Problems abroad? Here’s how to get around a language barrier

Sebastian Burel/Shutterstock
Sebastian Burel/Shutterstock
When Air Dolomiti canceled Stefano Alberti’s recent flight from Florence to Munich because one of its planes broke down, he potentially faced what to many American travelers would be a tall obstacle: a language barrier.

The regional carrier, a subsidiary of the German airline Lufthansa, offered to cover his family’s lodging and meal expenses and re-booked him on a flight back to the States the next day. But under European law, Alberti, who works for an analytics firm in San Francisco, was entitled to 2,400 euros (about $3,245) in compensation, and negotiating with Air Dolomiti might have been tedious, unless he spoke fluent Italian.

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Fortunately, Alberti speaks fluent Italian.

Only one in four Americans knows a second language, which often translates into a problem when you’re traveling abroad, and particularly when you have a service question. The workarounds can include hiring a skilled travel agent and using a translation service — and, of course, persistence and creativity in the face of an employee who can’t, or won’t, understand what you’re saying.

Alberti’s problem was vexing even for a native Italian speaker. He first contacted Lufthansa, but it deferred to Air Dolomiti. He communicated with the airline in Italian, although he says that it offered to correspond in English. Invoking a clause that allowed an airline to cancel flights during “extraordinary circumstances,” a representative for the regional carrier initially agreed to cut him a check for less than half of what Alberti was due under the European law, called E.U. 261.

But Alberti said that the airline had misread and misapplied the law and that if it didn’t settle, he would file a complaint with L’Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile, Italy’s civil aviation agency. “After one more phone conversation, they agreed to pay the full amount,” he says.

An Air Dolomiti representative confirmed Alberti’s story, saying that it was a “privilege” to communicate with him in Italian. But it noted that it can also handle requests in English and offers a dedicated customer-service line in German. “We are an Italian company, but we have been operating on the international market since many years,” said Loredana Lodovici, an airline spokeswoman.

Alberti believes that his knowledge of the rules, not his linguistic edge, ultimately ensured a positive outcome. I think it was a little of both.

There are other ways to find the edge, one way or the other. One of the easiest is to work through a skilled travel agent who can negotiate on your behalf and knows all the rules. Virtuoso, a luxury travel agency consortium, allows you to search its network of agents by language from its Web site (

“Good travel advisers offer their clients advice, access, advocacy and accountability,” says Matthew Upchurch, Virtuoso’s chief executive. “And those last two points are crucial if something goes even slightly amiss when traveling. Consumer advocacy and accountability are two elements that can’t be replicated online.”

You might find a “mom-and-pop” agent — or, ahem, a consumer advocate — with passable language skills, but then there’s the issue of influence. Belonging to a well-recognized consumer group or travel agency network definitely has its advantages; otherwise, an intransigent travel company may not care that you’re upset about the service you received, or didn’t.

The other option: Go it alone, even if you don’t understand the language. To that end, there are several applications and programs that can help. One well-known fix is Google Translate, which seems to spring into action online whenever you access a site that isn’t in your native language. The results are good enough to get the gist of what someone is saying, and can be helpful.

For a more precise interpretation, you can try a service like VerbalizeIt, which uses a network of human translators to translate text or interpret speech in real time. Rates start at $2 a minute for live interpretation and 17 cents a word for document translation, all of which can add up quickly. But when you need to capture every nuance of a foreign language, and when hundreds or thousands of dollars are at stake, paying extra for a translator may be a sound investment.

Over the long term, learning a new language, or at least several key phrases, can be helpful. I’m a fan of Rosetta Stone, which offers a more interactive way to pick up a second language. And nothing beats actually immersing yourself in a language on a more permanent basis, which is how I learned German.

Perhaps the best way to overcome a language barrier — other than the kind of dogged persistence and native language skills that Alberti had — is creativity. Customer-service workers often speak English, but their comprehension skills vary. So when Janet Baker, for example, encounters language problems, she politely thanks the representative and hangs up.

“I call in again,” says Baker, a sales representative from Chicago. “I repeat as needed until I can get a person I can converse with.”

Turns out, there are many ways to make yourself understood when it comes to customer service. Even when they’re speaking another language.

When language is a barrier to good service, who is responsible?

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69 thoughts on “Problems abroad? Here’s how to get around a language barrier

  1. Or… Often you can phone the company at one of their offices in another country. For Air Dolomiti that would have produced at least a German speaker. They agent that answers the phone may not be in a position to resolve the problem. But, they may be able to direct you to someone who can help you in English .

