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I'm a student doing a study on the language barriers when travelling and would be grateful if you could answer a few questions for me. There are only three and it should only take a couple of minutes.
4 years ago, March 29th 2010 No: 1 Msg: #107493  
i'm a student doing a study on the language barriers when travelling and would be grateful if you could answer a few questions for me. there are only three and it should only take a couple of minutes.

What countries have you been to that do not speak english or your first language?

What do you find the most useful method of communicating? e.g. pictionary, hand gestures, phrasebooks etc.

What situation do you find most stressful when trying to communicate in a foreign language? e.g. Ordering a meal, finding a room, booking train tickets etc.


Thank you for your help guys. Reply to this

4 years ago, March 29th 2010 No: 2 Msg: #107496  
Hi Roseanna,

I guess the language barriers are different for every country.
I went to Europe last year and found that there are few words you should learn which will not only help you but show respect to the people from that country. "Hello" "May I" "Toilet/Wash Closet" "Thankyou" "Please" "Goodbye" are normally enough to get you through. There are normally English translations on signs/menus/tickets etc. You will find that with a small amount of knowledge you can wing your way through the rest of it =)
The most stressful is probably taxis!

Good luck =) Reply to this

4 years ago, March 29th 2010 No: 3 Msg: #107509  
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions Reply to this

4 years ago, March 29th 2010 No: 4 Msg: #107525  
B Posts: 118
1. All over Europe.. I've spent time in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and then the more questionable cases of Belgium, Sweden and Spanish touristy areas where English isn't an official language of the country but most people speak it better than most native speakers..

2. My preferred method of communication is the traditional medium of talking... I travel mostly in Central Europe I can usually get by with my knowledge of Czech, English and German and often find myself repeating phrases in English and German when I get stuck (generally, younger people will have knowledge of English and older people of German). Sometimes in countries like Slovenia and Croatia I make a guess at the local language by speaking Czech with an accent and a few orthographical changes, and cramming the basics the night before I go (slavic languages are usually similar enough for this to be possible) and it sometimes works. I'm very kinaesthetic and generally make hand gestures when I talk even in English though, so this probably makes it easier for people. I can honestly say I've never commonly been in a situation where I have to flail my arms around like a lunatic and make noises. I think about twice in my life I've had to point at objects in the room for people to understand, and these were difficult situations.

3. The most stressful situations for me are if while travelling you have to go and do something which only locals would usually do, e.g. visit a pharmacy or clinic, go to an electronics store, communicate with emergency services etc, because here you really are sometimes pushed to use the country's local language. Anything that involves talking the local language on the phone also stresses me out. The most stressful situation I've been in is when a tourist desk in Rijeka, Croatia told me I could top up my Czech T-Mobile with a Croatian T-Mobile voucher, and I bought some credit and it turned out I couldn't. I had great fun communicating with the woman in the newsagents who was helpful enough and tried everything she could for me, then asked at a phone shop who confirmed it wasn't possible, then went back to complain at the tourist office where they suddenly went all deaf on me and pretended not to understand any language I spoke, despite speaking perfect English the first time round.

Good luck! Reply to this

4 years ago, March 30th 2010 No: 5 Msg: #107555  
Hello Roseanna

There are generally people who speak at least some English everywhere. And, it helps that I speak some Spanish and German too.

When there is nobody who can understand any English, I usually point to what I want in a book. For example, at the train station I point to where I want to go, in a guidebook or on a map.

The place I found most difficult to travel in without speaking the language was China. Sometimes, even when hotels had forms to fill in English, they would reject what I filled in, because it didnt exactly match the list of acceptable answers they had in English. Also, if people didnt understand what I wanted, they would wave me away. But, even there I found the occasional person who could speak English.

The most stressfull times were when I was very tired after a long journey, or when it was getting dark and I didnt know how to get where I wanted to go because nobody could understand me and I didnt want to wander around alone and lost after dark. In those cases, I generally looked around for a fairly nice looking cafe or restaurant and went in for a coffee or snack and then after relaxing a bit I would ask the waiting staff and other customers if they can give me the information I need.

What countries have you been to that do not speak english or your first language?


This is the case for most of the 40+ countries I have been to.


Mel Reply to this

4 years ago, April 1st 2010 No: 6 Msg: #107751  
Hi Roseanna,

I've been to France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Turkey and Croatia. I tried to study the basics, i.e., hello, please, thank you etc. before traveling to the various countries but once I arrived I didn't really have the need to use any of it. Although I tried to speak their basic language I found that the people in these countries wanted to practice their english on us! When we traveled from Munich to Venice via rail we were sitting next to a German Boarder Policeman who had an English 101 text book that he was studying from with him and was eager to speak to us in English. When we were driving through Germany and stopped at a McDonalds we attempted to give our order in German and the young man taking our order asked if we were American and wanted to speak to us in English. He was the only english speaking employee there. When visiting France and waiting in the longest line ever at Versailles a French lady cut in line in front of us and we asked her to go to the back of the line where everyone else began and she waved her hands like she didn't understand what we were saying BUT I could tell she knew how to speak english. My husband loudly said "BACK OF THE LINE LADY" and she immediately left! The only language barrier problem we encountered while traveling was in Frankfurt at a Thai Restaurant. They only spoke little German and no English....it was very hard to order because we could not read the menu so we pointed to the items we wanted. When they brought our food to the table he would point to what condiments he thought we should use and showed us through sign language (I guess) how they would eat what we ordered. Although we both could not speak the same language we understood what the other was trying to communicate. The most frustrating time I had through language was in Venice at a store where I was trying to buy laundry soap. It took me about 20 minutes and fiddling through a translating book to get the item I needed and after washing our clothes I'm still not sure if it was right....smelled more like vinegar but looked like laundry soap!

