With so many stops on our European tour, we were asked how we get around in all the different languages.
I had many years of Spanish in high school and college and remember enough of it to call a taxi, order in a restaurant, or have a brief conversation about our travels. Just don’t ask me what I did last week, as I can’t recall how to conjugate the past tense of verbs. Boy has also had a very small amount of Spanish at school in his preschool and Kindergarten years.
Before we left on our trip, we hired a French tutor for a 12 week travelers French class for our family. So, we are all able to manage basic greetings, numbers, directions, restaurant, hotels, and train stations in French. Boy was pleased to be able to ask for chocolate in French. Our tutor told him that if he could ask politely, she would give him a piece of chocolate whenever he asked.
Beyond that, we have tried to learn a few words of the language in each country we have visited. While traveling, I like to be able to say hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and, the numbers one to three, child and toilet. Excuse me is also useful.
I find that if I can say “three, please,” for example, I can get a table in most restaurants. “Two and one child,” covers entry tickets for museums and attractions. “Toilet, please” is another most useful phrase.
This means we have had to learn those words so far in Italian, German, Greek, and Norwegian.
Interestingly, with all of our use of local buses and metros, we have also learned the word “next” and “arriving” in all those languages. The train and bus stations usually post “next train” or “train arriving” near the platform. This is usually accompanied by an announcement of “next train.” We are hearing and seeing the new words at the same time, and hearing and seeing them repeated multiple times a day. So now, “naeste” and “proximo” are no longer meaningless syllables.
I am looking forward to South Africa. While they speak English, and I do not worry about basic communication there, with so many official languages, I am sure we will pick up a few new words.
Of course, we have also found, that throughout Europe, shopkeepers, waiters, and even people on the street, will often respond to us in English, regardless of the language we begin speaking. I assume, that is because our accents still need a lot of work!