  2. Depends on the circumstances. The employees who interact with customers should be able to speak the language that the customers are most likely to speak. At the local Chinese supermarket, the employees spoke Mandarin or Cantonese as that was the expected customer base. However, when the owners realized that non-Asians were interested in shopping there, the next generation of cashiers all spoke English as well as Mandarin or Cantonese.

    If a business markets itself globally, I would expect the employees who interact with customers to speak English and/or French, as English is the largest second language at 600 million people speaking it as second language, followed closely by French as the next largest second language at 500 million speakers.

    1. Agreed. And when they do speak it, they need to talk s-l-o-w-l-y and LOUDLY (or at least more so than normal) as to be better understood. Too often I’ve had trouble understanding those for whom English is a 2nd language because they speak at the same pace and volume they do in their native language and the accent just muddles the words (for me anyway).

      1. The reverse is also true – I had problems with native English speakers who complained the way I speak English, but didn’t make any efforts to help me understand what they speak.

    2. Chinese = #1 spoken Language
      Spanish = #2
      English = #3
      Personally, I’d guess Spanish and English were the most useful. Understanding Spanish means Italian and French are within grasp. Portuguese as well…. Wish I didn’t quit learning Spanish and forgot it all.
      English is the universal business language.
      Chinese is of course largely spoken in China alone or among expats.

  3. A bit on the fence with this poll. English is the international language of commerce and travel, and I think there’s a case for people in both fields to be able to speak it a bit. On the other hand, it’s good manners for travellers to learn a bit of the local language where they go.

    1. That sounds fine in theory but not particularly practical. I took one trip where I spent a few day here, a few days there. 3-4 different countries. Besides hello, goodby, and thank you, how much more are you realistically going to learn, and more importantly use?

      1. “Where is the bathroom?”, “How much does this cost?” and “I would like a glass of white wine, please.” are 3 phrases I learn and use regularly. 🙂

        1. Donde esta la bano? Cuanto cuesta? Me Gusta un taza de vino ….

          Last one Im guessing. I wrote I like a cup of wine… My Spanish is rudimentary these days.

  4. You can’t expect every employee at every company to speak every language. The real problem at Air Dolomiti was their initial assumption that they were dealing with just another monolingual American, hence one who could be easily screwed out of his Rule 261 payment at the time and place of the delay. Most of us would have waited until we got home and then contacted a Stateside Lufthansa office – good luck with trying to resolve a past incident with an Italian affiliate over a rule that is not well known to Americans. Rule 261 is well known to European carriers, however, and Dolomiti had no business trying to scam this OP.

  5. I think the poll should have had a “both” option. I’ve traveled with groups to Europe and have seen the difference in service given to those who refuse to speak anything but English and those who have the phrasebook in hand. I really hate the “if they want my business, they’d better speak English!” attitude. Larger companies, such as Lufthansa, have the resources to employ people who speak languages other than the local language, so a large company can train their employees better. Small businesses don’t have those resources.

    1. If the business caters to people who speak to Language X, they will find people who speak Language X, must like my local Chinese supermarket which make some level of English proficienty a job requirement once non-Asians started shopping there en mass.

      My experience is that people don’t really expect you to speak their language, but they do expect respect.

      1. When I travel abroad to a place where I don’t know the language, I always learn know to say “Excuse me, I don’t speak (the local language)” in the local language, and complete with “do you speak English, hablas Español, fala Português?”

        It usually works fine. In some cases, when I was lost in the middle of an unknown city, the person who doesn’t speak any of the languages I’m able to communicate tried to help me by signaling the way I should take.

        1. My pronunciation of that phrase in French was often met with a smile or a giggle, until one helpful storekeeper informed me, in perfect English, that I was pronouncing the initial word “Je” to mean the past subjunctive tense. Kind of proved the point, didn’t I?

  6. You know Elliott I appreciate your advice about using a human travel agent but I have news for you. A good travel agent is very hard to find these days. Even American Express travel agents don’t really do much for you. My travel agent is not available after hours, I know a lot more about travel than anyone in their operation does and have been to so many more places than all of their agents combined it makes little sense to use them. It’s a shame and we can thank the airlines for this as one of the many problems that face travelers today. So, please stop recommending travel agents in general most of them can’t find their own behind with two hands.

