English, as second most spoken language in the world (spoken by 1 billion people)(no.1 is Chinese – no wonder!), it helps during the absence of knowledge of local language when I travel. In addition to active hand and body language, it feels like you’re native already.
In Bangkok Thailand, with the help of hand language+money, the imperative word “fast..!” suddenly coherenly integrated into Thai’s taxi driver as “drive fast, catch the flight, break the traffic rules, to get more money”.
In Spain, when I asked direction to people, whom I think as friendly people planet on earth – they always tried their best to describe it, despite we have different languages, I asked in mixed Spanish+English, and they replied in full Spanish – but with the help of hand & body language, all seemed clear.
But it’s different story if you have to report something in detail, like to police officers. In Krabi Thailand, after 30 minutes trying hard to report the loss of my bag and gadgets (hiks!) to local police, he still didn’t understand, and made report in Thai writings, then told me that I should’ve gone to tourist police instead. (after 1 hour…).
Almost same thing in Madrid, Spain. Also with police officers, whom didn’t speak English. Lucky I speak bit French. They say the roots are similar, but to me it’s totally different! My luck to have the handsome officer who knew bit French and the English speaking officer came 10 minutes later…
Comparing Germans, Austrians, and Dutch people, study says that Dutch people are most bilingual and it’s where English is secondly spoken after the main language in European land. To my experience…the same. The chance to meet and speak with people who speaks English is 50-50. Even in Netherland, and to the worse case, the college students! But I must admit, they try their best, to help you out. Like in Vienna, the one that I asked for direction didn’t understand English, then she got me someone who was so friendly to help out. English, to them, is proof that we are tourist.
Slovenians, whom I was afraid of totally misscommunicating, turned out that the people speak English well! Not to mention the hanky panky good looking guys scattered everywhere, and speak well English! How happy that is…so beer and cocktails time are full of conversations! Hoorah!
Italians, they love talking. And I mean, LOOOOVE talking. Anytime, anywhere, to anyone. Even to stranger. As much as I tried to be as native as possible, still I have to use my last resort weapon whenever they started speaking in complicated sentence..”si…pardon..?sorry? “ the word sorry works like magic, and they switch tone to english-like but doesn’t sound like english word to me.
I had several times asked by people in bus or metros, or in the streets, or in bar, or in standing cafe during morning cafe session, about several subjects, especially Berlusconi and election. Felt like to my ear they asked my opinion, so I just politely nodded “..si…si..bene..ah…bene..!” then when they talked more then I said… “sorry? “ then they just laughed.
There was one time in Ligure, Italy when i was sitting and freezing by the bench waiting for my regional train to come from Chiavari back to Santa Margherita, there were one good looking Italian with his dad being Italian – super duper friendly. “ahora, senora, come stai, stai bene?” and I replied “si..bene, grazie..” and keep whooshing whooshing in freezing afternoon. Then his dad also said something..then I replied “sorry??” then they laughed, and the guy started to talk in Italian English. And everytime, the guy had to translate what we conversed to the dad. So funny. And the fun part was I got to soak some words during the translation, but my mouth kept replying in English, not in italian. Again, word “sorry” said that I’m a tourist..!
Too bad, I can’t just use the magic word here in Paris. Not only this has to be my third speaking language, but English is not massively spoken here. Well, some parts of the city have absorbed Starbucks, so I guess French speak more English now, and some students are now more familiar with English terminologies so I guess it’s not as horrible-can’t ask anything-in English-city-anymore.
By the way, I had to use my English when I wanted to complain to cellphone provider company. I tried used my French, and lost. So the next day I came with English and they provided me English speaking officer who said Wi-FI as literally Weefee – and saw me as expat now (maybe they tought that no silly tourist willing to change their number to local numbers).
The other English moment with the French was also happening when in Collette, one happening indie store in St.Honore, the guy and I, we both held the same 2m high-Eiffel vinyl poster. After arguing who should’ve got it, then i spoke in English “well, you are parisien, living in paris, why would you want a 2 m high eiffel poster in your appartment?” then he let me have the poster. Yes! But then after I checked the price was nearly 90 euros…I secretly put it back, hope that guy didn’t find out….