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“A man who speaks two languages is worth two men” – it may be famous but it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Communication with foreigners

Imagine this scenario… I’m sitting on a train, my seat is supposed to be 14A but I choose to sit on 14B. It doesn’t particularly bother me where I sit to be honest but 14B was closer so I popped myself down on that. No dramas. Or so I would think…. Someone sitting across from me has clearly taken umbrage at the fact I’m not sitting on my officially allocated seat yet due to our language barrier I’m not entirely sure why he’s shouting and waving his fist at me like a grumpy old man.


Queue the savior.. Our bilingual friend steps in. Naturally I’m delighted that we can resolve this issue in a heartbeat now communication is clearly no longer a problem. I tell him that I chose this seat because it was closer, I’d like to continue to sit here but if it’s a real problem then of course I’d be happy to move. Then the most baffling thing occurs. My sentence took maybe 8 seconds at most. Why oh why then does our bilingual friend and my new found enemy have to talk for the next 15 minutes? A full blow conversation, one speaks then the other, then the first one again. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SAYING YOU RETARDS??


Listen, stop f*cking talking for 10 seconds, translate this – “I know it’s not my bloody seat, but I’d like to sit here. If that’s genuinely an issue I’ll move, if you don’t mind then I’ll stay – ok?!”. Another 10 minute conversation ensues. OH MY GOD, WHAT CAN U LITERALLY BE TALKING ABOUT FOR THAT LONG?! Anyway, it’s not the seat that’s the issue. That was soon resolved. It infuriates me the lack of efficiency in communication when I’m in other countries. Me asking someone to ask the conductor what time the next train is causes yet another 10 minute conversation. I asked one f*cking question! It should require one answer, yet I’m stuck there looking like a lemon wondering what the hell they’re talking about. Grrrrr.

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0 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Travel Rant: Getting Lost in Words

  1. Expanding my dictionary is one of my goal this 2012, there’s nothing I can wish for is to learn other languages and confidence enough in talking and talking with them without consciousness in a word comes with my mouth…

  2. I normally like your site, but as for this post i have to completely disagree. I understand the frustration that comes with trying to communicate with people that don’t speak your language, and the feeling of awkwardness and helplessness that comes with relying on friends/strangers to translate information. However to get angry and think your translator is a retard because they haven’t communicated the information you need as quickly as you want is completely unreasonable. If you speak or have ever studied a foreign language you would know that the time taken to say something in English isn’t necessarily the same as in the second language, grammar, vocab and even cultural differences all affect the time taken to translate and communicate information. Also do you honestly expect your translator to approach a stranger on your behalf and then be like “fuck off im done with you i have the information i need stop talking to me”? At the end of the day its your problem for not learning the language, when you learn to speak/translate for yourself then you can criticize other peoples methods, but until then i would be a little more grateful.

    1. sorry faris, i think this was taken out of context :S my apologies! i meant to say i was confused when all i ask is one question like ‘is the bus station open’ and then 5 people have a 15 minute conversation and i’m left bemused as to what possibly could be being said when i simple yes or no would suffice :S

  3. Completely agree with Maura on this one!! It baffles me that someone making a living out of describing the vagaries and eccentricities of other countries would ‘rant’ about the way people provide assistance (translation).

    1. sorry chuck, like i mention above, i think i didn’t get my point across properly (my fault entirely). I’m delighted people want to help me, but i am more referring to a huge street scene at the drop of my one question, leaving me bewildered on the side of the street when all i want to know if the toilet is free or you have to pay (or something to that affect):S

  4. Not convinced by this one, I’m afraid. If you can’t understand the local language, that’s your problem, not that of your rescuer. And if he wants to have a conversation about the shortcomings of travellers in his country or anything else he chooses, well, that’s his perogative.

    1. a 3rd apology necessary here! sorry, re-reading this post, my point was completely misconveyed (entirely my error). Apologies! :S

  5. I know! I once had a girl tell this cute guy to get lost when he showed interest in me… but I didn’t know that’s what he said. She didn’t think he was cute and thought she was doing me a favour. What the #*^%!?!?

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