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asking questions in a foreign country but not understanding the answer!?

asking questions in a foreign country but not understanding the answer!?

Dec 27th, 2009, 07:36 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 4
asking questions in a foreign country but not understanding the answer!?

I always try to learn some common phrases when I travel abroad. Sometimes I try to ask a question like where is the bathroom; how do I get to----if I'm walking and it's very close by) I'll either say it or write the question down. Taxis are easy because you can just hand them a paper with name of the place you want to written downThe problem is that I don't always understand the answer!!! WHAT THEN?
susanminier is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 08:17 AM
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Here's what I do; I learn the words for Right, Left and Forward and then when they tell me I'll repeat, "Links?" while pointing to the left. It helps demonstrate my comprehension level so they might slow down and give me hand gestures as well.

Besides practicing the language on audio cds, I’ve used books like “German in 10 Minutes a Day.” It comes with stickers, flash cards, writing practices and includes words like “over” “under” “across” . Very helpful.
LSky is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 08:20 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
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To speak, to listen-such different things!

Perhaps you should change your approach to: "Please show me on this map..."

Don't try to speak at native speed and perhaps the answers will come out slower? Add "I don't understand" to your repertoire!

Good luck!
TDudette is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 08:28 AM
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Ah, yes, my husband calls it my "French [or whatever] deer in the highlights" look...

I learn how to say, "I'm sorry. I didn't understand. Would you say that again slowly, please?" And I smile. If it's a direction question, I hold out my street map so that the person can point the way.
Jean is online now  
Dec 27th, 2009, 08:28 AM
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LSky is right; body language is universal. My method, when I ask directions to the Prado, for example, I would use my rudimentary Spanish to say, "Donde esta el Prado, por favor?", and then closely watch the person. They burst into a torrent of Spanish, of which I comprehend nothing, and either turn toward the Prado, and/or gesture and point. During their speech they will gesture right, left, etc. I smile and thank them, and go in the direction indicated. After a few blocks I stop another person, and go through the same thing. Repeat as necessary and, after a few bouts of arm waving, Hola, there is the Prado!

nukesafe is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 08:37 AM
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I found that learning how to say "I'm sorry. I don't speak (French, Spanish, whatever) very well" helped a lot. People seemed to appreciate that I was trying to speak their language and went out of their way to try to help me, either by speaking slowly or using more gestures.
Shanti is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 09:41 AM
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Learn how to say "I don;t understand, speak more slowly please". and i f you're going to as questions - at least learn the basic responses - as in left, right, straight ahead and times if you're asking when things are open. Or, for times - ask someone to write them down - just be sure you're used to a 24 hour clock.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 10:15 AM
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I have no answer for you, but I did laugh out loud when I read your question because it reminded me of a time in the 60's when I was traveling with this drunken idiot who had been gored by a bull. (This occured during a tourist attraction called a "bullfight school" after she'd been drinking a lot of wine.)

Her lip had been split during the incident, and every other day afterward, we had to find a doctor who could deal with it, so that it didn't become infected.

I would always ask, "Done está un medico?" but then I wouldn't understand the answer. I did what nukesafe suggests--watch the person and try to get clues as to the direction. Then after heading in the appropriate direction for a while, I'd ask someone else.

My Spanish has improved greatly since that time, but I still have difficulty understanding rapidly spoken Spanish.
Pegontheroad is online now  
Dec 27th, 2009, 10:19 AM
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That's why learning a question word for word from a phrase book has its downside - you won't understand the answer to your perfectly phrased question! Keep your question short, not 'Could you point me the direction to Prado museum?' but 'Prado, where is it, please?', then you are likely to get simple, clear answer. Remember why you are learning a foreign language - not to become fluent in it or to pass an exam in, but to communicate, pure and simple.
Alec is offline  
Dec 30th, 2009, 04:24 AM
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Look on Robespierre's profile. He gives great advice-show the person written question and possible answers! Frequent phrases are often found in travel books and there are some dictionaries devoted to them as well.

Thanks Robespierre.
TDudette is offline  
Dec 30th, 2009, 05:35 AM
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Ahhh ... Robes legacy. I think he will be with us for a long time.

teacherCanada is offline  
Dec 30th, 2009, 05:43 AM
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Rick Steves Phrase books have lots of very practical phrases/questions that you can point to. I also found it necessary to learn open/closed/names of days of the week
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Jan 3rd, 2010, 04:48 PM
Join Date: Mar 2009
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Last year, in March, I changed my plans to go to Spain and Paris, France for a 15 days trip of a lifetime to Italy. I only had two months to prepare for this trip and took the challenge of the language head on: I had italian courses on both my car and my computer at work, and listened to them all the time. At home I watch over 90 italian movies (without subtitles) and 40 episodes of a TV show called La Nuova Squadra. Most of it I was able to obtain freely on the Internet. This certainly paid off, its is unbelievable the difference in the way one is treated when one speaks the language of the host country. At restaurants we went from being ignored when we first arrived to meeting the cook, or the owner (we ate mostly at non touristic places, places where english is not spoken). At hotels for example, when I arrived in Venezia I saw a hotel from the Starhotels group, we had already used at Firenze and Milano, we decided to get a room there and asked for the least expensive one (la piu economica) and I heard when the desk clerk asked his supervisor if he could give us an upgrade and gave us a Deluxe Suite instead. At the same hotel chain in Napoli we arrive late in the evenig and the opened up the restaurant just for the two of us, and cooked us a very nice meal.
In Orvieto, a small mountain town, outside of Rome, we got caught without eating by the "siesta hour", it was already 3 p.m. and all the restaurants were closed. We were able to find one were a lady was already cleaning the place, and after a brief conversation they prepared us a warm meal. I got so inmerse in the Italian language that by the 10th day someone spoke to me in Spanish (my native tongue) and I did not undertand, and this is not a joke. When I got back from Italy I continued studying Italian, but this time I going to the Dante Alighieri Society here in Miami, where I am perfecting my italing.
I am planing on finally going to Spain and Paris next May and part of the preparation will be to take some french courses at the Alliance Francaise, which is in the same building of La Dante. I think that a couple of well place bonjours and mercis will help on breaking the famous french "inhospitality".
tonybola is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2010, 05:14 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 3,228
well, it happened to me today.... and I didn't even leave the country.

I called a hotel to get their email since I had a number of questions... the response was that someone spelled it for me, but she kept saying phrases I could not comprehend. (and I kindly asked her to repeat it). I tried to repeat it phonetically to my dh to see if he got it, to no avail. Finally, I just guessed and when the email was bounced back, I guessed again. hooray!

and we were (supposedly) speaking the same language!
surfmom is offline  

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