February 23, 2018

Langauge: A Necessary Part of Travel

Language is an interesting and integral part of traveling.  The lack of communication can cause fear, trepidation and frustration but also offer some humorous moments.

To help alleviate some communication issues, I always try to learn a few important words or phrases of the language(s) I will experience before departing.  For example:

Hello/Good Day: Guten Tag, Hola, Bonjour
Good bye: Auf Wiedersehn, Adios, Au revoir
Thank you:
Dankeschön, Muchas gracias, Merci
Do you speak English?: Sprechen sie englisch?, Habla ingles?, Parlez-vous anglais?

I even try to make sure I know what to avoid on menus:

German menu by olishaw, on Flickr

German menu by olishaw, on Flickr

Liver: Leber, Hígado, Foie
Fish: Fisch, Pescado, Poisson

Plus a few food items that I know are sure things!

Cheese: Kase, Queso, Fromage
Suppe, Sopa, Potage
Salat, Ensalada, Salade
Huhn, Pollo, Poulet

And I always know how to ask for the ever important beer/wine please 🙂

One beer please! Ein bier bitte! or Una cerveza por favor!
One wine please!
Un vin s’il vous plaît

I realized on my last trip in Switzerland that I am more comfortable in German speaking countries.  During this trip I spent time in both the French and German speaking regions of Switzerland.  As the train made it’s way from Montreux to the Zurich airport I saw the signs switch from French to German and noticed that I immediately felt more comfortable!

This was a new revelation for me and I can’t really explain it.

French exit sign by kalleboo, on Flickr

French exit sign by kalleboo, on Flickr

I don’t remember being uncomfortable in France or having more communication issues. I do recognize more German words than French plus on my very first trip to Europe I took a train from Germany to Paris and found the German conductors much nicer and more helpful than their French counterparts.  Could this be why I’m more comfortable with German?

This leads me to the main point of this post.  Some of you know I will be visiting Budapest this summer.  What you don’t know is I have been feeling a little apprehensive about the visit. I am traveling solo this year, which I have done many times before.  I am traveling by train, which I have done before.  I don’t ever remember feeling any trepidation prior to foreign travel, so why now?

Spanish sign by arvindgrover, on Flickr

Spanish sign by arvindgrover, on Flickr

After giving this some thought, I feel the reason for my angst is because the Hungarian language is so different than any other language I have been exposed to.  I don’t recognize any words or terms.  When looking at Hungarian websites, no words pop out so I can even take a wild guess.  This language is completely foreign to me!

Hungarian sign by lorentey, on Flickr

Hungarian sign by lorentey, on Flickr

For better or for worse, I speak English.  I am not bilingual by any one’s definition!  But on all my trips I have always been able to muddle through and have successful trips.  Despite my uncomfortable feelings, I know everything will work out fine on this trip too.  Trust me, I won’t starve!

German dinner by Conanil, on Flickr

German dinner by Conanil, on Flickr



Are you more comfortable with one language over another?

Have you felt nervous prior to foreign travel?

Do you have a humorous story relating to language to tell?

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  1. Lisa says:

    I love this, I never thought of learning the words for foods I don’t like! That’s excellent. I’m finding my experience learning Italian so much more fun than I ever had trying to learn German. After multiple years in Berlin I still only know a small amount. Sigh…
    Lisa recently posted..Taking The Plunge to Travel

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Languages are very strange. It is interesting that you lived multiple years in Germany and yet only know a little of the language. Glad you’re finding Italian easier and more fun!

  2. elley says:

    Language can really be a great barrier especially if you are traveling. It would really be best to at least study the basic greetings like you have mentioned up there; hello, hi, thanks, what’s your name, can you speak English is another thing.

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I agree and always try to learn a few greetings plus being able to ask if they speak English.

  3. Now that I’ve been traveling in Spanish-speaking countries, I wonder how I ever traveled in countries where I didn’t speak the language (by no means am I fluent but I can get by). I know I would be fine, but I completely understand the apprehension. I think it’s only natural.

