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Go­ing to the a coun­try where you can’t speak the lan­guage? After hello, farewell, please and thank you, I reckon the next best words you can learn are “I’m very sorry, but I don’t speak (in­sert name of lan­guage here)”.

Next, get in touch with your in­ner Acad­emy Award win­ner. Prac­tise a apolo­getic-meets-hum­ble fa­cial ex­pres­sion and master the art of slump­ing, de­jected shoul­ders. Then, pull out your trans­la­tion book or app and do your very best to make your­self un­der­stood.

Hope­fully the afore­men­tioned apol­ogy will have en­deared you to the lo­cal with whom you’re try­ing to con­verse and their pa­tience and sense of hu­mour will kick in.

You may find they sud­denly know a lit­tle (or lot of ) English or at the very least will en­gage in a game of cha­rades.

It was “je suis des­ole de ne pas par­ler Fran­cais” that got me through two weeks in France with only year seven and eight French in my arse­nal. Ev­ery day I also made a con­certed ef­fort to learn the phrases that mat­tered to me (my cof­fee or­der and shoe size, di­rec­tions to the clos­est Metro sta­tion, a medium-rare steak frites, how long will it take to reach the front of the queue, what breed is your dog and can I pat it, please, be­cause I’ve not seen mine for a while and miss him).

Do you have tips on com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a for­eign land? I’d love to hear them.


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