    1. I don’t use travel agents, but I find it to very rare that a layperson knows more about a profession that the professional who work at it ever day. Particularly with regards to the behind the scenes work.

      1. Well, I don’t think most travel agents are much more than supermarket clerks and they are certainly not professionals like they used to be.

        1. It is ok that you don’t know where to go for good travel assistance. Doubt you would be a good client and would be asked to go elsewhere.

          1. Just reading your responses here makes my point far more eloquently than I can. Your whole attitude of superiority is likely just a cover for that grocery check out cashier skills and mentality we find so often. Someone as obnoxious as you would last about five minutes in any competitive field and being a travel agent is not like being a brain surgeon come to think of it you would present a real challenge to a true brain surgeon.

          2. Actually, I find your blanket condemnation of all travel agents to be more in line with a sense of superiority. And Bodega is right in that case, you would be a poor client. Assuming you know more than everyone is only going to cause you to butt heads, and your snide remarks belittling someone with years of experience in the field only proves you would be a terrib le client to deal with.

          3. No, just defending one side of the picture and pointing out the other side can have flaws too. Hope you find what works for you.

        2. We had a really good one for years, but now that she has retired we have had to plan for ourselves. That approach is fine for domestic round trips, but right now we’re booking a European trip that involves open-jaw flights, several trains, and a cross-country journey on foot. We can’t plan something like this without a TA, so this time we’re trying AAA. Stay tuned.

    2. Some of the worst experiences I ever had were with American Express travel agents. I don’t use American Express anymore and I very very seldom use travel agents. If they could cull the bad ones from the herd, we’d actually have some reason to use them, but it is very difficult to get a good travel agent.

        1. Valid point. However, in my experience, I cannot name another category where the incompetent seem to outnumber the competent to such a degree. Good travel agents are indeed so rare in my experience that I generally don’t use them. If airline pilots were of the same standard, we’d have thousands of crashes every single day. It may sound as if I am picking on them, but I am merely being realistic. The good travel agents are very busy indeed. Although I have access to a good corporate travel agent, the amount of effort that is the required banter to get a ticket (and pay her $75 for doing so) versus the literally five minutes to do it myself for no extra fee makes it not worthwhile.

          1. Your time vs someone’s else’s time is how business operates. But you can’t know all the ins and out of every business, so you pick and choose those professionals how can assist you where you are weakest or not interested in handling the task at hand. While you think you can do your ticket in 5 minutes, you don’t know if you are getting the best option for your needs as the internet doesn’t provide everything a GDS does nor the contacts for handling the unexpected during your travels. That fee covers more than what you claim is 5 minutes of time. It is ok to DIY, keep in mind that your company is paying you for handling that reservation, so are they getting their monies worth from you while you search and book? I have encountered many companies while building my house, from designers, to tile setters, to painters, to landscapers that aren’t worth what they charge and won’t be hired again. Then of course the number of mechanics we have fired over the years are more than we can even remember. The screw ups by stores on special orders just isn’t worth going down that road again. No industry is perfect and my industry is actually growing as DIY’ers are coming back!

          2. Thank you for your response. The key words are “in my experience”, and in that case, the travel agents hold the incompetence championship by a wide margin.
            Whether it is “company paid” time or “my time”, the point is that it costs lest time to do it myself. I fail to see anything that the travel agent provides that I can’t on my own. Although “maybe” they can, I have fixed travel agent mistakes on my own because they couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. And the problem wouldn’t have occurred if they didn’t cause it.
            I claim it is 5 minutes of time because it is. I have a watch. I’m sure the GDS does give better information than I can get, but somehow I manage to be able to read better rates in many cases and the travel agent has had to go back to their GDS and read what I saw, because they didn’t notice it.
            I am actually pretty good at making travel arrangements. I also have a pretty good contact list myself. Although not invincible, I have so far been been 100% successful in solving every single travel problem I’ve had so far. And I can tell you, the absolute last place I would look for help would be a travel agent.
            Glad your industry is growing. As I said, the “good” travel agents are busy. Very busy. There just aren’t enough of them.

          3. If your company is ok with paying you to do the work, so be it. You pick and choose what help you want and this is one you obviously know more about and can do better than the few you have worked with. It happens in a lot of businesses, not just in the travel industry, so if you want incompetence ratings, I bet in your line of business, others could say the same thing. The internet makes many think they know better….but they don’t always. It just fuels their egos.

          4. You’re somehow consistently missing the part about it using less time than talking to the travel agent. I’m not a young person and I fly about 50,000 miles a year. I do know what I’m talking about. I know how to do it. I’ve got intuition and the ability to learn. I didn’t know what a “London pass” was but I could find out what it is and how to get one a lot faster than the professional travel agent who didn’t have a clue about it and didn’t have the investigative abilities to figure it out in a reasonable amount of time. I can find non smoking rooms in Europe where the agent – manager of the travel agency said she couldn’t unless she made a note of a “medical reason”. I know how to match the hotel room nights to the arrival/departure of a flight so one is not left sleeping in the street one night. I know how to make sure I have a ticket. I know how to look at a screen and see the proper and best value route. The overwhelming majority of travel agents I have dealt with over the past several decades don’t have a clue. And they are “professional” travel agents. Okay, I can name one or two that have actually been good. Maybe just one. However, it is necessary to double check even her work. Several times, I have found the prices she’s found to be higher for the very same flights.
            It isn’t the internet that makes me think I know better, it is life experience.

          5. I make a better chicken marsala than any chef has ever presented on my plate, and for a whole lot less money, too. And I have been cooking for over a half century, so I have life experience, too. Big deal. You pick and choose what works for you. BUT understand, just because you think you are doing better, you don’t necessarily know that you are. There could be a chef that makes this dish that will knock my socks off. I, too, can match that hotel night to the arrival times. Yet, a vendor I have used couldn’t when it came to redeye flights, so I get your frustration. I switched vendors and found one that got it. Do I then say, TO’s are a waster of time and money? Hardly. Having worked in corporate travel, I can say that corporate travelers are a PITA….just about 98% of the time. I prefer handling leisure travel and have had some of the best clients during my career.

          6. We’re talking about travel agents here, nothing else. Not chefs or dog walkers or brands of poop scoopers.
            There seem to be a lot of people that agree with me. And a lot of data to support the argument. In my experience, travel agents have been a complete waste of time and money. I do check periodically what a travel agent has done and what I would do. Sometimes what they do is the same. Seldom is it better. A lot of them haven’t travelled or read enough to know what they are doing. Your energies might better be spent trying to raise the standards in the travel agent profession rather than arguing with people who know better through experience. Sure, it would be nice to have a trustworthy travel agent who could handle everything. But we don’t have that. I am quite confident in saying that 2014 will be a “travel agent free” year as far as I am concerned. And I will be much better off for it. I wonder how many travel agents even know what E.U. 261 is, that might be a good quiz question. Of course, asking about a London Pass at an agency that was advertising trips to London on their window wasn’t a bad quiz question either. Either way, it was a hard fail.

          7. I had found good and bad TAs along the way. A friend of mine (who worked as TA for some time) once told me that several people open a travel agency to travel for free, to serve customers being a collateral inconvenience. Unfortunately, I found this kind once.
            In other hands, my current TA is very good at his job, and in a recent trip he found a better and cheaper flight than the original one I had find online.
            I may confess I’m not loyal to him – several times I did all reservations by myself. But when I need a more complex itinerary, I usually use his services.

      1. As a veteran travel consultant I suggest you find someone who specializes in the area or type of travel you prefer – and then INTERVIEW! I love when clients want a sit-down, and we can see how well we mesh – not every client-consultant is a good mix. Ask around, see who is a member of your local Chamber or BNI chapter. Or you can check ASTA for a local agent.

        1. Thank you, that is a very nice suggestion. However, I am, at the moment, happy with the “travel agent” I have now, which is me. It works far better than anything I’ve tried before.

    3. I think the reason for your observation is because there is a huge difference between a booking agent and a travel agent. The term “travel” connotes that the agent has actually traveled and experienced what they are selling.

      1. I don’t disagree with you but unfortunately I have never seen one hold themselves out as a booking agent but only as a travel agent and then you get the true nutcase like the one posting on here that makes out a travel agent is like a neurosurgeon and that doesn’t understand that the term professional usually denotes or formerly denoted someone whose duty is one that is higher than the calling of the marketplace.
        This day and age there is no room for a booking agent as you can do this cheaper, more effectively and more efficiently than someone else can.
        I am, in some ways, glad to say that my years of traveling 100K plus miles a year are over and now I will travel by any means other than air if I can do so.

        1. Actually, Bodega has many years in the industry – it was you who took the confrontational and rude side that “ALL” of us travel agents are worthless. I won’t argue there aren’t useless ones out there, but those of us in this industry for over 20 years are here because we offer more than just a booking engine service. In fact, the majority of my business is by referral, and you do not see that if you are incompetent or useless. I think lumping us all into one pot is not indicative of the trade as a whole.

          1. I know you and bodega3 are buddies in crime and I still bet you I have been more places than both of you combined. All this blathering who would be a good client who wouldn’t is not what we are talking but rather the service provided or not provided. Anyone that things that there are not useless ones out there is blinded by their own lack of perspective. My point is that bodega3 (what are they doing drinking wine there) is trying to make out that all travel agents are professionals when clearly they are not. I am glad you business is by referral so is that of most paragons of mediocrity.

          2. Yes we are drinking wine here! Some of the best award winning wines in the world have been grown on the family ranch…thanks for asking. Can’t beat SoCo Zin’s….but bet you knew that.

  7. Was in China and needed help from an Apple agent’s kiosk in a shopping mall to make my tablet work. We used an online translator to complete our transaction. While the translation wasn’t perfect, it was good enough that we could understand one another. The clerks with whom I dealt were quite young, barely old enough to legally work, but very pleasant to work with.

  8. The whole focus of the article is how the traveller could suffer if they don’t communicate in a foreign language. Both the traveller and the airline do not believe that in this case, language was the issue. The issue appears, quite reasonably, to be that the airline was trying to get around the law, E.U. 261, but the traveller knew the law and called them on it.
    However, Elliott, the “world’s smartest traveller”, decides HE is going to make a story about language barriers, and not an airline trying to get away with skirting the law, and changes it to be a focus about language, which neither of the two individuals agreed with, and I don’t either.
    Is this trying to be a web page that is operating like “The National Enquirer” or a realistic, knowledgeable travel web page?
    Many of the headlines appear to try to emulate the former, rather than the latter. Although the articles are interesting, which is why I read them, and I do learn a lot from the commenters, the misleading headlines continue to be disappointing to say the least.
    {corrected to say “smartest” traveller}

  9. I wish you had an option for “depends.” Because I think the issue when there is a language barrier tends to be more of the attitudes each side is going into the discussion with. If there’s a cultural sense of superiority or bias on the part of either the customer or the service rep, then regardless of how well they speak each other’s languages, there’s going to be a breakdown in communications.

  10. When I have used travel agents for my professional and personal travel experiences my end thought was that they don’t seem to travel enough to be of much help to me. Their suggestions ranged from ‘no kidding’ to ‘that is not close to feasible’.

    1. Then DIY. We don’t need a plumber to put in a hot water heater, either, or a mason to put in our brick walkway. Pick and choose what professionals work best for you.

      1. Personal travel I do now 100%. Professionally I am not allowed but I do all my own legwork and just tell them what to book. I often find cheaper flights with better connection times. Hotels are mixed, at times they can get me a better rate because of corporate rates they have negotiated. Other times I find much better rates using AAA or other discounts.

          1. We’ve all complained so much about the travel group it is pathetic by now. I can spend the time to get what I need at a price that will be approved, or I can let them book what they determine is appropriate, miss my connections and spend so much my department head explodes. Easy choice!

          2. They move to another one, or everyone handle their own. Easy solution to a negative situation. Bet there are complaints within your company of various employees, too. So easy to bash TA when the internet makes you think you can do it all.

          3. Uh huh. I don’t think I can do it all, I am doing it all. When my TA books me consistently with a 30 minute connection domestically or 60 minutes internationally I am sure they don’t travel. When they send me from Paris to home with two connections when Delta now has a direct flight to where I live and it was less money – well that simply reinforces that THEY have a kick back with the carrier, oh I’m sorry, perhaps it is called something more positive, but those perks like upgrades never make it to my employer. The two hours I spend researching BETTER flights for LESS money is absolutely worth it when I make my flights. Yes, it is easy to bash TA when it is consistently shown to me in MY experiences that they are doing what is best for them and not for me.

          4. I don’t know what the agency is or isn’t doing. But do keep in mind that what is available right now, might not be available one minute from now and will again be available in 10 minutes. Every business has companies they try to keep their sales high with, which is why you won’t find all clothing options at Macy’s or all products at Safeway. What you are experiencing just doesn’t seem to work with you, which does happen. As for tight connections, sometimes it is what it is and I don’t like it either.