    By the way, the Czech Republic was the worst for me. They don’t use vowels! How the hell do you pronounce 14 consonants strung together?!!
    The Travel Chica recently posted..I Came All the Way to South America to Drink Gato Negro

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I think Hungary must be similar because they seem to use alot of consonants that make no sense! Quite sure I will muddle through 🙂

  4. Sabrina says:

    I think it makes sense to be a little nervous when visiting a country that you don’t know very well – especially when the language is so different from what you are used to. I’m sure you’ll be fine! Maybe you could find a website that has the most important travel-related words (like food, transportation, etc.) on it and if push comes to shove you could always pull it out and point 🙂

    I’m pretty comfortable travelling to European countries because many languages seem familiar and I could probably get by. When we go to China, I tend to be a little more nervous, because people don’t speak anything but Chinese even in huge cities like Guangzhou. There, I always make sure to take a business card of where I am headed, so I show it to the cabbie because they rarely understand my horrible prognostication 🙂
    Sabrina recently posted..Diving in the Red Sea

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I know I’ll be fine too! I always take a business card of my hotel too plus I circle it on a map! I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I was going to Asia – – that would be nerve wracking 🙂

  5. Laurel says:

    I could definitely relate to this post. I find vacations where you speak even a little bit of the language are much more relaxing than ones where you don’t speak any of it. Perhaps it’s still a good idea to learn what “liver“ is in Hungarian :). Looking forward to hearing about your trip.
    Laurel recently posted..How Losing Weight is Like Learning a Foreign Language

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, Laurel! Liver is one of those things I really won’t even try. Other I’ll at least try them.

  6. I always learn (or at least try to learn) the basics — greetings, please, thank you — when I travel to foreign countries too. I think the people really appreciate it when you try. I am most comfortable in Spanish speaking countries since I took Spanish in high school, although I am by no means fluent. I’m now I’m taking Portuguese classes so I can be more comfortable in Brazil (and Portugal).
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..Where in the World am I

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I agree with you Michael. Its great that you are taking Portuguese classes. That way you can at least be a little familiar.

  7. The Dropout says:

    Oh, don’t feel nervous before your trip. Use all your energy to be excited!
    I’ve found pointing and smiling to be quite effective in places where I couldn’t speak the language.
    Also, you can get your hotel or hostel staff to write down some key phrases before you set out every day, like “which way to the castle” and “I’m a vegetarian”. That way you have some backup if things go pear-shaped.
    Enjoy your trip!
    The Dropout recently posted..The Mystery of the Bootscootin’ Singapore Senior Citizens

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I’m feeling much more settled now but I like your suggestion to ask the hotel for some phrases. Good tip, thanks!

  8. jade says:

    I also agree with Grace- I always try to get the greeting and maybe a “can you help me” down so that I can approach people and feel more confident. I like that “one beer please” is something you need to know! I think that one is pretty important too!

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Of course it is! I mean if you can’t do anything else you might well enjoy a beverage 🙂

  9. When we’ve traveled to countries where we don’t speak the language, food wasn’t really the issue – it was transportation! We’re down for eating almost anything (within reason….) but somehow we’re always getting on the wrong bus or heading the wrong direction on the train. Oiy. 🙂
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..The Sea Spirit House in Yachats- OR

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I’ve had that happen too! Actually we just got on the wrong bus in San Francisco. Luckily we figured it out within a block so it wasn’t a complete failure. Hopefully you figured it out before you went too far too.

  10. Andrea says:

    I agree with Grace…greetings are important and knowing how to ask if people have something, as well as numbers and food vocabulary are the most important things. Good luck! We head to Budapest for the first time in September and are really looking forward to it!
    Andrea recently posted..Did We Mention We Were On a Tour

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Yes I agree- numbers and food are important. I’m looking forward to my trip too and am confident it will all work out just fine.

  11. For Hungary, you will be OK speaking English. I remember my time there and everything was fine. Even when I did the Szechenyi Baths I think language was OK. Just get a good guide book and you should be fine.

    To ease your concerns over Hungary, check out this forum talking about the difficulties in Budapest.

    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Vancouver- TBEX- travel blogging- and my first modeling gig

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Thanks for the link Jeremy, I will look at it. I am actually fine now it was just my initial reaction that had me puzzled. It will all work out just fine, I’m sure.

  12. Grace says:

    Debbie, the important thing is that you try to speak some in their language. Perhaps a greeting followed by can you speak English or at least ask them if they can speak English by using their native language. Finished by a big smile…I got that tip from Andrew McCarthy. He says he gives them an “I’m sorry I am a stupid American look”. I used that during my trip to South America and even with my horrible Spanish I somehow was able to manage through. I’m sure you do well in Buda.
    Grace recently posted..Save Our Philippine Seas reefwatchPH

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Good advice. That is exactly what I try to do! It was just a very different feeling I was experiencing. I’m looking forward to my trip.

  13. Very true! I am totally comfortable wherever they speak English and Spanish, there I am pretty fine with everything as I know I can arrange any problem if necessary 🙂

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