Oh the Fun of Language Barriers!


As unfortunate as it may seem, we are Canadians who have very little skill in speaking other languages.  Tracy is quite good at French through practice in elementary school, but that is about the extent of our abilities (Evan pretty much has none).  So as you might guess, we have been in some interesting communications when the ability to talk breaks down.  We have ordered meals without really knowing what we were going to get, purchased items through nothing but gestures and stared blankly at some wonderful individual who tries to give us information in a language we don’t speak, but we wanted to share some of our funniest experiences…

We have been to Paris, France on a couple of occasions and for the most part have got around reasonably well because of Tracy’s French abilities and the large number of Parisians that speak excellent English.  There was one incident that left Evan dumbfounded and speechless.  We were wondering down the Champs Elysees and had briefly paused.  A man, who was obviously not familiar with the city, came up to Evan and started asking him questions in French that seemed to be spoken at record speed.  Evan just looked at him blankly, not having a clue what was being said, or how to respond to tell them he did not speak English.  This man could have approached anyone else on this street (including Tracy) and got a better response, but the poor guy decided to ask the one guy who was useless when it came to French!  Luckily Tracy was able to swoop in and tell the guy that Evan didn’t speak English, and helped direct him to the nearest supermarket. 

Paris - Eiffel Tower

While traveling through Spain in 2005, we were getting along quite well.  As with most major cities in Europe, those in Spain are filled with people who are fluent in English.  When we were not able to speak in English, we were able to get by on the very small amount of Spanish Evan learned in University.  We always try to respect that we are in another country, so we will attempt to use bits of that countries language when we can.  This includes ordering what is listed on the menu at a restaurant in the original language (no matter how bad).  This was truly tested for us in Seville, Spain when we went out for dinner at a great tapas joint.  We had a wonderful waiter serving us and he was very encouraging to Evan as he ordered plenty of food.  We decided to have dessert and Tracy was brave enough to give ordering a try.  Unfortunately, her grasp of the language was weak and the waiter couldn’t help but chuckle at her poor attempt to speak Spanish.  Tracy learned that day that she was not meant to speak Spanish well…too bad for her. 

Seville, Spain - Tapas Restaurant

We spent some time in the Italian speaking Swiss canton of Ticino in 2010 and when we first arrived in the country, we needed to get out some Swiss Francs for spending.  We spent a long time searching for a bank and were struggling to find anything.  We finally came across a machine that said Automatico at a gas station, and at home in Canada we have ATMs, or Automated Teller Machines, for bank machines.  Since we have these bank machines at gas stations at home, we thought Automatico was the Italian term for ATMs and we had finally found our bank machine…though it did seem odd that it was in the middle of the gas pumps.  Turns out that machine was used to pay for gas at the pump, but Evan got out of the car and tried to put his card in the machine and get cash out.  The poor owner had to come out and try and explain to us, with no English, that we were in the wrong place.  We eventually figured out that there is no bank machine at the station and the bank was around the corner. 

Ticino, Switzerland - Lake Maggiore

As you can see, we have had some interesting language adventures.  It has always been a fun time trying to work with people who speak a different language and we have learned some much in all these situations.


What is your funniest story involving a language barrier?


Some posts on our site, Travels4Couples, do allow us to make money. However, we do not sacrifice our integrity and only post those articles that match our brand and we feel would interest our readers.

One Response to Oh the Fun of Language Barriers!

  1. Pingback: Our Funniest Travel Stories | Travels4Couples

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge