It’s English in the UK – English/French/Spanish/Italian translation dictionary not required

Almost fluently conversant in several European languages, I pride myself in the ability to rattle off the French, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish and Latvian translations for the only words that I know and will ever need to utilize when travelling in a foreign country – red wine, handbags, sale and final clearance.  The phrases “How much does that cost?”, “Do you ship to Canada?”, “Do you offer additional discounts for foreigners?” and my piece de resistance clincher “If I purchase all of the styles and colours, can you offer me a better deal?” are basically the only sentences worth uttering when travelling overseas with shopaholic handbag obsessed who know who.

It therefore threw me for quite the loop upon my arrival in London, where English is the official language of the country, as I was forced to speak in a tongue that is so familiar to me, yet strangely “foreign” when travelling overseas. Unaccustomed to utilizing my native language on my sojourns around the globe, eager to practice my newly memorized foreign words and phrases, I had consequently come to associate overseas travel with having to brush up on learning the basic vocabulary of whichever country I happened to be traipsing through.  So it was quite odd indeed that I found myself continually saying either “Mucho gracias”, “Merci beaucoup”, “Danke” or “Grazie” upon thanking strangers or shop-keepers for their random acts of kindnesses.  Upon entering the shops, the Italian word for “Buongiorno” or the Spanish “Hola” or “Buenos Dias” effortlessly rolled off my tongue, as I cheerfully greeted unsuspecting waiters and shopkeepers each and every day.

 It was therefore no wonder then that I endured countless puzzling and inquisitive glares and stares during my entire 10 day London stay, as I commenced each phrase with “Parlez-vous l’anglais?” (Do you speak English?)  Like, seriously?  Where did I think I was?  Well, to be perfectly honest, obviously not in merry old England, home to the sonnets of poets such as William Blake, Charlotte Bronte and William Shakespeare. 

 Ordering “une biere blanche” or a “vino tinto” in pubs and restaurants didn’t garner nearly as much attention as when I nonchalantly pointed to that “bella borsa” (Italian for beautiful handbag) that I was coveting or worse, “De que tamano son esos zapatos?” (Spanish for “what size are those shoes?”). Yikes!!  There was a serious language barrier and it was most definitely one that was unintentionally caused by me!

Note to self – perhaps spend a little bit more time travelling in English speaking countries such as Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, just to name a few, in order to practice and familiarize yourself with commonly used terms and phrases! Yikes!! Double yikes!!

Come practice English language translations whilst traipsing around the checkered streets of London, clutching an armful of foreign language dictionaries along the way.

Next week – where to my pink-sneakered footprints take me? Stay tuned!

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