Fly2HMO
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Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:59 pm

I'm planning my first trip to Europe sometime this summer (see Help A Noob Plan His First Trip To Europe (by Fly2HMO Feb 27 2008 in Non Aviation)) and I was gonna post this in that other thread but I figured I'd start another one since it may be of interest to others.

I'm 100% fluent in English (duh), and 100% in (Mexican) Spanish. I've traveled a f*ckload, but within the confines of American and Mexican borders, so language has never been an issue for me.

I'm not worried at all while in Italy, Italian being so incredibly similar to Spanish, but I'm kinda curious about Switzerland and Germany, and specially Greece. I know most people know English, and (being Europe) probably Spanish. I just don't want to come off to the locals as the typical dumb tourist that expects everybody to know English.

Either way, I figured asking,to whom whoever I'd be talking with whether he/she knows either Spanish or English. When my parents went to Europe they actually said they were better off speaking Spanish than English, but that was 30 years ago, I figured things have changed a lot since back then.

Any suggestions for this noob?  snaggletooth 
 
GSM763
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:32 am

It's said all the time but really helps. Learn a few phrasebook type phrases of the language you need to use and try and use them. In general people will be patient with you but if they decide to bring the conversation into English/Spanish let them. The only problem with this approach is if you do to well and they start babbling away at you but this doesn't happen too often.
 
Newark777
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Ti

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:38 am



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
and specially Greece.

I speak only English, and I did fairly well in Greece this past summer. There did seem to be a fair amount of people that didn't know English (or didn't want to speak it to me  Wink), but I was able to get by pretty well. Especially near the tourist areas, it's fine. I only had one bad experience, with a taxi driver in Athens, where myself and the three people I was with spoke no Greek, and the driver spoke no English, but somehow we made it across Athens.

I noticed that after I learned basic works like 'hello,' 'excuse me,' and 'thanks,' in Greek that the people were much more responsive to requests for assistance.
Why grab a Heine when you can grab a Busch?
 
VonRichtofen
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:48 am

Germany/Switzerland will be no problem at all. Almost everybody speaks English. Many better than the average North American it seems haha.

But don't expect to hear much Spanish outside of Spain.



Kris
 
AA777
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:54 am



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):

Getting around Europe on English and Spanish will not be a problem. In Switzerland, people speak like 100 langauages (its amazing).... and almost everyone is fluent or at least knows a little English. Germany....also, I found that many people know enough english to help you out. In italy I think you will be surprised... I think many more Italians have a better command of spoken English than Spanish... despite the fact that Spanish and Italian are so closely related. You will have an easier time glancing through Italian menus, writing, signs etc (I too speak spanish). SO that will be handy for you...

Of course its nice to try and make an effort in their language- it makes them feel like you arent just 'another' American who expects everyone to speak English. You will definitely be more well recieved everywhere, when you at least try to speak the langauge.

In Greece, its fine if you are in the touristy areas... like Newark777 mentioned- watch out for the taxis. I had a terrible experience with my family involving being SCREAMED at when we tried to squish four people in the back of his Mercedes. We stayed in the car...what we should have done, was opened the door and gotten another cab because the guy was such a di*k to us....he didnt have to start yelling.... anyways. So thats my warning about Athens. Otherwise the people were extremely nice.

-AA777
 
BAViscount
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:21 am



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
I know most people know English, and (being Europe) probably Spanish.

It really depends on where you are, and who you're speaking to. However, I don't necessarily agree with you on the Spanish front, unless you're in Spain of course! I'm not really sure where you got your perception of Spanish being generally spoken in Europe, but I wouldn't bank on it.

People that deal with tourists on a regular basis will probably have a smattering of English, if not more. But try taking a taxi in some remote corner of Hungary (for example) and you might have problems, if you see what I mean.

But there are of course regions within Europe with higher proportions of English speakers than other regions. In my experience, a lot of people in the Nordic countries speak very good English, as do people in Holland, and to a certain extent, Germany and Switzerland. These are just examples, and I am not deliberately excluding any other countries. As far as I'm aware, English is taught in schools in a lot of European countries. Generally, younger people are more likely to speak English than older generations.

What I would say to you is, never assume that whoever you are dealing with speaks English. Try and learn at least a few words of the local language of the countries you visit, especially the basics like 'hello', 'excuse me', 'please', 'thankyou', 'I would like...' etc., but perhaps most importantly, learn the local equivalent of "Do you speak English?"!! It will of course help if you understand when they respond in the negative, in which case you can resort to international sign language! We all know how to ask for the bill in a restaurant using sign language wherever in the world we happen to be, right? We can also point, and draw diagrams if necessary.

If you are taking a taxi somewhere, try and have the address of your destination written down...it helps a LOT!