  11. Umm, how did we go from language barriers to good customer service to bashing TAs? Time for everyone to step back and say, in their own language, “I would like a glass of white wine, please.” Or whatever beverage best soothes you on a cold Sunday evening.

  12. The original story wasn’t so much about ability to speak another language, as it was about a company trying to avoid proper compensation. Sure, it helped that the OP could speak the company’s language in order to communicate with the airline, but more importantly, he knew the rules which were on his side.
    The only language I speak fluently is english, but I can understand and speak some french, german and spanish, and pick up some things in dutch and italian (google translate is very helpful, as is a basic grasp of how those languages put together sentences.) Being able to communicate, even basically, in other languages has really helped me in my foreign travels. But it does irk me that companies who do business in the US don’t always provide customer service agents who really do understand english – the ability to read a script in english but not understand the customer is the fault of the company, not the customer.

    1. It (the article), hopefully, was not suggesting that using an upscale travel consortium means that a customer can assume that it would help them with EC261 compensation issues.
      Just because your travel agent speaks Italian does not mean s/he can advocate on your behalf to get that money for you. In theory, they are beholden to the airlines since they make money selling airline tickets.

      In fact if you actually read Virtuoso’s (the consortium mentioned in the article) marketing material for Virtuoso Air …

      As a Virtuoso advisor, you can look forward to exclusive air offers and higher
      commissions from more than 160 contracts with 54 preferred carriers, as well as private jet companies. This amazing service also enables advisors to focus their time on selling travel vs. researching air options.

      You can easily see the purpose is mainly for the AGENT to MAKE MORE MONEY.

      1. As a former Virtuoso agent, I can say there are on-sites in virtually every country who are a great asset as well, but my agency sees those benefits being a part of TravelLeaders!

        1. I am a firm believer in using a very good DESTINATION management company. These are folks you can rely on when you are in a foreign country.

  13. My spouse speaks 6 languages fluently and always takes the time to learn a number of phrases from the language of a new country we are visiting. (This was Vietnamese last year.) I am not so good at other languages but always carry a phase book with me. That has worked well for me in all my years of international travel when I am without my spouse. I do quite well in French as that is my spouse’s native language. But I have found that many people do speak English to a degree and are more than willing to do so. But I do make the effort to say something–especially Thank You—in their language.
    This story however is not so much about language as it is about an airline hoping a passenger does not know the EU rules on what is due upon flight cancellations. The point about knowing a foreign language is a good one, but when you get down to it that is not at the base of the potential problem here.
    And laughing at how comments turned this into a rant against travel agents. This shows how easily many of us get distracted from the actual point of a post. And why I complain frequently when people include a laundry list of minute complaints which often do distract us from the point at hand.

    1. Any time you see that absurd advice of “use a professional travel agent” as a solution, it is bound to make people recollect the all too frequent incompetence of this so called profession.

  14. All I can say is between my inability to speak Italian and the lack of English spoken in Italy, I spent 2 hours trying to find the proper bus that went to my hotel in downtown Rome.

    MY EXPERIENCE ALONE: English in Italy is abysmal outside of tour guides. So when in “Rome”, if you don’t know the language, you’re up a creek. Spanish is also passable, and had I remembered the years I studied, Id been in better shape. I did try my rudimentary Spanish and eventually I got what I needed 2 hours later….

    Adventures of travel. Learn as you go and be flexible. Even if aggrevating at times. Kudos to the OP for knowing the rules and navigating the confusion.

    1. Hmmmm

      I had a completely different experience. I randomly wandered all over Rome and I don’t speak a word of Italian. The only place where I couldn’t communicate was at my friends in-laws in Florence.

      I did learn enough to day, Hello, Goodbye, and Thank You.

      1. Graci =).

        I guess everyone has a different experience. Mine was unhelpful people, though I loved Italy / Rome for the culture.

        I solo’ed the trip, so I had to ask locals and rely upon myself.

  15. Wow, a lot of people who think that businesses are required to accommodate you even if you don’t speak the language where you are. Let’s say you run a business in Des Moines, and somebody comes in speaking, say, Maori. Do you feel like you have to have an available Maori speaker to accommodate them? No? So this is just for English speakers?

  16. Janet Baker is so right: life is too short to deal with communication problems. I do exactly the same thing on the phone … if we’re not communicating, I say thanks and try again. This also goes for CS people who are crabby. Thanks and goodbye.

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