Some good advice for the road

LuggageI found an article on giving some great advice for would-be travellers to non-English speaking countries.  It is obviously aimed at American natives, but pretty much all of the advice can be transferred to English speakers from other places, or speakers of any language going to a country where they speak a different one.  It even works for people who speak the same language, but different regional variations.  For example, I don’t use the term red eye to talk about a late-night flight, either.

If you are travelling in the near future, a lot of this advice would be useful to bear in mind:

* Make every attempt to at least acknowledge the mother language. Learning to say even a few words will indicate that you respect the native tongue.

* Do not use expressions or words that have recently come into the vernacular in the United States. For instance, saying you are “out of the loop” will probably put you there if you use that expression with a colleague in Colombia and letting someone know you are giving him or her a “head’s up” will probably just cause confusion in Korea.

* Watch your references. Certain words Americans say every day in conversation may be too abstract for a foreign audience. Almost all of us who were raised stateside are familiar with taking “a red eye” but there probably isn’t a single soul in Saigon who knows that expression to mean that he or she will be flying during the night.

* Repeat yourself. Being redundant may be the only way to ensure you are getting your message across so keep in mind that restating a concept by choosing other words to offer the same information twice is not only OK, it is almost always a good idea.

* Avoid speaking in a monotone. By raising or lowering your voice to make a point you may be helping to make yourself understood to someone whose command of English isn’t the same as your own.

* Watch your audience for any indication that you have lost them. For instance, if you are confronted by a glazed expression or two, you may want to back up and then slow down to keep communication flowing.

* Don’t continue talking, wondering if you have made yourself perfectly clear. Instead, ask directly if you sense you have lost your thread of communication and don’t take yes for an answer. Instead, dig deep by asking pertinent questions relating to the topic to make sure you are being understood.

+ Don’t be fooled by nods or smiles; these may not be signs that what you are saying has been understood, but rather that you are talking to a polite, if very confused, audience.

The original post also has links to advice for behaving acceptably in specific countries.  Check it out.