But on NO account ever resort to SHOUTING IN ENGLISH if you find that the person to whom you are speaking doesn't understand you!! It's not only insulting, but gets you absolutely nowhere. Similarly, if you find that someone does speak good English, don't be tempted to speak to them using colloquialisms and slang. They may speak good English, but may not necessarily understand you if you speak to them in the same manner as you would speak to your buddies back home. Common sense prevails.

You shouldn't generally have too many problems in Switzerland and Germany, although I'm not sure about Greece. Get yourself to the bookstore and invest in some phrasebooks...it will be appreciated.

I hope that helps.
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Toulouse
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 10:10 am



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
I know most people know English, and (being Europe) probably Spanish.



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
When my parents went to Europe they actually said they were better off speaking Spanish than English, but that was 30 years ago, I figured things have changed a lot since back then

As others have said I wouldn't count on using Spanish, except in Spain of course. I'm fluen in Spanish, and I can tell you it has been of no use anywhere in Europe except Spain (with Toulouse and in general south-western France being one exception where given the proximity to Spain and the huge number of Spanish exiles who came here during the Spanish civil war and Franco era (dictatorship) I'd say it's one of the only places outside Spain in Europe where you nearly have a better chance of finding Spanish speaking locals than ones who speak good English.

Quoting GSM763 (Reply 1):
It's said all the time but really helps. Learn a few phrasebook type phrases of the language you need to use and try and use them. In general people will be patient with you but if they decide to bring the conversation into English/Spanish let them.

Totally agree. Just never persume people speak English, as you are already showing. Many people don't like when people (whether American, British or Irish) persume everyone speaks English, and if this is you attitude (which doesn't seem to be yours) some people who do speak English will pretend not to. But, remember the British and Irish are one of the most frequent tourists around many southern European resorts, so locals are used to tourists who only speak English. Central Europe (Switzerland, Germany) and in much of northern Europe and the Scandinavian countries you'll foten find locals who speak more correct English than us natives do!
Anyway, just be polite, realise you're the foreigner and simply ask people kindly if they speak English (or learn how to ask this in the local questions) and you'll have no problems.
Like anywhere, once you are polite, you'll find you have no problems. Don't forget Europe is the number one tourist destination in the world (France and Spain alone occupy 1st and 2nd place in number of foreign visitors) so people are used to dealing with foreign visitors.

And most importantly, enjoy your first visit to Europe and I hope you'll love it and it will be the first of many visits!
Long live Aer Lingus!
 
ME AVN FAN
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 10:29 am

Just a general advice. When speaking English in Europe, try to speak CLEARLY, and bear in mind that most people on the Continent learn British English in school, and so might misunderstand you. For example, the Ground Floor is NOT the 1st Floor, and what is 2nd Floor in the USA is 1st Floor over here. And then, some English expressions are in use in a non-English way, for instance "City" is used in the way of "downtown". In most restaurants YOU select your table, the personnel only approaching you when you are seated. To drink coffee with a steak is regarded as rather strange.
 
MD11Engineer
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 10:34 am



Quoting VonRichtofen (Reply 3):
But don't expect to hear much Spanish outside of Spain.

When I was sent to work on short notice in Italy some years ago, I started up using a mix of English and Spanish, but over the weeks I learned more and more Italian words (I also deliberately bought Italian newspapers for practice). I had to return after a few weeks, but I'm sure if I would have staid for a few months, I would have become fluent in Italian.

Jan
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Zkpilot
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 10:37 am



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
I'm not worried at all while in Italy, Italian being so incredibly similar to Spanish, but I'm kinda curious about Switzerland and Germany, and specially Greece. I know most people know English, and (being Europe) probably Spanish. I just don't want to come off to the locals as the typical dumb tourist that expects everybody to know English.

Either way, I figured asking,to whom whoever I'd be talking with whether he/she knows either Spanish or English. When my parents went to Europe they actually said they were better off speaking Spanish than English, but that was 30 years ago, I figured things have changed a lot since back then.

Well most countries in Europe are fine with English except France (many/most (not all) French have a dislike of anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well). Countries like Germany and Switzerland tend to learn English as it is the International language and most people there under 40 can hold a conversation. Spain speaks less English but since you speak Spanish you will of course be fine and like you said Italian is similar... I remember meeting a bunch of Italians in Spain and they said the languages were close enough. BTW Italians, Germans etc quite often like speaking English so that they can practise and quite often in Europe people from different countries use English to communicate as it is a common language. (Little known fact but in WWII the Germans and the Japanese didn't bother to learn each others languages as their common enemies spoke English so they just learnt English and used that between them).
Not sure about Greece.
Have a great trip!  Smile
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signol
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 10:56 am



Quoting Zkpilot (Reply 9):
many/most (not all) French have a dislike of anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well

Kind of... From when I lived in France, the French are very appreciative of anyone foreign who speaks French, or attempts to. Many French people do speak good English, but they choose not to on principle. (I have come accross this many times!) Advice is to buy a phrase book (Lonely Planet's Western European phrase book is good). Learn a few local phrases, then ask if they speak English (or Spanish). If in France, perhaps just ask then if they speak Spanish - many French have negative impressions towards Anglophones.

