Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Euro Living, Part III

Hanging out with the Wolfenbüttel crew after a workout.
Lost in Translation:
  Language, obviously, is probably the biggest adjustment you have to make while living in a foreign country. It can also be the biggest source of frustration as well.

  Unless you're extremely blessed with the gift of language, and can pick up every language there is, you will struggle at one point or another with communication.

  I am very grateful when people speak English, but it's not something you can (nor should) count on.

  I've found it's a generational thing. If someone is in their 20s or mid-30s, they'll probably have a pretty decent grasp on English. If not, you're most likely out of luck. Unless you're in Sweden of course. Where EVERYONE speaks perfect English (I came across one person in two years in Sweden who didn't speak English -- they're incredible 'up' there).

Interactions Out and About
Sweden: Easy for an American to adapt to...
  When you're out and about in town, wherever you may be in Europe, you never know when someone is going to start up a conversation with you. It's a little unnerving not being able to answer people when they approach you (in your apartment building, on the street, etc.)

  When I'm at the grocery store, I always hope that the cashier doesn't ask me anything more than 'do you have a loyalty card?' If I don't understand, I usually say, 'sorry?' -- in English -- with a smile, and that usually lets them know I don't speak the language. They'll either re-phrase in English, or forget they even asked!

  For the most part, I try to fly under the radar and not ruffle
any feathers, it's just easier that way.

...except for the snow and 'kickers'! ;)
  The only time I've been comfortable enough speaking (or trying to speak!) the native language was in Italy. It took me a while to pick up enough Italian to become somewhat conversational. I remember going to the bank in Como, and making sure I knew EXACTLY how to say what I needed to say. Definitely don't want any miscommunication at the bank! Thankfully, I always managed to get my point across.

  It can be frustrating not being able to fully express yourself the way you want to. But if that becomes too much of an issue, then you should probably throw yourself into studying the language, and become fluent! Otherwise, you really can't complain, you're in a foreign land after all. You can't expect 'them' to speak English in their own country. If you really want to communicate, you have to make the effort to learn the native language!

Poland: Miscommunication for sure!
  A few caveats about speaking English to non-native speakers (despite common belief, talking louder usually doesn't help get your point across!)
  • Don't start telling a story until you know the person will understand you (or you have someone who can translate the story for you!). There is nothing worse than telling what you think is a funny story, having the person not understand, and then sit there with a blank stare when you're done telling it.
  • You have to be careful with sarcasm. Many times that doesn't translate, and you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings!
  • Sometimes you have to speak English as they speak it. 
    • Shortening your sentences helps. You might find yourself saying, 'I go to store', instead of 'I'm going go to the store.' Sure it's not proper English, but it's probably more important that they understand you!
    • Use words you know they know (that you have heard them use). For example in France, I know my coach understands the word obligation. So I might ask, 'is it an obligation?' instead of 'do I have to?' Or in when in a restaurant I might ask a teammate, 'what are you taking?' Instead of 'what are you having?'
My German team: Lots of languages/cultures. But we made it work!
      And one thing about listening to foreign languages, and trying to understand (usually you begin to understand WAY before you're able to speak). 
      When you're out with teammates/friends, you have to concentrate really hard, and focus on listening to them. If you daze in and out, you won't understand a thing! I recommend always trying to listen, that's how you learn!

       Still have many more differences to share!! Tune into part four, coming up soon!
Euro Living, Part One
Euro Living, Part Two  


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