What it feels like for people who don’t speak your language

Being in a country and speaking the local language is not much of a problem if this is a very touristic place/city/county and you speak English. However, what can you do if you’re in a not-so-touristic area and can’t make the people around you understand what you mean?

I speak English, Spanish and Portuguese. Well, my Spanish is not so good for speaking, but I read and hear you loud and clear. But no German, or Polish, or Czeck. Anyway, I went for a long 15-days trip for those countries, praying that everyone would understand me – and also that the train tickets would be printed in English. Of course, they weren’t.

We (husband and I) went to Heidelberg, Germany, to visit a friend. Thank God for her! She taught us a few things in German, that we forgot seconds after she stopped talking, and also showed me the structure of the ticket. So we made our way to Vienna. So far so good, still German. Then we arrived in Budapest, and from there we took a bus to Prague. Oh boy…

So imagine – poor me, trying to get some coffee and bread for my breakfast in a bus station, and the lady starts speaking, her hands up in the air, and she starts foaming. She seemed furious. We gave up a decent breakfast, got into another shop and bought something to go (the bus was about to leave).

I never felt so frustrated in my life! It was bad enough to walk around the streets hearing people talking but making no sense (to me, of course). But the lady mad because I couldn’t speak the word “bread”?

On the way to Prague, we heard Michel Teló’s “Ai se eu te pego”. What a relief! And the most amazing thing – a little girl (maybe 4) started singing, with the perfect Portuguese pronunciation. I was a bit amazed.

A funny WC sign in Vienna

Anyway, we made our way through Prague, Krakow, Berlin and Dusseldorf avoiding small shops, or making hand gestures and pointing to what we wanted. And we got home safe and sound. I have to say, it never felt so good arriving at the airport and reading everything in Portuguese again…

Have you ever experienced any kind of frustration for not communicating or understanding something?

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