Scandinavia and the World
Language Barrier

Language Barrier

I've seen several Americans say they wouldn't want to visit another country without leaning the language because they feel it would be rude otherwise.

It very much depends on the country. It's of course a huge advantage in countries where they don't speak English like Japan, and the Japanese generally like it when tourists at least try.

The French aren't huge fans of English, and I've met several people who would say stuff in French at me first despite me making it clear I didn't understand a word, then begrudgingly speak English.

Most Danes understand English and see no point in tourists leaning Danish. A simple "Tak" (thank you) is appreciated because it shows an interest, but Danes will generally get annoyed if you try something longer than that, start finishing your sentences and speak English to you. It can be super rude, but it's really just them telling you "It's okay, I understand English. Don't waste your time trying to learn Danish". So if you want to learn Danish it's best to practice with your friends rather than a random store clerk who'd much prefer you speak English.

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10th March 2017
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7 years ago #9607740        

My mom knows multiple languages, including French. One time when she was in college and visiting Paris, she tried to speak to the waiter in French, and he refused to acknowledge that he understood her, kept pretending that he couldn't understand her. So she switched to German and asked him, "Do you understand me better in German?" Astonishingly, he had no problems understanding her French after that.

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7 years ago #9607593        

This kind of attitude is quite frustrating for expats who are genuinely trying to learn the language. I've heard plenty of people saying that that have huge troubles learning Dutch simply because the moment they try to speak it in public, the Dutch immediately switch to English.

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7 years ago #9607626        

Two points on the French from a native:

- Please, please people, do not confuse the general Parisian attitude with that of the rest of France. Parisians are stressed out and just a weeeee bit arrogant(-er than the rest of us). They'll be short with everyone - including their own countrymen, although rarely for language reasons. In the rest of the country, bar the worst tourist hotspots, you'll generally find people who appreciate that you make an effort, even if we might reflexively wince at your pronunciation.

- Many French people are accutely aware of how bad their own English is, especially pronunciation, and will be ... shy, I suppose, about using it. That explains a fair amount of the "I'll speak French to you even though you don't seem to understand it" behaviour - we're just filling the space between two broken English sentences with words because, well, I don't know, that's what you do, right? Keep talking?

We're not, as a whole, quite as bad as our reputation makes us out to be. Give us a chance. And get out of Paris. :p

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7 years ago #9608630        

it's easy to speak danish, thouugh. just put the obligatory potato in your mouth and you're good to go

7 years ago #9608251        

With Sweden it would be like:

[Sister America] - Tack!
[Sweden] *Oh She's american! i should speak English to make it easier for her and do everything in my power to avoid misunderstanding!!*
- You welcome! Now how can i help you?
[Sister America] *i want to speak Swedish to be better*
- vart är hotellet?
[sweden] *shitshitshit maybe she doesn't speak English?! Swedish is obviously hard for her. I should probably try easier english?!?!*
- Yes, The hotel. That way. I show?
[Sister America] *what a show off!* walks away.
[Sweden] *puh that was close! Well i hope she understood. This was a good day!*

If you're swede, you know i am right ;)

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7 years ago #9607623        

Ugh. This annoys me so much. Especially if I'm trying to speak Danish to a Danish person that knows I'm Icelandic. Bitch I was forced to learn your language for 5 years fucking allow me to speak it.

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7 years ago #9607729        

It is nice to see some people understand that Americans are horrible with other languages. It isn't because we are trying to be rude, or because we think other people should speak English. It is simply a matter of most people being hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from places where English isn't spoken as the primary language. And the year or two of foreign languages that we have to take is high school is usually badly taught by some non-native speaker who may or may not actually speak the language they are teaching. Once we finish the classes, the chances of us getting to speak the language regularly are practically nil unless it is Spanish. It is sad. On the other hand, with smart phones and the internet, we can often at least cope if we get to the point where the conversation progresses beyond the "where is the library" kinds of phrases we vaguely remember from school...

7 years ago #9607629        

Meanwhile in Iceland most of us would be so proud and thankful you tried to learn a language only 300.000 people speak and let you speak away, even if it's completely wrong (we'll help). We just really want more Icelandic speakers. #smallnationcomplex

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6 years ago #9747856        

I think that's because 100 years war between england and french.. That's why they hate to speak english in france.. image

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7 years ago #9609868        

I got bored and this inspired me to make a thing involving the states:
Louisiana: "Hey everyone, I'd like y'all to meet my sister, Acadiana." (Acadiana is a cultural region in Louisiana, one that attributed a majority of the culture and traditions in Louisiana; they're the Creoles)
Acadiana: *can only speak Creole French and Creole Haitian* "Bonjou, langet manman-w."
Louisiana: *gasps loudly and covers Acadiana's mouth*

(Acadiana basically said "Sup, motherfuckers.")

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