Going to a different country you must expect there to be a language barrier, especially if you’re from the states. This is because we, as in Americans, don’t think it is necessary to learn more than one language, which really is sucky. Granted, we are one nation divided by states that all speak English, unlike Europe where you could go to the next state over and people would be speaking an entirely different language. I think it’s just unfortunate that we aren’t learning more languages in school. We have the required 3-4 years of language and that isn’t anything near to what to necessary to have a full vocabulary in another language. Talking with my flat mates, they know 3 or more languages and can speak them all fairly well, which I think is so cool! But enough of that, I want to share some of my experiences I’ve had these last couple months with language issues.
That first night for Annalise, Alex, Sara, and I was rough. We had troubles getting back home after leaving the club. We missed the tram to get back to the dorms and we couldn’t get a taxi back because they didn’t speak English. We went up to multiple different taxi’s and asked if they would take us and they would either wave us off or ignore us completely. We eventually just waked home because we were so frustrated.
When Alex and I visited Hendrik in Frankfurt, he designated himself as our translator. It was funny and frustrating at the same time. It was super nice of him to help us out, but I just wanted to be able to talk to people without feeling incompetent.
Trying to pronounce words correctly has been quite the struggle these last couple months. Since we’ve been taking a Czech language class it has been easier to figure out different words and pronunciations, but at first it was not easy. Trying to figure out how each letter is pronounced was half the battle. The different letters with the different accents has been hard to figure out and remember. Once you get those down somewhat, then speaking it is another challenge. Confidence is key to this process because once you get a little comfortable it’s easier to try and read things off the menu or while ordering food.
Accents are another difficult task that can be frustrating at some points. I feel so bad when I constantly ask “what” when I’m talking to my flat mates. Or when were talking about something and they have no idea what I’m talking about, so I try to describe it and that still is no good. Lost in translation is very much a thing. I didn’t realize how much of a problem it is until living with people from other countries.
Another thing I feel really bad about is when someone comes up to me speaking in another language and I have no idea what they are saying. I usually ask if they speak English and then go from there, but sometimes that person doesn’t, and it really makes me sad that I don’t have any source of communication with them because I only speak English. It makes me wish that I could speak and understand more than just English. Another thing that frustrates me is not being able to read my tickets. The tickets are usually in the language that that country speaks in. An example would be when we got tickets out of Italy, they were in Italian, etc. I just wish I knew more. Yes, there are apps that can translate, but I just wish I could be more dependent on myself for more things.
While Alex, Hendrik, and I was in Prague, we met a group of Germans that were staying next to us. Hendrik thought it would be funny to tell them that he only spoke English so then he could be a “spy” and report back to us about what they were talking about. While we were talking to them, they were having their side conversations while speaking in German to each other. I would just look over at Hendrik to watch his facial expressions while he was listening to their side conversations. When we left that group, Hendrik told Alex and me about what they were saying. He said that they said they could tell us anything without us actually knowing the truth and a couple other things that weren’t flattering to hear about. That made me a little mad.
If you want to get the feeling of culture shock, go get your nails done in the Olomouc at Globus. While I was getting my nails done, the lady who was doing my nails didn’t speak really any English. I have never been in the position where I was the minority, which sounds really weird. It was different. I could’ve said whatever I wanted, and they wouldn’t have known. It was such a weird feeling.
The language barrier has been difficult, but that is what just comes with the experience of traveling. There’s been highs and lows of it all, but it’s been worth it.
Until next time,