Are you more likely to give money to someone who asks you for it in your native language? According to this article from The Sun, beggars and street performers in New Delhi are becoming multilingual, hoping to increase their haul from foreign tourists during the Commonwealth Games next year. Although most of the tourists expected for the games will probably speak English, beggars are adding languages like French and Spanish to their repertoire as well.
Many of the beggars are children who were born into families of beggars. Although most of these children will never receive formal schooling, the beggars of New Delhi have set up “language schools” of their own.
Classes usually take place at night, and consist of learning helpful phrases in other languages, such as “I am an orphan.” Beggars are also trained to recognize foreign currency and determine its value.
Begging is actually an organized occupation in New Delhi, with an estimated 100,000 beggars in the city. Beggars are assigned specific places and times to beg, and move around so that no one beggar is in the same place for too long.
The entire enterprise of begging is targeted to achieve the maximum amount of profit possible. Why learn to beg in more than one language? According to a beggar quoted in the Sun article, it adds a “personal touch” to begging. As businesses are learning the world over, it pays to speak to your customer in his or her native language!