and you’ll get a genuine laugh from them. Even if the joke is rather poor, they’ll be so happy about the fact that they see the joke, that they would laugh even to something which would only make them chuckle (at best), if they heard it in their mother tongue, .

Back then it troubled me, because there was the unpleasant implication that many of the wisecracks, puns &c I loved so much I loved just because thinking in English still wasn’t by far as natural to me as I hoped it was.

But he was right, you know. A couple of days ago I came across a link to this. I laughed so much that I couldn’t resist sending it to half my friends, and even viewing it again just now (for about a twentieth time) I still couldn’t surpress an ear-to-ear smile. But, frankly, it certainly is not that good. It’s only the fact that despite hardly knowing more than, say, two hundred German words, I understood the punch line as soon as it appeared on the screen.

So I had to inwardly apologize to Mr Lansburgh. As I was saying, he was perfectly right.



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