Speaking the Language


Speaking English as a Tool and Not an Expectation

As I've been traveling around for a few months now, I have started to develop pet peeves. And while I would love to be pet peeve free, I'm not that easy going of a person. So what's my travel pet peeve? Assuming everyone speaks English. And while it's true that you can travel just about anywhere and get by with just English, I do believe in making an effort to learn at least one or two words in their language. Its a sign of respect. And an effort goes a long way.

Cathedral of Tours
Living in Paris, I see the reaction that people get when they right away speak English. Whoever is helping them will give a discrete eye roll or huff in frustration at the lack of effort. I've even seen people refuse to help the English speakers until they at least say "bonjour." And while Paris is known to be a little ruder when calling people out for not making an effort, I do notice the reactions in other countries. And its not the act of speaking English in itself, its the way that people abrasively just start speaking English without even acknowledging the language barrier or the fact that they are in someone else's country. So here's some tips to politely speaking English:

  • smile: a smile goes such a long way. I have realized that when dealing with speaking another language, I smile and give the "I'm sorry eyes" and every time people have a positive reaction and immediately speak to me in English. Maybe they appreciate my horrible attempt and take pity on me. Either way, a smile has always worked. 
  • be patient: trying to communicate with a language barrier is really hard, so remember to be patient. Rather than getting frustrated the second they don't understand you, say thank you and move on to another. Some may wonder why I even have this in my list, but I have seen some people get frustrated at others for not speaking English. It's mind boggling.
  • hello, please, thank you: three words that you should know in any country. These words go with being polite. I make an effort in every language to at least say thank you and please, even if the conversation is in English. It just makes your experience that much better by showing that you made an effort to at least say a few words. 
Tours in Full Bloom
    • have a backup phrasebook: one of the nice things about my travel book is that is has a bunch of phrases for every country that I could visit in Europe. So I always take a picture of that page to use a backup in case I need to say more than please or thank you. 
    • don't have expectations: I think the reason why this is my pet peeve is because too many people expect others to speak English. And while learning English is required in most European countries, it is a little presumptuous to expect others to speak English. So when traveling, make an effort, even if its just one word and asking people if they mind speaking English rather than jumping into it. After all, a little effort goes a long way.

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