As a content writer and English student, I often take the language for granted. Not just the language, but my fluency with the language and my comfort of that knowledge as well. Sometimes though, that comfort goes for a complete toss, and communication skills get challenged.
I recently travelled through a few cities in Europe, beginning with France. While I was completely enamoured by the beauty of Paris, the inability to speak in French often got to me. As is the norm, everyday conversations in a city are bound to happen in the first language of the people. As tourists though, we feel rather entitled and enraged when that language isn’t a language that we’re used to communicating in. Right from asking for directions to buying food to merely understanding where to enter and exit a place from, my language seemed to have no bearing on what I wanted to know.
It was here that all my conversations with my LearnEd team kicked in. Every Webinar we conducted essentially spoke about communication, and not just English communication. A conversation is about paying attention, listening, ensuring the other person is on the same page as you are. So what if language is not a common denominator? The minute I thought of it in those terms, life became easier.
Walking up to people with a smile, using gestures and not being enraged was a worthy step one. Eventually you do end up finding someone who speaks your language, even if it is broken. However, what makes a world of difference is a little effort on our part. I started using Google translate and a little more observation to pick up basic words. I now know that “sortie” means “exit” in French, and hence I did not have to ask. Finding what words mean basics such as “please”, “thank you”, “where?”, “Vegetarian”, “price” etc helped a whole lot. Not only does it help you understand better, but it also tells the other person that you are willing to make the effort, and they will go out of their way to help.
I found it a bit obnoxious at first, the idea that people don’t speak English in every country in the world. Think about it though, isn’t that exactly how we behave too? I get annoyed when people don’t speak Hindi or Gujarati where I live too, so why shouldn’t others be?
Chin up, though. Learn a new phrase today, whether you are travelling to a new place or not. English is usually a great leveller for most countries, but rely on your communication skills first, and English skills later! Bon voyage!
If you feel that you’d like to pick up a tip or two like this as well, register now for our free Live Discussion: Overcome Performance Anxiety in Formal Conversations, on the 5th of October at 9 PM, IST. Register here!