Bert and I are multilingual speakers in travel language. Bert actually is proficient in seven languages and I can get by in three and a half. Travel language is different in that it means being able to greet, ask a few very important questions and say goodbye in the language spoken in whatever country you are. Given our passion for travel we have mastered the stock phrases like good morning, yes, no, please, thank you, where is the bathroom, a beer please, my name is… in many languages.
Greek is Greek to me. Here I was throwing around Kalimera, Efharisto and parakalo with aplomb to our waiter who was so impressed he offered to teach us more Greek. He showed us what those words looked like written in Greek. I looked, I saw and decided this was unconquerable. I was reminded of the oft repeated verse of my high school days when I was studying another ancient language.
Latin is a language
As dead as dead can be
At first it killed the Romans
And now it’s killing me.
Now take Swedish. Please. It has special significance. We have family there. I love to hear Swedish spoken but I find it very difficult to learn. My niece and I have a continuous game. When we are together I have to say sjukhus and she has to say unbelievable. For some reason those words are unpronounceable to us in each other’s languages. She cannot get those syllables coming out the correct way and when I say sjukhus it comes out ‘cookhouse’. You should know that sjukhus means hospital. Dissected it seems logical, sjukhus = sick house= place for sick people = hospital. The Swedish mouth says it so ‘Swedely’. Coming from my mouth it is bizarre to say the least. If you are sick would you choose to go to a cookhouse?
Our winter in Bali gave us an opportunity to enhance our vocabulary beyond the norm. The official language of Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesian, but there are over 300 dialects spoken. We were in Bali so we tried to speak Balinese. One bonus of our diligence is that as cruisers we travel on ships with Indonesian crew and they are always pleasantly surprised when right away I greet them in their own language. I can also tell the Balinese the order of their birth by reading their name tags.
In South Africa I seem to understand more than I should in Afrikaans but not isiZulu, the most populous language. Afrikaans is similar enough to the Dutch language that although my husband did not teach me much Dutch I can maneuver through it somewhat. I do not speak Dutch but I could find my way around in The Netherlands and, surprise, South Africa.
The Meander: Travel language is minimal communication that brings a great reward. Say the simplest word or phrase in the local tongue and the smiles get bigger, the help is forthcoming, the warmth spreads and the welcome more expansive. The effort is very much appreciated