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Old 03-14-2016, 10:42 PM   #1
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Language a barrier to foreign cruising?

Would not speaking a local language be a major impediment to cruising in a (developed) country where English isn't widely spoken? For example the Mediterranean, Netherlands, Nordic countries, Germany (mainly rivers, I suppose), or even Southeast Asia? I've spent enough time abroad to appreciate the varying levels of English proficiency in different parts of the world (both in tourism and in general), but how is it specifically related to the business of boating? I assume radio traffic is all in the local language near the coasts? Do officials (customs, coast guards, etc.) speak well enough that one could get by (maybe with the help of Google translate?) Is it possible to get local regulations (and notices to mariners) in English in most of these places? Would you operate in these places without a proficient speaker aboard?
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Old 03-14-2016, 11:44 PM   #2
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Old 03-15-2016, 12:01 AM   #3
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.
Ha ha, that's perfect.
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Old 03-15-2016, 12:26 AM   #4
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everyone speaks "boat", even in the countries were little English is spoken or understood.

In addition, in part because of language, there is very little VHF traffic, compared to in the U.S.

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Old 03-15-2016, 06:50 AM   #5
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Traveled a bit in many places , and most anywhere they are $elling anything ,
English is the std.

The French are the biggest PIA , so use rotten French or speak jibberesh (tell them its Croatian) and English will suddenly be spoken.

The youth almost anywhere delight in speaking English , as they understand English is the key to their future.
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Old 03-15-2016, 08:51 AM   #6
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spoken language is always some form of barrier. Remember that there have been other forms of communications on the seas for many years. Whistle signals and flags are still important in many ports and they will get you by until someone that speaks English shows up.
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Old 03-15-2016, 09:26 AM   #7
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I spent two years cruising in the Mediterranean. Everyone there speaks at least a little English and the people running the marinas speak excellent English. It doesn't hurt to make the attempt to speak whatever the native tongue is. Being able to say hello, goodbye and thank you will go a long way. That they can speak English and we can't speak their language is actually a little embarrassing. Incidentally English is the international language for navigation. Much to the chagrin of the French.
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Old 03-15-2016, 10:07 AM   #8
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Language a barrier to foreign cruising?

Most folks in Germany and Northern Europe speak better English than we do. I wouldn't worry in the least there. The Med is different, but, like France, if you are at least polite and try to speak their language, most people will do everything they can to help. No idea as to SE Asia. I wouldn't let a little thing like language stop me though!
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Old 03-15-2016, 10:10 AM   #9
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Traveled a bit in many places , and most anywhere they are $elling anything ,
English is the std.

The French are the biggest PIA , so use rotten French or speak jibberesh (tell them its Croatian) and English will suddenly be spoken.

The youth almost anywhere delight in speaking English , as they understand English is the key to their future.
What means "PIA" ? Sorry for my British English, sometimes the American-English slangs / abbreviated forms are not that easy to understand...
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Old 03-15-2016, 10:19 AM   #10
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What means "PIA" ? Sorry for my British English, sometimes the American-English slangs / abbreviated forms are not that easy to understand...
PIA = Pain in the ass.

Thank you everyone for the answers! I guess it's the radio aspect of it that I was most curious about, negotiating passings and such. On land, I've never had problems even in places where no one spoke English and I didn't speak the local language. For basic tourist things, pointing and gesturing has always been sufficient.
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Old 03-15-2016, 10:38 AM   #11
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It doesn't hurt to make the attempt to speak whatever the native tongue is. Being able to say hello, goodbye and thank you will go a long way.
This. Being able to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you in the native language seems to me to be the very least that any reasonable person should learn. Anything beyond that is very worthwhile.

I know that people love to criticize the French, but honestly I have always found them pleasant and helpful. I vividly remember going into a store in a very small, out-of-the-way French village once. There was already an American tourist there. Playing the role of "Ugly American" to the hilt. Apparently thinking that if he angrily shouted English at the store clerk, that would help. The store clerk just shrugged and kept saying "comprends pas."

He finally left in a huff, and she just rolled her eyes. I then said "bonjour" and started talking to her in my broken French. She said, "yes, what is it you are looking for?" Just as polite as can be. She understood English perfectly, but she wasn't going to be bullied by someone who didn't even make the least effort. And I didn't blame her one little bit. If someone walked into your store in Kansas, and started gibbering away in Japanese, as if you are just expected to understand, how would you react? Even if you did understand Japanese, you'd say "Hey! You're in America buddy. At least learn how to say 'hello.'"