All in all, a few hours learning some phrases on the plane will make your time here much more immersed and enjoyable. Have fun!

signol
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Toulouse
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:23 am



Quoting Zkpilot (Reply 9):
except France (many/most (not all) French have a dislike of anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well).

Living in France over 5 years now, I totally disagree with you.

Quoting Signol (Reply 10):
From when I lived in France, the French are very appreciative of anyone foreign who speaks French, or attempts to

This is true. They are quite proud of their language, and do appreciate foreigners trying to speak it.

In my experience the French are actually embarrassed about speaking English and think their "French" accent is awful (which I always tell them many English natives actually find attractive), so it's usually more a questions of a lack of confidence rather than a dislike of anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well. Paris is a different storry, but they even criticise how Provincial French, Swiss, Belgians and people from Quebec speak French. It's in my opinion the capital superiority syndrome, however I have met many Parisians while in Paris who were happy to speak English, yet any bad language-related experience I've ever had in France was in Paris.
English is studied by the vast majority of young French... but of course just as Spanish or French is taught to many of us in our native countries, the standard isn't always great.
If you come to France, with the open attitude you seem to haveFLY2HMO, you'll have no problems.
Long live Aer Lingus!
 
HT
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:40 am



Quoting BAViscount (Reply 5):
a lot of people in the Nordic countries speak very good English, as do people in Holland,

One major reason behind this is the fact that TV series and movies get screened in their original language (= English) with local subtitiles. Reading subtitles is quite boring and so people start to learn the spoken language from TV quite easily.
For many of the conuntries mentioned it is just uneconomical to dubb all these movies etc.

Story is different in Germany with its 80+ M people (plus Austria plus German-speaking Switzerland): Here you have a big number of customers so dubbing all movies and TV series in german language is economical and all viewers expect to listen to a dubbed movie.

Quoting VonRichtofen (Reply 3):
But don't expect to hear much Spanish outside of Spain.

Speaking Spanish (or "Castellano" how it is called in Spain) will be of good use in Portugal, too but you should make very clear that you understand that you are in Portugal. First contact should be in Portuguese, than English and lastly Spanish in order to not offend people.

Same is true in Catalunya where Catalan is the first language and Castellano only the second one.
Approach people and apologize that you only speak Castellano and usually it will be okay for them to hold the conversation in Castellano.

Bottomline:
Show respect to local people & languages. While it may be okay for many to being approached by an Englsih speaking foreigner, some could feel offended ...
-HT
Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !
 
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Braybuddy
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:49 am

I would have to agree with most of the posters above. The first thing I do in a foreign country is learn the words for "thank you" in their language. It's always appreciated and makes a difference, EVEN in Paris: my French wouldn't get me far, but by attempting the basics I've found the Parisians to be among the most pleasant people to deal with.

In Germany you won't have a problem: most people are quite fluent in English. And if you want to avoid sounding like a dumb tourist learn a few simple phrases. Simple as that.
 
treeny
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:10 pm



Quoting VonRichtofen (Reply 3):
Germany/Switzerland will be no problem at all. Almost everybody speaks English. Many better than the average North American it seems haha

Amen to that!!!!!!

Times when I have travelled to Germany I have been rather ashamed of how well they speak compared to me!

My advice I suppose echoes many of the comments here. With regards to your phrases learn how to "break the ice" a little bit with the usual hello, how are you kind of phrases and then in their language to apologise, say you only know the language in its basics and ask if they speak English.

I generally make a joke in that I use phrases and then say "ok ,I admit it, I dont know any other phrases so could we speak in English". Believe me they will respect and treat you far better if you break the ice and then admit you now need to speak in English.

I too am fluent in Spanish (Argentine Version) and have used it in Europe (France and Italy to be specific) to help me along in terms of within my head (Translating signs, menus, listening to people) but dont assume that by you speaking in Spanish if English doesnt work that you will be OK.

Many here have said about speaking properly and clearly which is a must too. Always be on your guard though. When one speaks more than one language often it can be useful not to share the fact for ones own gain. In this case, say you are dining with friends or something along those lines, dont start for example sledging a waiter or the food or whatever thinking they wont know what you mean because you can bet they have heared it before!!!

