Why can't they speak English!

Old May 29th, 2010, 03:42 AM
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Why can't they speak English!

I find it incredible that certain tourist offices in Italy do not have staff who can speak proficient English (or indeed other languages). My particular grouse is with the tourist office in Como which is surprising in view of the many English and Americans who visit the city and its lake, as well as many other nationalities who use English to communicate when travelling.

A little story illustrates the problem.

I have recently heard of problems faced by a Dutch couple. Last year they visited the Tourist Office and asked - in English - about a local agritourism (a sort of bed & breakfast in the countryside). No-one was able to help them or give directions. This Dutch couple are nothing if not determined and this year they returned to the Tourist Office asking about the same place. Again no success with the staff there. They did not give up this year and eventually found the place and had a very enjoyable stay.

I have set up a Facebook page and hope that if I attract a sufficient number of friend I can take the data to the Como authorities and try to get something done - please visit http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/...5166461&v=wall

If anyone else has had language problems with Italy's tourist offices - funny, distressful or otherwise - please share.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 03:51 AM
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"This Dutch couple are nothing if not determined and this year they returned to the Tourist Office asking about the same place. Again no success with the staff there."

Isn't it a definition of madness to repeat your actions and expect a different outcome?

A search using Google might have been a good alternative.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 03:52 AM
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Was it really a language problem? I would not expect any tourist office to know the exact location of every agriturismo within its province.

Besides, most agriturismi give precise directions on their Web sites, or if they do not, they will provide them by email.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:02 AM
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The Facebook page can also be found by searching - English at Como Tourist Office

The issue is the lack of language skills and not about the best way for the Dutch to find a particular location otherwise the tourist offices would only hand out directions to the nearest internet café!

Another example of lack of language skill relates to the absence of English pages regarding the current Rubens exhibition. See my postings here - http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-olmo-como.cfm and English blog here - http://rubens-at-como.blogspot.com/
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:03 AM
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Welcome to Italy. The tourist office worker is probably one of Berlusconi's harem girls.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:07 AM
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This is a joke, right?

They had an entire year to learn the phrase 'can you tell me how to get to agritourism xyz?, in Italian.

An entire year to find this thing we call the internet, and the recent invention called google.

I don't speak a lick of proper Italian, but the any traveler above the intelligence level of complete idiot should be able to figure out the phrase "mi scusi, dove il agritourismo xyz, grazie"
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:12 AM
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Newsflash. Google can translate websites too - not perfect by any means, but certainly well enough to understand the info.

Welcome to the 21st century.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:14 AM
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I don't speak a lick of proper Italian, but the any traveler above the intelligence level of complete idiot should be able to figure out the phrase "mi scusi, dove il agritourismo xyz, grazie"

But would they understand the answer?

Please do not get fussy about the Dutch. The issue is why don't tourist offices in major tourist locations have people who speak English and other languages.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:17 AM
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Why don't they speak German or Japanese in Orlando?

Learning a few needed phrases or words in the language of any place you visit works wonders. If you are too lazy to do so, then that is not the fault of the tourism office.

dave
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:27 AM
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If I recall the office in Como has "promozione turistica" in the title. Tourist promotion. If you want to promote it then having staff who speak foreign languages would surely help.

As far as speaking foreign languages is concerned I always try but many English and Americans cannot or will not partly because English has become the world's lingua franca and is thus used by other tourists - Japanese, Russians etc (who are also frequent visitors to Como).

I am not familiar with Orlando but know that at Eurodisney the staff have flags on their uniforms indicating which languages they speak.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:29 AM
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Do you *know* for a fact that no one at the Como tourist office speaks English?

The example of the Dutch couple does not in any way show that the issue was language.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:30 AM
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"Would they understand the answer?" Of course they would, since they would take out their map and point.

I think daveesl said it it well. If you are too lazy...

I think there's also a touch of arrogance and entitlement shining through here. GMAFB.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:43 AM
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Maybe when America gets online I will get some more constructive comments rather than the nit-picking from some of the above.

I know Como very well and I only made this posting because I *know* that there is a major language deficiency there.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:52 AM
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I don´t get it... It took me 10 seconds to find this: http://en.agriturismo.it/lombardy/como/index.jsp
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:54 AM
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I love Fodors, it gets all sorts. I'm in Libya at the moment and, you know i get by in English, Italian, French, Arabic and gibberish.

I don't mind if foreigners speak their own language what I would like them to do is to stop moving the TI office. Italy is the worst in the south with the office moving every year as the leases run out.

Lingua Franca, too much man LOL
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Old May 29th, 2010, 04:59 AM
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elina - you don't get it

The point is that not everyone in the world (including others above) is computer literate and will use Google, Fodors forums and other sites to research and solve their travel problems. Many still - in the 21st century - believe it or not - go into the tourist office for help.

For the great unwashed or illiterate masses or however you wish to call them, can you think of addressing THEIR NEEDS!
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Old May 29th, 2010, 05:05 AM
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I'm always amazed at the degree of English that IS spoken in TIs. Even years ago. This is not an executive position and I'm sure these folks don't get paid all that much yet they are expected to be able to converse and give information to people who speak many different languages. And to deal with the public which is not an easy thing to do, especially having to help tourists who may be hot, tired, hungry, or lost.

The TI folks in Europe and particularly in Italy get my undying gratitude for their resourcefulness, helpfulness, and pleasant attitudes.

Boo hiss on your for your attitude, Nochblad!
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Old May 29th, 2010, 05:06 AM
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Well nochblad, your either very brave or very foolish to put this sort of post on this forum, not disputing your point about employees of a tourist office not speaking the internationally recognised universal language English. I spent 2 weeks in and around Rome and only came across 2 people that spoke (or would speak) English, it was a good job that we had the MIL with us to act as interpreter, I expect you'll be prime target now for the "why should everyone speak English" brigade (a few have already been on here) and I expect I'll be the secondary target, I do speak another language but not Italian.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 05:18 AM
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Thank you Hooameye. Join the club of 2!

Certainly in the principal offices such as Rome, Florence and Venice there is sufficient support but further afield - and I am not talking of remote locations - there is a problem-

After the big 3, Como (its lake, Bellagio, Varenna etc), Cinque Terre and the Amalfi coast seem to be the destinations Fodorites talk about the most. How are things at the tourist offices at CT and AC?

Why should everyone speak English? My point is that the offices are there to PROMOTE tourism so their mission should include the capability of speaking foreign languages and not only English. I only emphasised English because this is the language of the blog and is the lingua franca of international tourists.
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Old May 29th, 2010, 05:18 AM
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Ah, I've read more carefully. Its like the joke about heaven being the place organised by the Germans, Food by the French, Music by the Italians and Gardens by the British while hell is food by the Brits, organisation by the italians etc etc

Yep the pay in the italian TI system is terrible and the prospects for advancements poor with nothing to do but listen to the same questions about "wanna go to toilet". But good news the place looks great, is run by a wealthy maniac, the food and wine is good and its sunny, enjoy. Just don't think that TI is a serious job in Italy
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