I must say after a lot of traveling I found that I didn't need to stress as much before hand as I did and that most people were eager to speak English. Although I would have loved to try to speak their basic language. I think that when you are traveling to another country it is a must to learn the please and thank yous and most importantly the basics for money exchanging.....

Good Luck with your study!

Jaimee Holdgate
Reply to this

4 years ago, April 2nd 2010 No: 7 Msg: #107774  
1. What countries have you been to that do not speak english or your first language? Vietnam, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia (+ other parts of Europe)

2. What do you find the most useful method of communicating? Phrasebook & hand gestures, plus a big smile. Pointing to the appropriate pages in a phrase book works ok.

3. What situation do you find most stressful when trying to communicate in a foreign language? Trying to communicate on the phone I think is the most stressful, when you have to change a booking or tickets. Loosing the ability to point at a book or make hand gestures makes this stressful.

Have fun with your studies! Reply to this

4 years ago, April 6th 2010 No: 8 Msg: #108102  
Most countries I have visited people spoke a little English with the exception of South America and I learnt to speak Spanish very quickly. I agree with the other replies it is important to know the daily greetings, please and thank you. A little politeness goes a long way and just those few words in the language of the country you are visiting makes the people happy and responsive.

I used a phrase books, dictionary, point and even resorted to a form of charades or mime in Egypt which resulted in lots of laughs. Always carried a phrase book in Egypt and to different dictionaries, the Egyptian people loved it and would ask to borrow them whilst I had a meal or invite me to sit and talk so they could peruse the books.

In Egypt I carried a card with my address in Arabic on one side and English on the other. Very useful with taxis.

Speaking on the phone is not easy especially if the person on the other end cannot speak your language.

Good luck and have lots f fun.
Reply to this

4 years ago, April 8th 2010 No: 9 Msg: #108233  
Hi Roseanna,

I'm currently living in China, and knew very little Chinese when I arrived.

I'd say the most stressful moments are in taxis when the taxi driver doesn't know where he's going. It can be a nightmare as you explaining a destination cannot always be done simply. But it always works out in the end, and as soon as you've exchanged a smile/laugh with who you're trying to communicate to then the ice is broken and there's little you can't do with hand gestures.

All the best Reply to this

4 years ago, April 9th 2010 No: 10 Msg: #108386  
B Posts: 7
What countries have you been to that do not speak english or your first language?
Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, France, Denmark, Sweden

What do you find the most useful method of communicating? e.g. pictionary, hand gestures, phrasebooks etc.
Phrasebooks are a good means of communication, gestures usually do the rest along with pictures

What situation do you find most stressful when trying to communicate in a foreign language? e.g. Ordering a meal, finding a room, booking train tickets etc.
In awkward situations when the other side doesn't understand what you want or need urgently.. (i.e. buying tampons in syria and explaining this to a male non-english speaking arab pharmacist.. only to find out that he doesn't sell them, and even worse.. tampons are not well-known in syria lol) Reply to this

4 years ago, April 15th 2010 No: 11 Msg: #108773  
B Posts: 8
denmark?! no waaaay! unless you ran into a REALLY old person, we will all happily speak english to show our kickass skills! or at least that's what i hope, but seeing as i speak danish, i never have to use english to make myself understandable... BUT! the next time i'm in denmark, i'll speak english & see how well people treat me & if they're mean, i'll trash them in danish!

as for my own experiences, i've generally run into people who didn't speak english in a lot of the eastern european countries.

as for my most useful method of communication when someone doesn't speak english.. it would probably be sounds & hand gestures. i've been known to crow like a chicken more than once in a grocery store when i wanted to make sure the meat i got was some sweet ol' chicken!

as for stressful situations, i start sweating like a pig at border controls when people start speaking in a foreign language in a rather heated manner, but maybe that's just because i've had A LOT of bad experiences with border guards.

my final thought on this matter is that sometimes it's actually a riot not being able to communicate verbally with a person. i currently live in egypt & i've had a blast using crippled sign language to make my point clear. Reply to this

4 years ago, May 27th 2010 No: 12 Msg: #111918  
N Posts: 18
Where I went where they spoke english the least- Indonesia
Prefer hand gestures
Taxis Reply to this

4 years ago, May 28th 2010 No: 13 Msg: #111976  
What countries have you been to that do not speak english or your first language? I have been visiting few where people speak just their own language (Bulgaria, Georgia, Cuba, Spain)

What do you find the most useful method of communicating? e.g. pictionary, hand gestures, phrasebooks etc.
I think the hand gestures are very useful, but i always try to learn few phrases.

What situation do you find most stressful when trying to communicate in a foreign language? e.g. Ordering a meal, finding a room, booking train tickets etc. No stress at all!!! Just enjoy your experience Reply to this

4 years ago, May 31st 2010 No: 14 Msg: #112174  
B Posts: 848
1. Vietnamese people often showed little inclination to speak english or even try to understand until USD came out. Papuan's have little concept of english in remoter areas but pidgeon is quite easily understood however the problem is with different dialects in different parts of Papua.

2. Hand gestures.

3. Taxi drivers..Indonesian particularly who take you on a circumnavigation of islands while speaking english then say ohhh..not this hotel..other one i think you say on other side of island - and charge you for each km. Had a funny experience when asking a Cambodian tuktuk driver if it was true that the country had a big drug problem, he assured us it was no problem and took us to a heroin dealers house...a case of genuine lost in translation, he thought we were having a problem finding drugs - heroin dealers english was perfect - "Would Madame like to try some heroin, it is very good for you"!!. Again, no stress just a lot of laughs (when we got out of polite dealers house intact).

Reply to this

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