So, show some respect, learn a few words, learn a bit about the culture, and you can get along just fine in any country that you visit. At least, that has always been my experience.
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Old 03-15-2016, 10:49 AM   #12
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I recently did a river cruise, Budapest to Amsterdam, Viking Longship. My wheelhouse tour opportunity came in the canals of the netherlands, where the traffic is thick, the fairway narrow, and lots of information passing on the VHF. Not a word of English. I don't speak Dutch, but can often recognize it spoken. I had highschool German, but couldn't rely on my translation abilities, especially on a VHF broadcast. The captain of the ship was Russian and had zero to nil competence in English, as he gave me a blank stare when I asked a question in simple English and his Second Mate answered for him.
While I recognize that English may be the language of commerce in Europe, you definitely need the local language to know what is happening on the waterways.
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Old 03-15-2016, 10:57 AM   #13
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I recently did a river cruise, Budapest to Amsterdam, Viking Longship. My wheelhouse tour opportunity came in the canals of the netherlands, where the traffic is thick, the fairway narrow, and lots of information passing on the VHF. Not a word of English. I don't speak Dutch, but can often recognize it spoken. I had highschool German, but couldn't rely on my translation abilities, especially on a VHF broadcast. The captain of the ship was Russian and had zero to nil competence in English, as he gave me a blank stare when I asked a question in simple English and his Second Mate answered for him.
While I recognize that English may be the language of commerce in Europe, you definitely need the local language to know what is happening on the waterways.
I actually did a similar cruise, also on the Danube, but going the other way from Budapest, to Constanta, Romania. I also did a different segment of the Danube at a different time, from Vienna to Nuremberg (I work for one of the major river cruise companies - not Viking) but unfortunately it was before I was interested in boating so I didn't ask the nautical crew at the time whether it would be impossible to recreationally boat in the rivers/canals without local language proficiency. Interestingly enough, on that Budapest to to Constanta cruise, our captain was also Russian and also didn't speak any English. I'm a native Russian speaker so I was able to talk to him, but if he needed English, a member of his crew translated. Coincidentally, I was on a Russian river cruise three years ago (from Moscow to St. Petersburg), and of course none of the crew there spoke anything but Russian.
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Old 03-15-2016, 02:15 PM   #14
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This. Being able to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you in the native language seems to me to be the very least that any reasonable person should learn. Anything beyond that is very worthwhile.

I know that people love to criticize the French, but honestly I have always found them pleasant and helpful. I vividly remember going into a store in a very small, out-of-the-way French village once. There was already an American tourist there. Playing the role of "Ugly American" to the hilt. Apparently thinking that if he angrily shouted English at the store clerk, that would help. The store clerk just shrugged and kept saying "comprends pas."

He finally left in a huff, and she just rolled her eyes. I then said "bonjour" and started talking to her in my broken French. She said, "yes, what is it you are looking for?" Just as polite as can be. She understood English perfectly, but she wasn't going to be bullied by someone who didn't even make the least effort. And I didn't blame her one little bit. If someone walked into your store in Kansas, and started gibbering away in Japanese, as if you are just expected to understand, how would you react? Even if you did understand Japanese, you'd say "Hey! You're in America buddy. At least learn how to say 'hello.'"

So, show some respect, learn a few words, learn a bit about the culture, and you can get along just fine in any country that you visit. At least, that has always been my experience.
Merci beaucoup gentleman.
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Old 03-15-2016, 02:22 PM   #15
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Visiting foreign ports while only speaking english and bad spanish

Quote:
Originally Posted by FF View Post
The French are the biggest PIA , so use rotten French or speak
Strangely despite these reports, as a polite US citizen, I've never had problems with the French.

The worst experience, and that very mild was when I asked how to find some place from a German carpenter in Germany, and was brusquely asked to speak German.

I asked some one else.
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Old 03-15-2016, 02:40 PM   #16
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PIA = Pain in the ass.

Thank you everyone for the answers! I guess it's the radio aspect of it that I was most curious about, negotiating passing and such. On land, I've never had problems even in places where no one spoke English and I didn't speak the local language. For basic tourist things, pointing and gesturing has always been sufficient.
As Denver said above, the French are no no worse than anyone else in Europe.

Yes, VHF is an issue, but simply not important because there are many people, even on working boats, that may not have fluency in the land they are passing through.

Europeans expect you to know the rules of the road period.

And yes, they can be shy talking on the radio to an English speaker.
I heard an entire conversation in Dutch, as this barge and a ferry wondered if the "English" boat understood which side of the river to be on since the ferry was tethered with two row boats on the surface showing where the tether was. In other words the ferry used the current of the river to go from side to side by being tethered in the middle.

I figured it out; and thanked them in Dutch, which was the extent of my Dutch speaking.

But the chatter on VHF was much less once in eastern Europe. One does have to call port control in Poland, Latvia and Estonia before entering port, and generally just got a curt response is at all.

In Tallinn, they did tell me to wait, and that was clearly stated.

In Scandinavia, while many more people spoke English, there was much LESS radio talk and I had none for almost tow months.

At times I would have to dock without ever talking to anyone.

I just got back from my northern Spain reconnoiter. In the two marinas that I really needed information, A Coruna and Vigo, no one spoke English and Julie had to do the translating.

It will be a very interesting year for me.
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Old 03-15-2016, 03:03 PM   #17
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So far, the only "furrin'" country we have visited in the boat is Canada, and I can hardly understand a word they say up there!
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Old 03-15-2016, 03:14 PM   #18
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PIA = Pain in the ass.
No, OMC wanted it translated to British English:

PIA = Pain In the Arse.
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Old 03-15-2016, 04:08 PM   #19
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Much communication is non-verbal. For instance, there's little question what's behind this door:



When checking in at a Florentine nunnery for a two-day stay, we were able to successfully communicate non-verbally with the the Italian speaking, front-desk nun.

Europe contains a plethora of languages. Fortunately, highly-educated people as well as those in the tourist industry have broad language skills. For most, English is their second language and are more fluent than many native Americans.
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Old 03-15-2016, 06:04 PM   #20
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Many years ago, when I had just arrived in France, and not confident in speaking the language I asked a smartly dressed Parisian did he speak English, this I managed to do in my schoolboy French.

He looked at me then said in in perfect English,"no, not today" & walked off.

Best put down I ever received.
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