Good luck and enjoy the tour!
 
kiwiandrew

RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:32 pm



Quoting Zkpilot (Reply 9):
Well most countries in Europe are fine with English except France (many/most (not all) French have a dislike of anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well).

it's funny how often I hear that repeated - I speak lousy French ( comes of living in Bruxelles where virtually everyone speaks word perfect English* )
but when I trot out my crap French in France people are generally very nice and in fact in Paris I have found a disconcertingly large number of the supposedly legendarily rude Parisians will actually reply to me in English ..... and smile while doing so



* actually , if I am honest , it comes more from a combination of laziness and embarassment - I shudder every time I hear myself try to speak French
 
Toast
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Ti

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:46 pm

Here's my short summary of the language situation in Europe as I see it:

The whole of Scandinavia, Finland, Luxembourg, Flanders, and the Netherlands: English is de rigueur, everybody except old people speaks it fluently.

France: be patient with the usually atrocious accent. If you're travelling off the beaten path in France, good luck. The same goes for Wallonia in Belgium, where language skills are probably even worse than in France.

Spain: Spanish of course, and since you probably have a Mexican accent, you needn't worry about annoying a Basque or Catalan. English is used only in touristy areas, which actually means in quite a lot of places.

Portugal: while almost everybody understands Spanish, they'll invariably answer your queries in Portuguese. You'll probably be able to get the gist of what they're saying.

Germany, Austria, Switzerland: young people almost always speak good English (wis zat fabulous Ahnuld accent). Anyone with a suit and necktie is almost bound to speak English.

Poland: most people are completely monolingual, and communication can be an issue. The exception are young and well-educated Poles, but those live in the UK anyway.

Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia: while catching up with their English skills, German is still probably the most widely understood foreign language.

Italy: they'll understand your Spanish, and are likely to speak some English.

Romania: many people speak French. English, not so many.

The Balkans: hit-and-miss.

Greece: English is OK in touristy areas.

Turkey: good English is spoken in touristy areas. If you look German, as I apparently do, some people will want to practice their German on you ("do you know my brother Ahmet Beyoglu from Hamburg?")

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine: learn Russian or leave, you imperialist swine!  Wink Seriously, while many Slavs are multilingual, they usually only speak other Slavic languages.

Baltic states: their English is improving fast. Russian still understood by most, if not exactly loved.

Scotland: no English spoken as far as I can tell.  duck 

And,as other have already said, wherever you go, learn a few basic phrases in the local language and use them, however bad your accent may be. People will love you. The Netherlands might be an exception as the Dutch take a lot of pride in their English skills and could be annoyed by "do you speak English?". No need to ask - they all do.

Bon voyage!  Smile
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Fiatstilojtd
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Ti

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:51 pm



Quoting Toast (Reply 16):
The Balkans: hit-and-miss.

But they understand English/British/U.S./EURO Money  Wink. In the past especially Deutsche Mark and Dollar, now preferably Euro  Smile

Quoting Toast (Reply 16):
(wis zat fabulous Ahnuld accent)

Nah, don't generalise
 
kiwiandrew

RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:52 pm



Quoting Toast (Reply 16):
The Netherlands might be an exception as the Dutch take a lot of pride in their English skills and could be annoyed by "do you speak English?".

I wouldnt ask the Swedes or the Flemish either - unlike the Dutch they wont be annoyed but it will probably take them a good 10-15 minutes to stop laughing at the question
 
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BNE
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:07 pm

Any european will understand enough English if they are providing a service to tourist in exchange of Euros. Even a person trying scam money of you will also speak English as well.
Why fly non stop when you can connect
 
Boeing744
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 4:08 pm

Very good list Toast. However...

Quoting Toast (Reply 16):
Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia: while catching up with their English skills, German is still probably the most widely understood foreign language.

I definitely found this to be true in the Czech Republic, but not at all so in Hungary. No one would reply if I asked things in German, so either they didn't speak it, or they prefered to speak English.

Quoting Toast (Reply 16):
The Balkans: hit-and-miss.

I can't speak for the whole area, but I found Slovenians to have the best English skills of any other country in Europe. That's just from one day there, but everybody seems to speak it, to a very high level. I also met a big group of Croatians in Budapest once, and they all spoke very good English.
 
ME AVN FAN
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 4:24 pm



Quoting Boeing744 (Reply 20):
No one would reply if I asked things in German, so either they didn't speak it, or they prefered to speak English.

-
I in Hungary on two visits to Budapest generally asked people whether they preferred German or English. Some 80% were in favour of German while the other 20% (mostly at the airport) preferred English. And the German speakers understood and spoke German perfectly well.
 
ajd1992
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Ti

Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:07 pm



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):

I'm not worried at all while in Italy, Italian being so incredibly similar to Spanish, but I'm kinda curious about Switzerland and Germany, and specially Greece. I know most people know English, and (being Europe) probably Spanish. I just don't want to come off to the locals as the typical dumb tourist that expects everybody to know English.

The majority of Europeans won't speak any Spanish, unless you're in Spain. It's not a language schools teach here, or at least not as much as German/French/English. With most countries, the younger generation will speak enough English to help you, but still learn a few local phrases. Unless you're in France, i tried that and it still didn't work  Wink You'll be fine in Germany/Switzerland, German is a lot like English (English being a Germanic language) so any phrases you learn should come pretty naturally. Be careful though, in Switzerland they speak Swiss German, Swiss French, Romansh and Italian all as national languages, and different areas speak different languages. Like others have said, the majority of younger people do speak enough English to understand/help you.
 
