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To speak or not to speak

Do you try to speak the local language??
12 years ago, September 11th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #48515  
I was in Germany last week and my German is limited to a few words. I was telling some (german) friends of Dax stories about what happened to me the few times that I tried to speak in German and one of them told me that I was making it harder for myself trying to speak the language because, when I told them "I don't speak German" (in German) they would think "but you're speaking it!!" so they would continue to speak to me in German, but if I would speak English straight away, it will be easier... I always try to speak the local language because I think that it is polite and makes locals like you more... have you had any similar experiences?? what's your opinion about it?? Reply to this

12 years ago, September 12th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #48552  
B Posts: 11.5K
I agree with you Deni.

Generally yes I try to, at the least 'hello' and 'thank you'.

I was in Paris for a few days last year, and found most people reluctant to try and speak English. If, however, I asked them in French (about the limit of my French inability) they seemed much more willing to try and help. Reply to this

12 years ago, September 12th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #48553  
I agree with you, Deni. I do think that being able to say a few easy words in the local lingo makes a huge difference. That way local people feel usually a higher degree of respect for their culture. And that applies also when I am the "local". If, when I'm home, someone stop me in the street and ask for infos in italian, rather than english, will definetely make a far far longer distance compared to someone who just come to me and plainly ask in english. Even if that person's language level is really limited and I'll have to speak english either way. Reply to this

12 years ago, September 13th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #48596  

i try, because i don't want the locals to think i'm so arrogant so as to assume everyone will know english. but i'm pretty useless with my pronounciation, and usually create incomprehension! I am humbled by the amount of people i;'m meeting at the moment, travelling thru the Czech republic and Switzerland, who have a conversational level of english. regardless of my inability, I find a big smile and lots of "thank you's" help (-; Reply to this

12 years ago, September 15th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #48771  
I think countries like it if you at least make an attempt to speak there language but they generally will speak back to you in English. I always find myself amazed at how many people abroad speak good English when you consider how many people in England can’t speak any other language. Reply to this

12 years ago, September 15th 2008 No: 6 Msg: #48790  
B Posts: 71
Usually everyone agrees that speaking at least a little of the local language is good for showing some respect and I totally agree. I have also had a few situations in which I speaking the local language had been not a good option.

In found in France speaking just a couple of words makes most of the locals think you speak French. One time after asking for directions, a man seemed quite eager to help and threw a barrage of French language at me. I couldn't really get a word in but when I finally did, I had to respond (with my tail between my legs) with "Umm do you speak English?". He huffed, puffed and rolled his eyes as he pointed and simply said "That way".

In Indonesia, I got right into the local language. I found picking up bits and pieces was quite easy so I tried to learn as much as I could. I got really cocky one day and asked a woman how much something costs in Indonesian as if I do it all the time and she responded in Indonesian. The problem was I made the mistake of only learning numbers 1-10 and since everything in Indonesia costs in the thousands I had to respond with (again tail between my legs) "Umm how much?"

In Iceland, everyone I spoke to spoke very good english. When in a foreign language speaking country whos citizens usually speak English like a lot of European countries, I always believe its still polite to ask if they speak english (even in english if you dont know how to say it in the local language). The problem in Iceland is, because everyone speaks such good english, it seems they take it as an insult if you ask. After asking over a dozen people if they spoke English, I more often than not got a a response of "Yes of course". In fact a couple of them gave me shrugged shoulders as if to say "What are you stupid? Of course I do". So after that I just started of saying what I wanted in English. None of them gave me a strange look or seemed like they had to think about their response, they just did it as if it were a totally normal thing.

When I first moved to Germany, my German kind of sucked. I found asking something in German would usually elict a reply in English. At first, I went with it and spoke in English. Since I was there to learn the language, after a while I realised that speaking English didn't help my learning so I kept speaking German after their English response. That helped and I learned a lot quicker.

I currently live in Brazil where English on the streets is pretty thin. Obviously the way I look identifies me a Gringo straight away but at least if I have a bit of Portuguese to back myslef up. In fact I have found bargaining for a touristy souvenir is much better in Portuguese. In English they will screw you for as much as they can. In Portuguese at least I can say something like "C'mon man I live here, I dont earn much, help me out" They will usually knock a bit off the price. Not as much as for a local but still better than nothing.

There are sometimes where you have no choice in speaking the local language. Belarus has had to be the hardest country I've travelled around because of the language. Out of all the time I was there, literally no more than 3 or 4 people spoke at least a few words, the rest, not a word. The biggest problem is that Russian is a very difficult language to pick up on a whim and impossible to read unless you know the cyrillic alphabet. I found frantically pointing and speaking English doesn't help. As it turns out, loud slow dum English (Yes c'mon we've all done it) actually doesn't sound like Russian! So picking up any words possible is essential even if it means reading directly from a phrase book like a big fat tourist (yes I had to do it several times). The good thing was that all the Belarussians were very patient and willing to help in any way possible with a big smile.

Has anyone been to one of those places where English is basically non-existant?? I dont mean for an hour or so, I mean an entire trip for days and days on end. Which road did you take, the loud slow English or did you buckle down with local language? Reply to this

12 years ago, September 19th 2008 No: 7 Msg: #49246  
B Posts: 287
For me, I make it mandatory to memorize a few key phrases and the basics before going to the country. It really helps to be able to ask where the bathroom is, what time it is, and how do I find the number 3 bus.

Right now I'm practicing my Australian. lol. Reply to this

12 years ago, September 21st 2008 No: 8 Msg: #49379  
I agree cabochick. I think that if you are going to travel to a particular country then you should at least learn to speak basic phrases. It helps to keep you safe and makes your trip more enjoyable. I have been refreshing my spanish on this website http://www.quiz-buddy.com/Spanish_Phrases_with_Audio.html I have found several sites on the web that makes it easy to learn virtually any language you want. Reply to this

12 years ago, September 22nd 2008 No: 9 Msg: #49520  
N Posts: 1
I am just starting out in Buenos Aires, working here for a year, and believe me do I wish that I had learnt more Spanish before I got here. I really struggle to get even the most simple point across and every day tasks are made that much harder.

I have just started part time in a great Spanish language school though, http://www.expanish.com - in fact, the whole studying spanish abroad thing is much better than I expected. I thought I would find it difficult and frustrating to learn a language after not trying for at least 5 years, but it really has been good fun.

A good resource I have found is on Youtube, http://www.youtube.com/user/expertvillage
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