Communicating When Abroad

Discussion in 'Evolution of Language' started by Corie Henson, Jul 14, 2015.

  1. Corie Henson

    Corie Henson Very Well-Known Member
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    How do you manage to communicate when you are in a non-English speaking country?

    When I first went abroad, we had a hard time in Hongkong because the people there don't just speak English but seem to be averse to English speakers. I am referring to the people in the street like vendors and waiters. When buying goods, what we use was the calculator to indicate the price. It's a good thing that vendors there know how to read Arabic numbers.

    When we dined in a classy restaurant, the waiter handed us the menu that indicated the cost of each dish pictured therein. It was quite easy because after choosing with our fingers, the food was delivered... correct to what we ordered. I still don't know how we survived that vacation in Hongkong.
     
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  2. Carlota Clemens

    Carlota Clemens Well-Known Member
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    It's strange that people in Hong Kong do not longer speak in English or at least understand it a bit, begin a British colony for nearly... 200 years?

    But probably this is the reason why they actually dislike English-speaking people; population was divided into those who liked to be part of the British empire, and those that were waiting anxiously the end of the treaty with the Great Britain to recover their Chinese identity.

    The fact is that, when traveling abroad, it's always useful carry with you one of those dictionaries that have common phrases for the traveler in different languages, or learn online some of these in anticipation to the traveling time.

    However, when everything fails, body language can bridge the communication gap in between.
     
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  3. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    It can depend on where you are. When I lived in Eritrea, I managed a learn a bit of Tigrigna, the most common local language, but everybody wanted to improve their English, so I didn't get that much chance to use it. Wherever I go, I always try to learn some basic greetings and find that people respond well to that. Even if you make a bit of a mess of things, they appreciate that you tried.

    One should always be sensitive to local conditions. My partner, who speaks French fluently, once absentmindedly ordered something in French in a restaurant in Bruges. Now Bruges is a Flemish-speaking area and she nearly managed to get us thrown out!
     
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  4. Corie Henson

    Corie Henson Very Well-Known Member
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    That's what I was thinking too, why they don't speak good English in Hongkong whereas it used to be a British colony and signages were bi-lingual. But in our recent trips there, it's not that too difficult anymore because... there are many Filipinos working as domestic helpers.

    In Thailand, we experienced that language barrier again. But street vendors are wiser now with their signages all in English. We buy from street vendors mostly using sign language with the hand. There was one monk we encountered in the street who prayed over us. Surprisingly, the monk was very good in English and we're glad he engaged us into a sensible conversation.

    Here's the shot of that monk in the street.... IMG_0063 bangkok monk.JPG
     
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  5. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    There is usually a way to communicate and arrive at some kind of understanding. I recall meeting an Italian (a Sicilian, in fact, as I suspect he preferred to be known) when I lived in Eritrea. He spoke no English at all. I spoke no Italian, apart from what you need in a restaurant or greengrocer's shop. We discovered that we could get by in not-very-fluent French and spent a pleasant evening, with a few glasses of beer, stammering and fumbling through an increasingly surreal conversation.
     
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  6. Jennifer Graves

    Jennifer Graves Active Member
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    I try to communicate with my hands. I always talk with my hands anyway, so using it in situations like that would be what was the most comfortable for me.
     
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