Speaking the Language

Old Apr 27th, 2004, 09:42 AM
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Speaking the Language

From my Transparent.com word of the day:

<i>Italian: Nella maggior parte dei paesi stranieri la gente apprezzer&agrave; qualsiasi vostro tentativo di parlare la loro lingua.

English: People in most countries appreciate any attempt foreign visitors make to speak their language.</i>

My question: Do they really? I know we hear here on Fodors that any attempt is appreciated and a little goes a long way and all that. But there have been times when someone has said to me &quot;Just speak English!&quot; And I recall signs in shops in Florence that said something to the effect of &quot;please don't mangle our language&quot;.

I am sure a few &quot;grazies&quot; and &quot;per favores&quot; are appreciated, but what do you all think? Have you had experiences where your attempts were met with contempt (or worse)?
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 09:48 AM
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I have been laughed at when I tried to buy train tickets in Slovak, but I thought it was good-natured laughter! Of course, there are all kinds of people and probaby some of them become impatient with not-so-good foreign language speakers. I still think that in general it is thoughtful to at least be saying hello, good-bye, please and thank you in the language of the country. The only trouble I get into sometimes is that if I start out in the language, then the other person may assume that I can speak it, and worse yet, understand it! That then becomes a problem!!! However, the blank look on my face usually solves it!
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 09:59 AM
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Yes, people in other countries do like you to try to speak their language. Yes, they may laugh and tell you to speak English, but the laughing is in fun and if they speak English, they may understand you better. As for Florence. You have to understand the Florentines. They feel that the Italian spoken there is the &quot;perfect Italian&quot;. It has so many language schools there. Some Florentines feel that if you don't speak the perfect Italian, don't speak it at all. Others will work with you. Always try. I speak Italian but I have tried to speak the language in France and Germany and have had a lot of fun with it.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 10:07 AM
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No, I've never had anything like that happen. I have, however, had a few people on my last trip respond in English when I have spoken to them in Italian. On the other hand, most people I encountered on my last trip were very patient, gave me lots of smiles and compliments, and kind/helpful corrections. Some Italians were as interested in practicing their English as I was in practicing Italian. It was fun!
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 10:14 AM
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None of my attempts to speak French or Italian have been met with contempt. People are happy to practice their English with me and are happy to let me practice my French or Italian with them. They may switch to English if their English is much better than my French or Italian, or they may give helpful advice and constructive criticism in a friendly way.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 10:20 AM
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I think if one can speak the language appreciatively well, then no comments are made. I am fluent in French and Italian and have never had someone say &quot;just speak English&quot; to me. I have had a few people say afterwards, brava for speaking Italian well or congratulations. They are surprised that an American could speak their language! I still think that if one cannot speak the language that at least attempting a few phrases is worth it, then one can go into English. Just never assume that everyone knows and speaks English because that is not the case everywhere.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 01:28 PM
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www.engrish.com
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 01:55 PM
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I know I appreciate it when people come here ( to the USA) and at least try to speak English.So I would think the same would be true for others as well.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 02:42 PM
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Good question. The only language I'm somewhat conversant in is German and on those times when I made attempts to speak it -- in Germany, Austria and Switzerland -- they sure seemed to be appreciated. I certainly don't recall an attempt ever being met with contempt...although there <i>was</i> that elderly Frau who whacked me upside the kopf with a schnitzel.

