'Nein. English! Nein Deutsch. English!'

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The Independent Online
Several merchant banks with supposedly global ambitions, called in a foreign language by the Independent on Sunday, fared for the most part miserably.

Asked in German for the press office, Presseburo, reception was dumbfounded at Schroders, while NatWest at least tried to find someone with a passing understanding, only to lose us in the internal system.

Most embarrassingly, "Nein. English! Nein Deutsch. English!" was the only response from the telephonist at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, who made no attempt to find a German speaker. DMG, by the way, is the merchant banking flagship of Germany's very own Deutsche Bank.

Dresdner Bank-owned Kleinwort Benson, however, passed with fluent, flying colours, while BZW's operator valiantly picked out Presse and put the call through.

Anyone trying in Japanese is likely to be given short shrift. Lehman and Schroders were dumbstruck, as were Robert Fleming and HSBC, two banks with large Far East operations.

"Do you not speak English?" was the last word on the subject from the increasingly blue-faced receptionist at blue-blooded broker Cazenove, enough to send our caller scurrying back to the land of the rising sun.

Meanwhile, the operator at merchant bankers Rothschild gently giggled "sorry", before putting the phone down.

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