Published on February 6th, 2013 | by Ann Rickard0
Travel Talk – Learn the lingo before travel
ONE of the many mistakes Australian travellers make is to assume wherever they go people will speak English.
My husband, normally a man of impeccable manners, is the worst offender of this. He will march up to a person on the street in Paris and without even so much as an ‘excuse me’ will say in rapid Aussie-fied English: “Can you tell me which metro line is best to get to the Latin Quarter? I think it should be the red line, not the yellow one. What is your opinion?”
He is ignored a lot in Paris.
But then so am I. I have too often made the mistake of approaching a stranger on the Parisian streets and politely saying:
“Excuse me, do you speak English?”
The usual reply is a haughty “yes, I do, do you speak French?” before an arrogant but well-deserved dismissal.
Imagine us on the streets of Brisbane having a French person approach and ask us a question in French? We’d be both offended and amused. Yet so many of us do this to strangers in foreign countries. Either that, or shout at them in broken English as though they were deaf
The old maxim that the traveller should always attempt a greeting in the language of the country she is visiting is a reliable one to follow. Enter a shop in France, even a tiny patisserie, and ask for something without first offering a polite ‘bonjour’ and you will receive a withering look and often be overlooked for the customers behind you. Not good when you’re hankering for a baguette.