Hi, I am going to be visiting France & Germany in a few months. It will be my first time outside America, so I hav ebeen asking my friends about it. They all said that I should at least try to speak the language of where I am visiting, and I did get a book on how to speak French.
But today I read an article on goodlivingreport.com that said the opposite, that I should only speak English because people like the chance to practice the "universal language." It sounds like you have done a lot of traveling, what are your thoughts / opinions? Thanks so much in advance!
Oh also it suggested I pretend to be Canadian, does that help?
People tend to really appreciate it if you make an effort to speak in their language, and some people might think it a little ignorant and presumtious if you go to their countries and just speak English and make no effort to speak the native tongue. It's true that people do like to practice their English and they even reply to you in English if you speak to them in their language, but they will always be glad that you have at least tried and you will generally get a much better and warmer reaction from people.
If you intend to visit France and Germany, you'll have a hard time if you only speak English, especially in France. In Germany, problably the younger peoples will know some words English, but in France even the youth speaks only French...
If you'll ask directions in English, people will be unable to answer, unlike in Belgium or the Netherlands, where people will be happy to help you around in other languages!
If you pretend to be Canadian, you better be prepared to answer questions about life in Canada. Honestly, the fact that it is better to pretend to be Canadian is a myth spread by the Bush administration. They took the hostility directed at them to be directed at all US-Americans, which is not true. As far as Europeans were concerned Bush was the Antichrist, you cannot believe how hated he is here. With every second Obama spent campaining for President the Europeans liking for the USA grew and and when he won almost everybody fell in love with the USA all over. Our faith in the people of the USA was restored by his victory.
As for language, you should learn basic phrases like numbers (from 1-1000 in German, from 1-10 in French), days of the week and their abbreviations (Mi in German = Wed), entry/exit, arrival/departure, hello, thank you, goodbye, please, right, left, straight, how much is, what, when, where,...
In Germany you'll have no problem finding somebody to communicate in English with you, ask among the younger people and keep your questions simple. In France it will be a little bit harder, but you should manage just as well.
Read the following tips from Rick Stevens:
Definitely try to learn a few words in the other languages--especially simple stuff like please, thank you and hello. People love it when you make an effort, and you're more likely to get better service and meet more people that way. Most people will help you along if you're struggling or switch to English when they realize it's easier for you, but that effort can open a whole lot of doors. Besides, it's always nice to expand your vocabulary!
I totally agree with the above posts that you should at least give the country's language a try.
I have been to both Germany and France, and my German is much better than my French. But, I am about to make my third trip to France and hoping to improve a little bit.
Especially in France, when you enter a business, say "Bon Jour" to the owner or staff member near the door. They will probably know right away that you are not local, but you are trying. One evening, we had dinner in a little Bistro, and after being seated, I asked the waitress, in French, if she spoke English, and she said "No". I told her thank you and we proceded in French, as best we could. Our service was excellent and we were not treated any different than anyone else in the Bistro.
When dining, look for the menus with English on them outside the building, and generally, someone will speak English. But, it is more fun to try the local language.
Have fun on your trip!
I cannot coment on Germany (won't ahve been there till May this year , yeah!!) but I can tell you that in France you MUST try speaking some French.
Most people who come back and say the Frnech were rude, mean, etc., never tried speaking the language. Most of the younger people speak some English, not so much so with the older crowd. And a previous replier is correct...in France you need to say Bonjour when you walk in to a shop.
There have been plenty of times in France where I spoke some French, had some trouble, but they asked me if I would prefer to speak English then. On the other side, I can remember many times going to a restaurant and I spoke French and the server spoke English to me, haha.
As for acting Candian...that's just crazy. You should be yourself. Don't be concerned about politics between the countries. In fact most of them want to know about you and where you are from, just like you might about them.
Yeah, you haven't no problems with English in Germany. Recently, I had been in Munich and Selb (Bavaria). In fact, there I had never seen person who don't speak in English.
I would have to agree with the above posts. Just knowing some of the basic words will keep people smiling. As for canadian, to which i am, France and Germany dont care. More countries think canadians and americans are the same anyway. Outside of europe and asia, thats a different story. Here in south america, you never say youre american. First, they always assume im american, and i get the worst service ever (im an engish teacher and some students dont want an american to teach them b/c they hate americans). Just dont be waving an american flag in europe....lol Theres enough of this (mexicans waving their flag) in los angeles
[ Edit: Edited on 02-Apr-2009, at 07:11 by way2goeh ]
Try and learn as much as possible but make sure you learn basic phrases/manners in the relevant language. You can't expect people to treat you with respect if you make no effort to communicate in their language. English speaking nationals are renowned for expecting to communicate in English through-out the world and many people find it rude and arrogant.
I've been all through Europe and I've never had any problems, you may Encounter some if you're miles out of any major cities/tourist areas. In the tourist areas you'll probably find English is spoken more than the national language as the majority of tourists communicate in English even if it's not their native tongue i.e., a Swedish person in Bulgaria will generally speak English when ordering food as that's more widely spoken.
But yeah, the best advice would be to order your drinks and food in the native tongue, at a bar in France my friends all ordered beers in English (with a French accent!) when it was my turn I said 'Je voudrais une biere s'il vous plait' he got me my drink and said 'very good French, beer is on the house!'.