I’M VERY SORRY, BUT ...
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.
JANA FRAWLEY, NATIONAL TRAVEL EDITOR