COPING WITH A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Your lack of knowledge of a European language shouldn’t be a barrier for you to have an enjoyable European holiday. Communication is a skill and language is just a tool for it. Indians traveling to Europe should not have much issues communicating with the locals if you keep in mind a few basics.

Bring on your Charm: Try to learn a few simple words like ‘Hello”, “Good Morning”, and “Thank you”, in the local language. This can help you go a long way in breaking the ice. Do not worry about your pronunciation. Go on and explain what you want in “simple” English.

Simple is good! Use simple words. Don’t use complicated English. Instead of asking “Can I go to the restroom?”, just ask “Toilet?” That should do.

Use globally understood words! Speaking the ‘internationally understood’ words in English, can help you communicate better. Sometimes, it would even suffice to just say the keyword. “This train??? Paris??” and gesture to the train that is on the platform instead of asking “Could you please let me know if this train goes to Paris?”

Speak slowly. Speaking slowly and clearly, with the right choice of words helps. It is best to avoid Indian contractions of words and slang.

Hand gestures help too! Even with no common language in between, basic communication is easy. Express your requirement with a neat hand gesture (with a little discretion, of course!). Discard your shyness and it will win you friends willing to help you

Use visual aids when possible. A guide book has colorful pictures of your desired destination. Showing them to the locals can help them guide you better. Posters and multilingual signs would help you get what you want. The more you play this game, the better you get at it!

Write and show. Words seen are better followed than those mispronounced. If you are not sure of your pronunciation, it is better to keep a notepad handy to write the word and show it to the other person, who would help you. If you can do the same in the local language of the European country that you visit, all the better!

Know your numbers! We Indians stand to benefit from the fact that the units of measurements (metric system) used in Europe is the same as that we use in India. They calculate distances in kilometers and not miles, liter is the measuring standard for liquids and Celsius is the standard measurement of temperature and not Fahrenheit. Dates are followed in the mm/dd/yy pattern and there is no confusions here too. The only slight hiccup could be that the time of the day is written in the 24 hours pattern i.e. it is 14:00 and not 2:00 pm.

You will need to be careful with decimal numbers though. It is exactly opposite to what we have learnt in school. If you are billed 2,70 euros for a cup of coffee, do not get flummoxed or think that the shopkeeper is cheating you. What the bill says is the coffee costs 2 euros and 70 cents and not 270 euros. Europeans tend to the coma instead of the decimal.

Make a point to enjoy every moment of your holiday. Don’t get worried about your lack of language skills. Make mistakes. You can only learn from them and you will have good anecdotes to take back home. Get friendly with the locals and laugh at yourself with them! Have fun. Ultimately, that is what holidaying is all about.

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