&quot;Polite&quot; words &amp; phrases I've used in France, Italy and Spain generally seem to have been met with appreciation.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 03:22 PM
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I have always found people very appreciative - even if at times they couldn't help laughing (I don;t blame them I probably sounded like a not very bright two year old) in multiple languages all over europe. Some have patiently explained what I said wrong and how to say it correctly (one cab driver in Spain explaing how 13th is different from 13) and some have applauded my efforts (a mail man in Munich when I understood his info on what a parking sign meant - and he really didn't have any english so it was a very interesting conversation) and some just disinterested (when I tried to explain to the cop in Cordoba that there was a dog stuck on an island in the river that he had to rescue - which he did not do but did call their version of the ASPCA - even though I told him he should call a newspaper and get his pic in like in the US) but none have been derisive.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 03:45 PM
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I've never been treated with even a hint of contempt when trying to speak in other languages in Europe. I speak a couple pretty fluently, so it's not often a problem, but I've been in countries where I had little or no command of the language and just tried to get across basic concepts using basic, and polite, phrases, and was always treated warmly. I've had people speak English back to me in such cases, which was very nice of them. I've had people lead me to someone else who did speak English, too - very thoughtful. I've only encountered one or two situations where I just could not get my point across, and in those cases, we both just threw up our hands and laughed.
In Greece, a long time ago, everywhere we went Greek shopkeepers and waiters launched into German immediately, which bugged me, particularly since they seemed to hold a grudge against Germans. They would throw a German menu at us in caf&eacute;s, and would act suspicious or gruff when we asked for an English or French or Italian one. But other than that experience, and it was long enough ago that it may not be likely to happen to anyone visiting Greece these days, my attempts at using the local language, whether impossibly bad or fluent, have always been met with appreciation.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 05:41 PM
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I have never had any problems when I am using simple or polite phrases. People do appreciate the effort. In 9 trips to Europe, I have encountered very little rudeness.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 05:41 PM
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I did endeavor to learn some Italian before my first trip to Italy. I tried to say whatever I could in Italian if possible. It was always appreciated, as far as I could tell. I did get some replies in english. My proudest was asking for directions in Fieosole and getting a detailed reply in Italian...which I actually understood! My efforts to tell my Roman waiter in italian that &quot;it was our last night in italy and we were leaving tomorrow&quot; were met with free tiramisu &amp; limoncellos...so I'll keep speaking their language whenever I'm able. I think just like Dottie says, we appreciate the effort here, so should extend the same courtesy in other countries. Trish
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 05:54 PM
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Always was treated nicely. Never have been to Florence
I am surprised to hear that.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 06:38 PM
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I have never been insulted for mangling someone else's language.

Sometimes I have been reduced to sign language and jumping up and down when I get too frustrated.

French is the only European language I speak with any fluency. I have smatterings of others and, if I think it would be useful, bring one of those phrase books with me.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 06:59 PM
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Bonsoir, Grasshopper~

I always regret that my pronunciation of French never does it justice, but those that hear it have never jeered or sent me packing!
One night in Paris-late-on the Champs Elysses, we got into a cab. I gave him our hotel address, he was not sure of the location. so with my fractured French and his non-existant English, we managed between the two of us to find that hotel! When we arrived, he turned to me and applauded my &quot;French directions&quot;... I was so proud.
I have had waiters not understand me but get a good laugh out of my tries also-so I agree, people do appreciate a traveler trying to speak the language~
When I would try to help someone in NYC with directions, I always wished I spoke whatever language so I could be of more help.
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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 07:43 PM
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Being an AF wife,I have lived in various countries throughout the world.

I have found that basically people are all the same and react the same way everywhere.
.
As long that you treat them with courtesy and try at least to say few basic words in their language,they will try to help you .
I speak 3 languages ,so I can get by in certain countries, however, i lived in places where I needed to learn few basic words...Never had any trouble with the locals, actually they were happy of my efforts to speak few phrases in their native language.



It was the same way, when I lived in Taipei.
I had so much fun living there.The shopping back then was fantastic and learned just enough to go by.

Remember to always have a smile in your face, when you butcher someone language..

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Old Apr 27th, 2004, 08:52 PM
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I am someone who loves learning languages, and the romance ones comes a little more easily to me. Even when I have been on guided bus tours, I find that knowing the language is necessary. Most people enjoy helping you attempt their language. I just returned from France, where you may be under the impression that they are very particular, but hey were very welcoming and helpul to me. For 9 days, 80% of all my conversations outside of the hotel and train station info desks were in french. I believe the sign in Florence - I found shopkeepers thre particularly cold to Americans, and I think I ended up walking out on several who would not acknowledge me, even when I was careful to say hello on entry. But I think posted signs like that are rare.
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Old Apr 28th, 2004, 02:35 AM
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Knowing other languages can be quite interesting in many ways. Have you ever read the blurbs on the artists/composers that they include with the CD? They aren't literal translations of one language to the other. Each one presents something different based on what's important in that culture. You can learn a lot of interesting stuff...

But to answer your question, Grasshopper. I don't know about being &quot;appreciated&quot; or not, but it sure does help the experience be a positive one.
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Old Apr 28th, 2004, 04:30 AM
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Last year I spent several days in Brugge, Belguim. I had bought a French pharse book and thought I was going to make some kind of impression by trying to speak French. Every time I did they laughed and immediately spoke English to me. On the last day of the trip someone finally told me that Brugge is in the Flemish speaking section of Belgium. Then I had a good laugh.

I speak Spanish, although not very well. It has always been well-received, no matter how many grammatical errors I make. I think the reason they are so appreciative, even of bad attempts, is that so many Americans go overseas and expect the locals to speak English. A bad attempt at French will usually receive a better response than just walking up to a stranger and speaking only English. If nothing else, we should at least learn how to say &quot;please,&quot; &quot;thank you,&quot; and &quot;Where is the bathroom?&quot; in the local language.
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