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Old 03-31-2016, 07:52 AM
 
Location: Log "cabin" west of Bangor
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Many years ago, I used to work in Boston. One evening I noticed a couple in a busy part of the downtown Washington St. area (near Milk St.). They were holding a map and turning around in circles, very clearly confused. I asked if I could be of assistance...they both started talking at once, very rapidly...in German. They didn't speak a lick of English, didn't have a guide and had no clue where they were...and if they had got themselves turned around and went the wrong way down Washington St. they would have found themselves in the 'Combat Zone'.

As you might guess from the name, the 'Combat Zone' was NOT a place you wanted to be unless you were looking for porn, pills or prostitutes...and were willing to risk robbery and assault to get them. These people were completely clueless and could have easily gotten themselves into a very bad situation, they would have been easy marks.

Fortunately (for them), in addition to Spanish, Italian, and French, I also spoke German. I was able to get them to where they wanted to go without getting themselves into trouble...well, no more than the usual risk of mugging, robbery, rape and violence anyway.

I've been to other countries and I speak enough of enough languages that I can usually manage to get along OK nearly anywhere in the world (plus, I can pick up language quickly), and I also try to learn a little bit of the area so that I don't accidentally find myself somewhere I shouldn't ought to be...unless I have a particular reason to go there.

Brazil, and Rio have some really bad areas. It's kind of stupid to go there without knowing something about it and being able to speak a little of the language, unless you have a full-time guide to baby-sit you and keep you out of trouble.
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Old 03-31-2016, 11:08 AM
 
12,258 posts, read 18,393,933 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billl View Post
But if someone from Europe goes to a country in central Africa on business, he will likely start off using French, not English.
Probably true since those are former French colonies for the most part. By the way in the 19th century indeed French, not English, was considered the global language. Everyone that was anyone spoke French.
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Old 03-31-2016, 02:19 PM
 
Location: North Idaho
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I've been to 5 non-English speaking countries in a two week trip. How many languages am I expected to speak? (Yes, I know. My little nephews who live in Switzerland spoke five languages before they even started school).

My experience is that most people in any sort of tourist related industry speaks at least a little English, enough so I can order at a restaurant or buy groceries. With my three words, their limited English, and sign language, we get by.

My observation in Europe is that when two Europeans of different nationalities get together and they don't speak each other's language, they switch to English. That happens in Asian countries also.
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Old 03-31-2016, 02:25 PM
 
Location: Woodstock, GA
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Once on a visit to Geneva, I spent several minutes standing in a bakery trying to remember the french word for "croissant" so that I could request one.

True story!
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Old 04-01-2016, 04:50 AM
 
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I think that at the very least, it's well worth the effort to learn the words for "hello", "goodbye", "please", "thank you", and "excuse me". Or whatever the equivalent may be. I think that's just simply being polite, and "please" and "thank you" are always good currency anywhere. If you're reliant on the kindness of strangers, building a little good will is to a traveller's benefit.

If you're staying somewhere for an extended period of time, or you're a regular visitor, then it's worth the effort to try to pick up as much extra vocabulary as you can during that time.

There are some people who have a very difficult time learning foreign languages, I realize that. A smattering of frequently used words and phrases shouldn't be beyond most people's capabilities, though.
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Old 04-01-2016, 07:22 AM
 
10,847 posts, read 11,250,780 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post
I agree, but that's not my point. I am not even talking about English speakers. I was talking about a Chinese, or Iranian (bad and rare example perhaps), or Japanese speaker going to Brazil. Fact of life, many are engaged in travel will be from the world of business or otherwise well educated even if not going for business. They will typically know there native language (of course)...and English. They will expect Brazilians to speak English.

It's not good or bad, it just is....
I already said I am not talking about the business world.


You can try to communicate in English of course, as it is the mostly spoken second language in the world, but my point is there is absolutely nothing wrong with people not speaking English in non-English speaking countries. So never complain about them not doing so.
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:23 AM
 
12,677 posts, read 14,063,903 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post
I agree, but that's not my point. I am not even talking about English speakers. I was talking about a Chinese, or Iranian (bad and rare example perhaps), or Japanese speaker going to Brazil. Fact of life, many are engaged in travel will be from the world of business or otherwise well educated even if not going for business. They will typically know there native language (of course)...and English. They will expect Brazilians to speak English.

It's not good or bad, it just is....
I wonder if you really mean that it the way it reads, I see "Brazilians" as meaning any and all.

The type of traveler that you were specific about "from the world of business or otherwise well educated", would surely know that in many, many countries most of the people would not speak English.
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:53 AM
 
Location: Gatineau, QC, Canada
3,402 posts, read 4,443,775 times
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OP, knowing how to say a few different, yet basically useless phrases, does not equate to 'learning' a language. How does it matter if you can ask someone how they're doing? What are you going to respond with when they say "So-so. I just had a root canal operation, but on Friday my family is going fishing for salmon," in Farsi?

I don't think anyone should have to learn the local language to visit a country. Just expect what's coming to you once you're there: limited ability to communicate. It's never caused me any major problems, but I generally believe myself to be a modest and self-accountable human being.
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Old 04-01-2016, 11:08 AM
 
12,258 posts, read 18,393,933 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevxu View Post
I wonder if you really mean that it the way it reads, I see "Brazilians" as meaning any and all.

The type of traveler that you were specific about "from the world of business or otherwise well educated", would surely know that in many, many countries most of the people would not speak English.
Yeah, let me clarify, they would expect that most Brazillians do not speak English but they would expect the Brazillians you see in the typical visitor/tourist areas - airports, hotels, common visitor sites - to speak English. Once they get off the typical tourist trail (which I would encourage everyone to do) I would expect them to realize, as I do, that you will usually not find English speakers. But if the local population does know another language at all, it will probably be English.

For the record I've been to Sao Paulo and I admit to having some language difficulty even in our Brazil office, but that was as a business traveler so may be out of scope for this discussion. Contrast that to China where I had much less difficulty surprisingly both in business and just general weekend tourist type activity. Their street directional signs, subways, etc. are usually in two languages - Mandarin (in Beijing/Shanghai) and English. Taxi drivers were a bit tricky but I was surprised to find a luggage handler at a local train station, probably makes all of $2 a day, not used to international visitors - spoke English. Touts, essentially poor beggers and scammers, in many Asian and African countries are also getting very adapt at learning English to apply their craft on the typical tourist routes. It's really amazing.
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Old 04-01-2016, 03:54 PM
 
Location: Woodstock, GA
2,069 posts, read 3,501,830 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse44 View Post
I don't think anyone should have to learn the local language to visit a country. Just expect what's coming to you once you're there: limited ability to communicate. It's never caused me any major problems, but I generally believe myself to be a modest and self-accountable human being.
As an example, the French appreciate when any foreigner starts in their language. Even just saying "bonjour" before switching to English is generally greeted with a positive reaction.
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