I read this short story in 2006-2010. Would like to find it.

My memory is fuzzy but it was probably in my school library, and may have been a textbook, but not a class assignment for me; so middle-high school level

(what makes this harder is that I was in the USA and India in this time period, so not sure which country's textbook it was, although probably India if it's set in a British boarding school).

Written in English, untranslated (would not make sense otherwise).

Summary: There's this student (let's call him A). A is a foreigner and not too fluent in English. The story takes place at a school (possibly a private school/boarding school in England, but not sure).

He bumps in to kids, or some other stupid altercation; the kids decide to bully A. They demand that A "apologize". Some more kids show up to de-escalate the situation. One of them (call him B), understands that A is being bullied, but figures the easiest way is for A to apologize and quickly resolve the situation. So B says (approximately) "be a good sport and apologize". Finally, A is overwhelmed and runs off crying (approximately) "I'm sorry, I no know apologize".


1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like Apologize!, a short story by the Indian author Sigrun Srivastav.

The story takes place at a school in Amsterdam, from the point of view of an (unnamed) Iranian boy.

He hadn’t learned much Dutch in the six months of his stay in Amsterdam, despite the special language classes for foreign students in the afternoons.

He is accused of kicking a girl, making her spill her lunch. The other students call on him to apologize to her, but he does not, and so they begin to beat him up. An older boy comes over and breaks up the fight, saying:

“Come on, boy,” ... ”Reach out a hand and apologize.” The boy didn’t move. He stood there thin and tense, his brows knitted. His lips quivered. “Come on,” urged Jan van de Meer. "Be a sport. Apologize to these wild cats."

to which the boy replies "No". The conversation continues:

“Why not? For God’s sake, Why not?”
“Because,” the boy’s voice rose. ”Because I not know ‘apologize’. I no understand ‘apologize’. I speak little Dutch - very little Dutch. Please forgive!”

It appears to be quite a popular text for language exams. I found this in an English textbook, and there are many other examples online, sometimes changing the language and location from Dutch/Amsterdam to English/London. It is also included in Srivastav's anthology of short stories Moment of Truth.

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