767Lover
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:55 pm

Ask this guy about it:
Pilgrimage From UK To India Ends In Calais (by Signol Feb 29 2008 in Non Aviation)
 
sk601
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:56 pm

A bit off topic: never ask "Where can I exchange my US Dollars into EURO Dollars???"

We pay with EUROS not Euro $ !! (i.e. in most countries in Europe)

(I work at the airport and travellers from the US ask me this question at least a few times a week, and I think it's annoying)
 biting   boggled   grumpy   irked   sarcastic 
 
TheSonntag
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 6:19 pm

And please, don't behave like hollywood celebrities stating "I can speak German, I can say Sauerkraut, Schnitzel and guten tag"

But saying Danke instead of Thank you might be seen pretty positive...

In fact, getting around in Europe is no big deal. I think you might like it, enjoy your trip!
 
N1120A
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Ti

Fri Feb 29, 2008 6:57 pm



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
but I'm kinda curious about Switzerland and Germany

You have absolutely no reason to worry. The vast majority speak at least conversational English.

Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
and specially Greece.

You may have problems if you get outside areas that cater to tourists, but you really don't have to worry, because the Greeks will feed you no matter what language you speak  Wink

Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
I just don't want to come off to the locals as the typical dumb tourist that expects everybody to know English.

I think the advice about trying to pick up a few useful phrases is the best advice.

Quoting Zkpilot (Reply 9):
French have a dislike of anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well

Untrue and even more untrue. People in France are perfectly willing to speak English as long as they don't think you are being a jerk about it. As far as not speaking French well, I think nothing can be farther from the truth. When the French hear any of their own language, it instantly endears you to them.

Quoting Toast (Reply 16):

Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia: while catching up with their English skills, German is still probably the most widely understood foreign language.

The Czechs have an understandable dislike of the Germans and will often prefer to speak English. I do agree that German is more widely understood, particularly outside cities.

Quoting Toast (Reply 16):
"do you know my brother Ahmet Beyoglu from Hamburg?"

 rotfl  rotfl  rotfl  rotfl 

Quoting Fiatstilojtd (Reply 17):

Nah, don't generalise

No, vee doughn't genaralize  Wink
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andaman
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:04 pm

As mentioned above, it's always good to learn few phrases of the languages and the basic facts about the countries you are travelling to.
An American tourist lady once asked a tourist guide in Helsinki: "Is Lapland open today?"  Smile
And there are Finns who don't exactly remember in which Southern-European country they spent their package holiday, they just know the name of the holiday village. For them the Europe south of Alps is just The South...
"I had a great holiday week in The South!"

Quoting HT (Reply 12):
Quoting BAViscount (Reply 5):
a lot of people in the Nordic countries speak very good English, as do people in Holland,



Quoting HT (Reply 12):

One major reason behind this is the fact that TV series and movies get screened in their original language (= English) with local subtitiles. Reading subtitles is quite boring and so people start to learn the spoken language from TV quite easily.
For many of the conuntries mentioned it is just uneconomical to dub all these movies etc.

I think dubbing the tv series and movies would not be easily accepted in the Nordic countries, after reading the subtitles all your life the dubbing sounds really strange.
I don't find reading subtitles boring at all, in most cases I need to check the translations even if the original language is English - not to talk about the tv series/movies in German, Spanish, Dutch...
Chinese cookie in SFO: "You're doomed to a life of forever travelling abroad and to be able to afford it!"
 
Fiatstilojtd
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:32 pm



Quoting N1120A (Reply 26):
No, vee doughn't genaralize  Wink



Arnies inofficial styrian Hymne - NO JOKE  Wink

Quoting Boeing744 (Reply 20):
but not at all so in Hungary. No one would reply if I asked things in German, so either they didn't speak it, or they prefered to speak English.

Hi Boeing744,

when I was in Debrecen (near the Ukrainian/Romanian border) I was very surprised to find out that most of the Panzio-, Restaurant- etc. Staff there had a very good knowledge of the german language. On the other hand side a few kilometres off the beaten path around the Balaton nobody speaks german and only a few people speak more or less english.
 
ME AVN FAN
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Fri Feb 29, 2008 9:09 pm



Quoting Ajd1992 (Reply 22):
n Switzerland they speak Swiss German, Swiss French, Romansh and Italian all as national languages, and different areas speak different languages.

