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Old 04-14-2012, 08:43 PM   #1
Jimmy the Heater OP
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Multiple language learning

In 2013 I am planning a trip that will go into France, Switzerland (which means mostly German) and Italy. While I did take French in HS for 2 years, I don't remember any of it except for a few words. Is it even remotely feasible to try to learn some travel phrases in multiple languages at the same time.

Will my brain explode?

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Old 04-15-2012, 02:04 AM   #2
Jamie Z
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Fortunately for you, English is the most useful language in all those countries. I've spent a fair amount of time in Switzerland, and my experience is that it seems like almost everyone there knows English. In fact, I took a trip through the city on my own and my Swiss friend advised me that if I got lost just to find someone who looked young because they'd speak English.

As for France and Italy...

In most places where tourists might go (hotels, restaurants, museums), the staff speak English. If you haven't traveled abroad, it's very humbling to go to another country where (it seems like) almost everybody speaks multiple languages.

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Old 04-15-2012, 02:38 AM   #3
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You'll do fine with French and English, at least in your two first destinations. French is an official language in SUI, so even though you may be in the German speaking part they'll know French. And they do know English. Italy tho.. well, as long as you're mostly in the north I think you'll do ok with English and sign langague!

Take it as a chance to brush up on your French - it's amazing how quickly those things come back to yuo. After the three first conversations you've stumbled through, you'll feel the progress. It's a quite rewarding feeling too.
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Old 04-15-2012, 03:40 AM   #4
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Like Jamie and KOm4 said, polish up your French and maybe learn some basic phrases (hello, please, thank you, goodbye etc.) in German and Italian and you'll be fine. I work a lot in Zurich, the main German-speaking part of Switzerland, and the only time I wasn't able to converse in English, we did so in French.

For what it's worth, in French, I'd suggest as a minimum being able to decline the verbs, avoir, etre, aller and faire in three tenses, past, present and future which automatically gives you a fourth tense, plus some vocabulary. Worry about passe compose when you get there and actually get speaking French.

Maybe know what the verbs of movement and reflexive verbs are, perhaps possessive (my, your, his, etc.), how to ask a question (what, where, when, how, who, why etc.) and the difference between vouloir, pouvoir, devoir et besoin de. If you can understand all of that, even if you can't use them well, you should be able to converse with anyone with a little effort on their side.

The killer in basic French is the little words; a, to, in, on, the, from, by, it etc. For example, there are five words to my knowledge that mean "in", depending on the subject and the situation. Nightmare! Don't sweat it; it'll come the more you use the language.

Bon chance.
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Old 04-15-2012, 03:34 AM   #5
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I find it more enjoyable to learn people's languages when I travel... however I have yet to meet even a homeless bum on the street in Europe who couldn't speak English. Most young Europeans speak 3 or more languages effortlessly, even those not in the service sector. The biggest difference I find is the dialect, or the words they commonly use. For example if you try to use typical cliché words we commonly use, they may be thrown off. You learn fast what words they use though and it's funny.
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Old 04-15-2012, 03:43 AM   #6
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...I have yet to meet even a homeless bum on the street in Europe who couldn't speak English...
You either don't get around much or think that just because a bum says, "Fuck you", because you didn't give him the price of a beer, that he can speak English.
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Old 04-16-2012, 12:12 PM   #7
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You either don't get around much or think that just because a bum says, "Fuck you", because you didn't give him the price of a beer, that he can speak English.
LOL Actually he asked for something and I mumbled sorry I don't understand, and he replied "oh I can speak English as well" Kinda threw me off. I was exaggerating obviously but having lived with different non-English cultures for a better part of my life I've learned that many just strategically pretend not to understand English when they don't want to talk to you (especially you angry Brits ) and that the American showbiz/capitalism/globalization or something has really spread the language. Even in places like Asia. A bilingual person in Canada would automatically have a shoe in for a decent job but I meet many European gas attendants etc speaking fluent in several. My harmless point was that far more Europeans are functional in multiple languages than Americans who sleep through Spanish classes for a few years, or Canadians who learn a few French songs and phrases. You can get around without French, but I find people are very impressed when I speak to them in their language and I find it rewarding.
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Old 04-16-2012, 12:25 PM   #8
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... I was exaggerating obviously but having lived with different non-English cultures for a better part of my life I've learned that many just strategically pretend not to understand English when they don't want to talk to you (especially you angry Brits ) and that the American showbiz/capitalism/globalization or something has really spread the language. ....

I do that ALL the time - I'm fluent in spanish (grew up in Spain for 10 years) and I'm a white-hokney-cracka looking nerdy type...

I let an entire mexican roofing crew blab on and on in spanish for two full days in front of me and never let on i knew what they were saying... until the last day when they were finishing up a little touch up paint on a bit of wood... they missed a spot and I asked them to hand me the ladder so i could touch it up myself, in spanish. Took'em about 30 seconds to realize I spoke to them in spanish, and could understand everything for the last two days. Talk about a jaw dropper.

The most common response is for them to continue to speak back in english, even when they're having trouble finding words. So weird. It usually takes about 10min for them to switch over to spanish.

I'm working on Russian now - just started Rosetta Stone. Kinda frustrating since they read the word in russian, and show you a picture, but you're just guessing what the picture is representing.

BTW, if you've got Spanish and English down, French, Italian, Portugese, and maybe a few other languages will be a lot easier i think. I can read 40-50% of those languages, and listen and understand 30-40% or more. With a few hand guestures thrown in, its pretty good comprehension.
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Old 04-16-2012, 10:01 PM   #9
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...I'm working on Russian now - just started Rosetta Stone. Kinda frustrating since they read the word in russian, and show you a picture, but you're just guessing what the picture is representing...
Me too but that cyrillic alphabet is driving me crazy!
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Old 04-15-2012, 05:09 PM   #10
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Thanks all for the replys....I downloaded some French and Italian language tools for my android tablet and think I'm gonna try one at a time, Quite a few similarities between the two that I noticed, hopefully that helps. *putting my study hat on*
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Old 04-16-2012, 02:22 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jimmy the Heater View Post
Thanks all for the replys....I downloaded some French and Italian language tools for my android tablet and think I'm gonna try one at a time, Quite a few similarities between the two that I noticed, hopefully that helps. *putting my study hat on*
The key to speaking foreign languages is understanding your own. I had to get a book on English grammar first and I think seven years in France was the best thing that ever happened to my own, mother-tongue skills in English.

Oh and *replies*

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Old 04-16-2012, 08:39 AM   #12
dashmoto
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Learn French.

In the unlikely event you find a Swiss person that doesn't speak French or English, only Swiss German, then even if you can speak "German German" you'll never understand them anyway
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Old 04-16-2012, 02:51 PM   #13
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I have spent 5 and a half years in Europe, I only speak English and have had about zero problems due to my misunderstanding of other languages. People are people and will always find a way to communicate when needed. At the same time you will find that attempting to learn and use other languages opens many a door and heart, just saying.
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Old 04-16-2012, 05:00 PM   #14
Jimmy the Heater OP
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Oh I'm sure I wouldn't have too much difficulty either finding someone that does speak English or getting by without learning anything. I do however think it is polite to at least make an attempt and also not relying on the other person to communicate.

That being said, I'm also not looking to be a perfect conversationalist either, I'm riding a motorbike around Europe, not brokering trade agreements or anything.
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