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A Little Language Goes A Long Way

Recently I found myself trapped in Munich airport. Severe snows had delayed my first flight from Manchester, meaning I had missed my connection to Vienna. What's worse was that my flight had landed in enough time for me to make a frantic run for it, foiled only by the legalities of passport control. I was tired, hot and dishevelled and not at all ready to be told by an airline busy body that I would have to pay for another ticket because I "could have caught that flight.".It would be another two hundred and fifty euros for a new ticket, far outside of my projected holiday budget.

Sorrowfully I told the woman so and went off to find my luggage, which had somehow vanished into thin air. I was not successful, but standing the lost luggage counter I did pick up the tip that may one day save you money too. Here it is, in all its glory:."Erm? fluege Manchester, Munchen, Wien. Nichts Wien, keine fluege.

Mein gerpacken?*shrug* Ich mochte wo ist mein gerpacken?.".Possibly the worst formed, completely incomprehensible German string of sentences in the history of the world.

But then, I never claimed to speak the language! The words fluege and gerpacken were picked up off hearing others, the others a remnant from a few short weeks of German lessons over ten years ago. It was awful and grammatically incorrect but gained a grateful smile off the harried baggage desk adviser."You can speak English to me, you know. Although it is nice to see someone attempt to speak German.".It hit me like a thunderbolt and, although I did not find my luggage until three days later, I did now have an idea.

Targeting a different counter for the same airline I recounted my tale of woe in halting German and bizarre sign language. Five minutes later I had a ticket, with no euro charge levied and phrases drawn straight from my pocket sized phrase book.We English speakers are renowned for our lack of skills in other languages.

Yet we are infinitely more receptive to those who are interested enough in our culture to have done their homework. Forget the raised voices, teary eyes, threats of legal action or demands to see someone's manager when you are abroad: just buy a good phrase book, smile a lot and apologise for your own stupidity in being unable to speak their language. It can and will pay off.


Andrea is is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Fiction Writing.

Her online portfolio can be found at http://astephenson.writing.com.She is barely fluent in English, let alone any other languages.

By: Andrea Stephenson

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