-
The following map will explain the matter :
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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9f/Map_Languages_CH.png/800px-Map_Languages_CH.png
-
 
Boeing744
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 1:04 pm



Quoting ME AVN FAN (Reply 21):
I in Hungary on two visits to Budapest generally asked people whether they preferred German or English. Some 80% were in favour of German while the other 20% (mostly at the airport) preferred English. And the German speakers understood and spoke German perfectly well



Quoting Fiatstilojtd (Reply 28):
when I was in Debrecen (near the Ukrainian/Romanian border) I was very surprised to find out that most of the Panzio-, Restaurant- etc. Staff there had a very good knowledge of the german language. On the other hand side a few kilometres off the beaten path around the Balaton nobody speaks german and only a few people speak more or less english.

Well, I stand corrected. It seemed to me in Budapest that people much preferred English, but I was only there for a day, so couldn't get such a good snapshot of it. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
 
BlueElephant
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 2:44 pm

My Best advise is to be polite and learn some phrases in the local language. And ask the people in the local language if they speak...English or Spanish.

I've been to Italy 3 times, and I always ask people in Italian if they speak English or Spanish. If not..I try very hard to communicate with them anyway...Usually saying something like "excusame senor, Donde esta el bano" but with a bit of an italian accent to it...And usually you'll get someone who will catch Donde...assume its Dove (where) and Bano and understand you want to look for the bathroom.

basic courtesy phrases are always helpful in any language... Please and Thank you.

You should be fine.
 
David L
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 3:36 pm



Quoting Ajd1992 (Reply 22):
Be careful though, in Switzerland they speak Swiss German, Swiss French

True but I can't remember meeting a Swiss-German who didn't also speak "Hochdeutsch" and, as far as I can tell, Swiss French is very similar to "French" French... but with a more logical numbering system.  Smile
 
jcs17
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 3:54 pm

One thing to keep in mind, in countries with heavy immigration like Sweden and France, if you go to a convenience store or tobacconist -- an immigrant behind the counter themselves might only speak a little of the local language poorly. Be prepared to keep a sense of humor about while you gesture as to what you need.

In the Netherlands and Scandinavia, when you speak their local language, you will generally get an answer in English (and chuckled at for your attempt). France and French Belgium, speak French. The French are generally much more friendly when you at least attempt their language. In Spain, you should do the same, but from my personal experience, they will jump down your throat if you answer anyone other than a close acquintance in informal language (the French seem to be much more forgiving). In my opinion, the Spain takes the crown as the "rudest country in Europe." In major Italian cities, as well as Athens, Greece, everyone under 50 seemingly speaks English because of their huge exposure to tourism. Switzerland and Germany it all depends on who you are talking to and where you are, Switzerland much less so.
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Toast
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 4:21 pm



Quoting Jcs17 (Reply 33):
if you go to a convenience store or tobacconist -- an immigrant behind the counter themselves might only speak a little of the local language poorly.

On the other hand, said immigrant may very well be a Hidu or Pakistani and thus speak English...

Quoting Jcs17 (Reply 33):
they will jump down your throat if you answer anyone other than a close acquintance in informal language (the French seem to be much more forgiving). In my opinion, the Spain takes the crown as the "rudest country in Europe."

Huh? You have got be kidding... On the contrary, "tú" instead of "usted" is the default form in Spain. Spaniards are all but impossible to offend in my experience (as long as you steer clear of politics...) I went to University there and I "tuteaba" even 60-year-old PhDs... No problem, ever...

On the other hand, France... Don't use "tu" for people over 20... Are you sure you didn't switch the two countries in your post?
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EL-AL
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 5:15 pm

You should have no problem visiting Europe.

I speak only English/Hebrew, and I was always capable to communicate with the local residents. If I can give you the tourist point of view about Western Europe:

Greece: In Athens almost everyone speak English, at least at a basic level. Outside of Athens, less people speak English, but around the tourist areas English is very common. Signs are all both in Greek/English.

Netherlands, (German) Switzerland: Almost all population speak English, including off the big cities. Belgium was no problem either.

France, (French) Switzerland: Less people speak English, but things getting better. I was in France in 1998, then again 5 years later in 2003, and many more people spoke English then I remembered from my first visit. I assume that now even more people speak English, but those who do not speak English do not always make every effort trying to understand you.

Turkey: In the major Tourist areas like Anatalia or central Istanbul, many people speak English. Outside of those areas, not many people speak English, but they are doing their best trying to communicate. Same with non-English speakers in Italy.

Anyway, it's always help to know some local words. Another tip which I can give you, is that please try to speak slower then Americans usually speak. Americans speak very fast, and it's sometimes hard to understand them, remember that you speak with people that English is not their first language.

Enjoy your trip!
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jcs17
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 6:04 pm



Quoting Toast (Reply 34):
Huh? You have got be kidding... On the contrary, "tú" instead of "usted" is the default form in Spain. Spaniards are all but impossible to offend in my experience (as long as you steer clear of politics...) I went to University there and I "tuteaba" even 60-year-old PhDs... No problem, ever...

