Learn A Few Words Of That Foreign Language
You have to deal with that foreign language if you've decided to travel abroad. This is true no matter what your native language is. It's handy to know English. English is widely spoken around the world. When someone from Greece or Poland meets someone from Italy or Germany, they speak English.
Since English seems to be the lingua franca around the world, we'll look at it from that perspective. If you're a native English speaker, that's good for you, but to be a real traveler, you should learn a few words of that foreign language... hello, good-bye, please and thank you at the very least. It's just polite to do that.
Also learn how to ask (in their language) if they speak English... or try to ask your question in the local language. They will appreciate the effort. Often they will volunteer, "Would you like to speak English?" And if they don't speak English, they will probably try to find someone who does.
Carry a phrase book
. It will help to be able to point out a phrase if the local person you're asking doesn't seem to understand you. Don't just speak louder... that isn't going to help. Remember English is a foreign language to them! Even if you're trying, your pronunciation might leave them scratching their heads or blushing as you've said something you didn't want to. To be a traveler, you need a sense of humor... especially about yourself. Don't be embarrassed. Point to the word in the phrase book. Have a good laugh at yourself and move on.
Take a chance
. People are forgiving of tourists.... even the French who have an undeserved reputation for not being helpful. The key is to be GRATEFUL that they speak a little English to help you... not to expect it.
When you're speaking English to your new friends, speak slowly and avoid slang. Idiomatic expressions and slang in any language often translate into something you really didn't want to say!
If a French waiter comes up to you and says, "Bon jour, cafe?" Don't look blank and say you don't speak French
. How tough is this one? He's greeting you with good morning and asking if you want coffee. Smile and say, "Bon jour, oui, merci." See that wasn't so hard. Just a couple of words you probably really did know already, and now your waiter LIKES you... even if you never utter another word of French!
Don't be intimidated
by signs in a foreign language... take a good look at them... think in an intuitive way. Does it look similar to a word you're familiar with? If it says "farmacia" instead of "pharmacy", take a guess... you're probably looking at that pharmacy or drug store you were looking for! Is there a pictorial sign to help? A green cross or a pharmacist's scale would be a good clue. That may not be what you're used to at home, but look in the window and think about it, and you can figure it out.
Remember, you went on this trip to experience something different... so revel in that foreign language, learn a few words and enjoy yourself!
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