Multiple language learning

Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by Jimmy the Heater, Apr 14, 2012.

  1. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Tilting the Horizon

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    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?:kboom
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  2. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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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... :dunno

    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.

    Jamie
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  3. K0m4

    K0m4 Been here awhile

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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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  4. squawk77

    squawk77 Dreamer

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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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  5. Wildman

    Wildman In my castle

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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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  6. Wildman

    Wildman In my castle

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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. :lol3
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  7. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Tilting the Horizon

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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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  8. Wildman

    Wildman In my castle

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    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* :evil

    :D
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  9. dashmoto

    dashmoto Serial Tinkerer

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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 :D
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  10. squawk77

    squawk77 Dreamer

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    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 :rofl) 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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  11. nanotech9

    nanotech9 ** Slidewayz **

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    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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  12. City Man

    City Man Adventurer

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    I have spent 5 and a half years in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place>Europe</st1:place>, 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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  13. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Tilting the Horizon

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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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  14. Wildman

    Wildman In my castle

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    Me too but that cyrillic alphabet is driving me crazy!
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  15. K0m4

    K0m4 Been here awhile

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    Wait until you get to the grammar... :(:

    One cool thing about languages that I heard someone say is that the more you know the easier it is to learn a new one. I'm currently at five, or well, four and then some, and I've got to say it seems to be true. Next up should be a roman one - that's still missing.

    I find that learning a language really helps in understanding a people. I pay special attention to their sayings or figures of speech or whatever they're called, because that says a lot about the development of the people. But that's beyond a travel phrasebook obviously.
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  16. Witold

    Witold Been here awhile

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    Learning foreign languages for a moto ride is a waste of time and effort if you speak English.

    If you pick up a few sentences here and there it won't get you any closer to having a real conversation with anyone, anyway. And to get good enough to have a meaningful conversation takes a long time. If you like it, do it. If not, forget about it.

    I do want to learn Spanish before I go down to Latin America again, but that's a different story. Tons of Spanish speaking countries down there, and very few people speak English.
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  17. CordR

    CordR Been here awhile

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    I would say it's a sign of respect for the language and culture you are entering into, and as a guest in another country, it could only enhance the trip. It's not about being fluent, but about making an effort. People are more eager to meet you halfway if they know you are trying.

    Whereas solely relying on English and expecting that others will cater to you is disrespectful. Could you 'get by'? Most likely you could.

    If you're doing a RTW or something, clearly it's difficult to learn everything that you'd ideally like, but I think at least a page of common phrases in each language you'll encounter will go a long way.
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  18. K0m4

    K0m4 Been here awhile

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    I agree. And there are few things that are as rewarding as making yourself understood in a language other than your mother tounge. It makes buying a damn train ticket feel like an accomplishment :lol3

    And while it's impossible to learn all the languages in the world, in those places where English is not the lingua franca it's rewarding for both yourself and the person you communicate with if you share some other language. I've experienced this plenty of times in the former Soviet Union republics for example.
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  19. PorLaTierra

    PorLaTierra Por La Tierra

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    I hope what youre saying is that English is widely spoken in most of the world.

    When you travel you can be an ambassador or an embarrassment.

    Why take a motorcycle trip? Traveling overland is rewarding and even if you love triple digits you will still be going slow compared to a plane. It is disrespectful to not learn a few phrases in the language of each place you pass through. If you dont enjoy language learning that do it out of respect. If you do enjoy it, it can actually be one of the most rewarding things that travel has to offer. People and places go hand in hand. Meet them, talk to them, or atleast try to connect as best as you can.

    Or you can just hand over money whenever you need help instead of trying to communicate, thats the other option. I wouldnt call that being a traveler though. I would call that being a sucker.

    As far as this thread is concerned, Jimmy you are on the right track if you are already practicing. You will certainly find yourself in many places where a few phrases will enhance your trip and make it more fun and fluid. English is widely spoken but German is fun and Italian is just plain cool. The French are very cool people when you try to speak a little French with them. If you dont, expect the cold shoulder.
    #19