Nope. I had a store clerk, a cab driver, and a bartender all question my use of "tu" instead of "usted," and the cabbie got especially ticked off. They were all between 40-60 years of age. In France, I use "vous" all the time to whoever I am speaking because I find the conjugations easier to remember (since the only time I speak French is when I travel to France). The few times I did use tu, people didn't seem to mind.
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aa61hvy
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 6:07 pm



Quoting JCS17 (Reply 36):
got especially ticked off.

Maybe it's because you're an asshole?  Wink


In all honesty, every time I've traveled abroad, an attempt at the language, a picture of what you're looking for or trying to do and a smile go a long way!
Go big or go home
 
Mir
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 7:12 pm



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
I just don't want to come off to the locals as the typical dumb tourist that expects everybody to know English.

Best way to do that is to buy yourself a few phrasebooks and learn the basic stuff - good morning/afternoon/evening, please, thank you, excuse me, do you have ______, how much does this cost, the numbers from 1-20, etc. The most important phrase to know is "do you speak English". If you can show that you've made the effort, you've done your job. It won't guarantee that someone won't look at you wierd, but it will make people a lot more receptive to trying their English skills with you.

-Mir
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BAViscount
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 11:01 pm



Quoting Toast (Reply 16):
Turkey: good English is spoken in touristy areas. If you look German, as I apparently do, some people will want to practice their German on you ("do you know my brother Ahmet Beyoglu from Hamburg?")

LOL...apparently I Iook German too! On my last visit to Turkey at the beginning of February I was asked a number of times if I was German...I haven't quite worked out what the German look is to understand why Turkish people think I'm German!!

You may also find that a lot of younger generation Europeans speak English with an American accent (thanks MTV!!  Wink ) - I was in a McDonalds in Riga, Latvia a few years ago and asked the young guy behind the counter if he spoke English (unfortunately I asked in English as I had left my Latvian phrasebook at the hotel!) - what I got in response was something akin to a Michael Jackson soundalike saying "Sure, what can I get you?"!! However, at least his English was FAR superior to my Latvian, even if I did expect him to burst into 'Billie Jean' at any moment!
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Viscount724
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sat Mar 01, 2008 11:55 pm



Quoting AA777 (Reply 4):
In Switzerland, people speak like 100 langauages (its amazing).... and almost everyone is fluent or at least knows a little English.

That's generally true, probably slightly more so in the German-speaking part of Switzerland (e.g. ZRH) than the French-speaking part (e.g. GVA). However in GVA almost 40% of the population is foreign due to all the UN agencies and other international organizations based here and there is a huge number of English-speaking expatriates. There are also large immigrant communities from Italy, Spain, Portugal (I think those are the 3 largest) and many others.

In virtually every large city in Europe now, regardless of country, so many people speak at least some English, especially the younger generations, you should have no problems. It does help to at least try and learn a few basic words/phrases (please, thank you, hello, goodbye etc.)
 
Pyrex
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sun Mar 02, 2008 12:07 am



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
Any suggestions for this noob?

Yes.

1) Most widely spoken language in Europe is English, followed by German and French. Don't assume that everybody speaks spanish.

2) If you go to Portugal try English as the first attempt, as most people (especially the ones under 30) understand it. Only if this fails should you try to use a combination of spanish and sign language, with as much pointing as possible, in order not to offend the locals.

Quoting Toulouse (Reply 11):
yet any bad language-related experience I've ever had in France was in Paris.

Any bad language-related experience I've had in France has been in Bordeaux (and even there, me trying to pass off a few phrases as French does help a lot).

In my experience French people usually speak decent to good English (they might be self-conscious about it, but that is another matter). On the other hand, Spanish and Italian people have notoriously atrocious English (if they have that at all).

Quoting HT (Reply 12):
Here you have a big number of customers so dubbing all movies and TV series in german language is economical

Dubbing movies and TV is not about being economical, it is about giving bad, unemployed actors a job.

Quoting Kiwiandrew (Reply 18):
I wouldnt ask the Swedes or the Flemish either - unlike the Dutch they wont be annoyed but it will probably take them a good 10-15 minutes to stop laughing at the question

Swedes laugh? Big grin
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TheSonntag
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sun Mar 02, 2008 12:11 am



Quoting Pyrex (Reply 41):
1) Most widely spoken language in Europe is English, followed by German and French. Don't assume that everybody speaks spanish.

True if you look at which languages people in Europe are able to understand. As a mother tongue, German leads by far, as around 100 million speak German as their native language, while English and French have considerably less native speakers in Europe.
 
BAViscount
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sun Mar 02, 2008 2:44 am

OK, as a lot of people seem to being the same thing, to summarise:

1. English is widely spoken by at least the younger generations across most of Europe.
2. Even so, don't assume that everyone does, so try and have some basic phrases ready, just in case.
3. Buy some phrase books and learn some of those basic phrases ("Hello", "Please", "Thankyou", Do you speak English?", numbers 1-20 etc.).
4. Spanish will only probably be useful in Spain, Italy and Portugal, but check first (even though you don't seem to be planning to visit those countries!!).

