Going to foreign countries without knowing the language

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by yg17, Jul 26, 2008.

  1. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #1
    I'll have a week of vacation I need to take between December and March, and I've been thinking about actually going somewhere rather than hanging around the house. I'm considering spending half the week in London, and the other half in Berlin (and hopping on a train and spending one day in Wolfsburg to see the Volkswagen Autostadt). The thing is, I'd be going alone, and I don't know a single word of German other than "fick" and "scheiss" (go look them up if you want to know what they mean). Would I be completely screwed, or do people over there generally speak English? I guess, more importantly, would they be willing to speak English to the selfish Yank who expects everyone to know his language? I've never been to a country where English wasn't the spoken language, so I don't really know how this works. Thanks
     
  2. aethelbert macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago, IL, USA
    #2
    You'll get around fine. Most signs for transportation are in both German and English, and most people (especially the younger demographic) will have a pretty solid base of the English language. It won't be like walking around home, but it's and experience nonetheless. You most definitely will not be screwed.
     
  3. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2006
    Location:
    One Nation Under Gordon
    #3
    Well, you could also be ficken mit schieß.

    However the fact is that many German people speak English better than a large number of Americans and you shouldn't have many problems. If you remember Sprechen Sie Englisch? most people would either start speaking English or shrug, whereby you can resort to the English (and bizarrely from what I've seen, German and Japanese too) method of making yourself understood by waving your arms around and talking loudly.

    Phrase book wouldn't hurt either to show willing, of course.
     
  4. Much Ado macrumors 68000

    Much Ado

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2006
    Location:
    UK
    #4
    The Germans are really friendly, and their English is impeccable.

    Look up some basic phrases and see if you can throw them in every now and again ("Guten Abend", "Danke" etc.). If you look like you've at least made an effort, that's even better.

    The fact that you've asked for advice shows you're not the sort who'll come across as arrogant :)
     
  5. yg17 thread starter macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #5

    Yeah, but they won't know that I asked for advice on an internet message board ;)

    I've been looking at flights for the hell of it right now, and it looks like the cheapest way for me to get home would be a British Airways flight from TXL-LHR-ORD-STL (with the ORD-STL leg being a codeshare with crappy AA). When I arrived in London for the layover, do I need to get my checked bags and go through customs, or do I do all that once I get in ORD?
     
  6. Much Ado macrumors 68000

    Much Ado

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2006
    Location:
    UK
    #6
    Well I've seen plenty of tourists from my country and others stroll around abroad thinking they own the place, expecting to be understood all the time. You don't come across as that sort of person, so there should be no problem. Have a go at words on menus, signs etc., smile a lot and default to English when you have to.

    Anecdote: Before I could speak German, I was once in a town in Switzerland and for some reason I was looking for ping-pong balls. I marched into a sports shop and started making strange hand gestures to the shop-keeper. Eventually she just laughed:

    "Can I help you?"
    "Sorry, I'm err... I'm looking for ping-pong balls. What's the German for ping-pong ball?"
    "It's 'ping pong ball'."
    "Oh."

    There's a moral to that story somewhere, although I'm not quite sure what it is.
     
  7. BoyBach macrumors 68040

    BoyBach

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2006
    Location:
    UK
    #7
    As others have mentioned English is widely spoken as a second language in Germany.

    However, it is always worthwhile learning the basics of the language to any country that you visit. A simple "hello" and "thank you" in the native tongue goes a long way when travelling.

    Have you considered getting something like this? http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/Primar...T<>prd_id=845524441764178&bmUID=1217112506586

    Enjoy your travels. :)
     
  8. és: macrumors 6502a

    és:

    #8
    Easily enough time to get used to German and understand enough words to put sentences together and make your way around.

    English is taught to the Germans (and most of Europe and Scandinavia) from a really early age. A lot of TV shows are in English there and over all they have brilliant levels of English.

    Our countries should really get us speaking other languages earlier and more intensely.
     
  9. Schtumple macrumors 601

    Schtumple

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2007
    Location:
    benkadams.com
    #9
    you could always do the british thing: shout loudly and slowly, works like a charm :rolleyes:
     
  10. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
    Location:
    On tenterhooks
    #10
    Learn good morning, afternoon, evening, please, thank you.

    And take that phrase book. Even if you can't pronounce what you need, you only have to point to the entry on the page.

    Relax, and enjoy yourself.
     
  11. scotthayes macrumors 68000

    scotthayes

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2007
    Location:
    Birmingham, England
    #11
    Beat me to it :D

    I went to Berlin last summer and I don't speak a word of German and had no problems what so ever. Pretty much everyone speaks English. Not always conversational English but more than enough to understand you.

    While you are there I really recommend you do full-on tourist things. Take the sight seeing bus, I will blow your mind when they explain how things worked in East and West Berlin. Go to The Holocaust Memorial, just wandering around it, it really is pretty special. Checkpoint Charlie is pretty packed most days and a little over the top for a white hut but still a must see. If however you only see one of the tourist areas you must make a trip out to the Topography of Terror it's a very humbling place and one of the only remain parts of the Berlin wall is there. And don't forget to get a photograph of you standing across the double brick line that traces the path of the Berlin wall.
     

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