I like to think I’m a fairly seasoned traveller, but even after a couple of years of city breaks, there is something that always holds me back; the language barrier.
SPRECHEN ZE ENGLISH?
I blame the English education system for this. Other European cultures allow their young to be multilingual, whereas the British system means we only learn our own, complicated language.
Part of this anxiety about communicating means that I feel some kind of guilt and shame when I go abroad. No matter how much time I spend on dualingo, as soon as someone speaks to me in another language, I’m done. I freeze, I panic, and I blurt out ‘English?,’ hoping that they’ll take pity and on me.
My fear of looking foolish abroad came from a recent trip to Berlin, when I was trying to order food. Despite the fact that most Germans speak perfect English, I wanted so hard to look like I could fit in, and that I was trying to speak their language.
I usually try to have a conversation with servers, but I was unusually reserved when approaching the German servers. I was ready to ask for my food in their native language, but when my turn came in the queue, I panicked and just pointed to the food on the menu. It was humiliating.
WHAT I LEARNT FROM THIS EXPERIENCE:
Education systems around the world are different; I may not be multilingual, but us brits have other talents.
Going to a foreign place is daunting. Just be brave and ask if they speak your language. People don’t want to make you feel bad.
Try and learn a language. It’s better to try than not have any words up your sleeve.
If you would like to submit a story, anonymously or under your name, please get in touch! You can fill out the contact form on the website or email email@example.com!