Have fun and write trip reports!!

Andy.
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Boeing744
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sun Mar 02, 2008 3:35 am



Quoting BAViscount (Reply 43):
numbers 1-20 etc.).

Yep! Another good thing is the alphabet. You never know when you may need to spell out a hotel or street name to someone (or have it spelled to you). The French and German alphabets are very similar to English (and to each other), so shouldn't be too much of a problem to learn.
 
JJJ
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:23 am



Quoting JCS17 (Reply 36):
Nope. I had a store clerk, a cab driver, and a bartender all question my use of "tu" instead of "usted," and the cabbie got especially ticked off.

Maybe you went to the Canaries? There the use of usted is standard, but doesn't necessarily mean that they think you're being rude to them.

Honestly, I've been all my life here and never spoke to anyone 'de usted' except to older strangers, a couple snooty professors at U and the only time I had to address a judge. Not even a single one of the bosses or owners I've worked for was addressed to as usted.
 
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sun Mar 02, 2008 11:45 am



Quoting David L (Reply 32):
Swiss-German who didn't also speak "Hochdeutsch" and, as far as I can tell, Swiss French is very similar to "French" French...

In German speaking Switzerland, school education is in Standard-German /Hochdeutsch/Schriftdeutsch) and the newspapers and magazines, the correspondence and the manuals, and most of the advertisements all are in Standard-German. Also the Radio-News and most of the TV-program is in Standard-German.

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 39):
worked out what the German look is to understand why Turkish people think I'm German!!

-
I had a VERY SHORT look into your profile and can VERY WELL "work out" why Turkish people think you are German ! Your looks are what Turks and Arabs regard as "Typisch Deutsch" !  rotfl   rotfl   rotfl 

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 40):
ZRH) than the French-speaking part (e.g. GVA). However in GVA almost 40% of the population is foreign due to all the UN agencies and other international organizations based here and there is a huge number of English-speaking expatriates.

-
Zurich has a foreigners-share of some 30% and some of the suburbs like Glattbrugg one of 35-40 % .
 
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Zkpilot
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sun Mar 02, 2008 2:43 pm



Quoting Toulouse (Reply 11):

Quoting Zkpilot (Reply 9):
except France (many/most (not all) French have a dislike of anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well).

Living in France over 5 years now, I totally disagree with you.

Good for you, living in France one would assume (or hope that you would have picked up the language so no problem). I, like many people on A.net work in the travel industry and the one thing about France is that whilst people love to go there (I think its still the most popular destination), the one thing most of them say (whether they be from an English speaking country or elsewhere and using English as the international language) is that (as I mentioned earlier):

Quoting Zkpilot (Reply 9):
(many/most (not all) French have a dislike of anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well).

and not this misquoted/shortened quote that N1120A wrote (which makes a conditioned remark into a something quite different):

Quoting N1120A (Reply 26):
Quoting Zkpilot (Reply 9):
French have a dislike of anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well

Untrue and even more untrue. People in France are perfectly willing to speak English as long as they don't think you are being a jerk about it. As far as not speaking French well, I think nothing can be farther from the truth. When the French hear any of their own language, it instantly endears you to them.

see above.

"as long as they don't think you are being a jerk about it." Well from my own and countless (vast majority from what I can tell) of others comparing various other European nations (eg Italy, Germany, Spain) to France and they (and myself) find that whilst there are many French who are pleasant, and many others who are also happy to bear with our poor French skills or are happy to speak English to us, many/most as I mentioned have a dislike for anyone speaking English or people who can't speak French very well. I've even had French Canadians (Quebec) say the same thing being told that their French isn't real French and that they should go back to Canada (and most people would agree that most Canadians are generally polite/nice enough people ...these particular ones were very nice/polite ones in particular also).
People comment on how they can go to Italy, Germany, Spain and not have a problem talking to people, but also not getting the negativity from it at the same time... so whats different with France?
Now this isn't meant as an insult to our French friends here on A.net... in fact I think the fact that you are on A.net tells all of us that you don't share this problem with the English language that many of your compatriots have because you are here conversing in English...  Wink
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BAViscount
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:17 pm



Quoting ME AVN FAN (Reply 46):
I had a VERY SHORT look into your profile and can VERY WELL "work out" why Turkish people think you are German ! Your looks are what Turks and Arabs regard as "Typisch Deutsch" !

All I can say to that is "Aber warum?!?!".
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NoUFO
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RE: Language Barriers In Europe, Tips For A 1st Timer?

Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:35 pm



Quoting BAViscount (Reply 48):
All I can say to that is "Aber warum?!?!".

That's why:



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