language advice from my European friends

HomeBuiltAirplanes.com

Help Support HomeBuiltAirplanes.com:

harrisonaero

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2009
Messages
560
Location
Coeur d'Alene, ID
My son is an elite junior rower and we expect to go to Europe quite a bit over the next at least 9 years doing world championship competitions. What single language beside English should I learn that is the most spoken between these countries that all regularly hold international rowing competitions: Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, France, etc.?

Also, we love mountains and aviation so plan to visit popular mountain climbs, trails, airports, and aviation companies when we do our trips so keep this in mind with your language recommendation. BTW it would be fun to meet some of the HBA folks on the other side of the pond :)
 

Grelly

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2010
Messages
251
Location
Surrey, UK
Most European countries teach English as a second language if not the first, so you can get quite a long way without knowing the local language at all. However, a few words shows willing and is usually appreciated even if they give up and use English in the next sentence.

I would say the top three languages are : English; German; French. The first three countries you mention have German as a first language (and the Netherlands speak a Germanic language), so perhaps a few words of German should be your priority. You can go quite a long way on Hello/Yes/No/Please/Thank you/Good Morning/Evening and the numbers one to ten. And the local word for "beer" obviously :)
 

cluttonfred

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2010
Messages
7,026
Location
World traveler
Looking at your list, there are some that are one-country languages and some where English is widely spoken. If you are planning to spend most of your time in the countries of the former Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia) then a little Serbo-Croatian would go a long way, otherwise take your pick between French and German.
 

pwood66889

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2007
Messages
1,532
Location
Sopchoppy, Florida, USA
I go with what Grelly said, Joa:
"I would say the top three languages are: English; German; French." Also roger the Serbo-Croatian, on advise from a friend.
When I "did the continent" in 1969, I only had formal training in (quite useless) Russian. I had "Europe on $15(?) a day" to help out, and there are some places who hold out the Welcome mat: "High School German Spoken here." Believe me, they do appreciate it when you try.
In Europe, unlike North America, another language is just over the hill. So most people can get along in several - which I recommend for you and your son (congratulations to him). Try a couple, and go with which comes easiest!
 

cheapracer

Well-Known Member
Log Member
Joined
Sep 8, 2013
Messages
5,950
Location
Australian
a little Serbo-Croatian would go a long way, otherwise take your pick between French
This.

The only Western Euro country I have had trouble with speaking English in is France.

The Slav countries are the ones you will have problems, but they are pretty friendly and a smile* will get you a long way.

*Many Americans are of strong character, which I respect and is meant as a compliment, but you'll get a lot further by toning that way down when visiting other countries, "When in Rome" ....
 
Last edited:

TFF

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2010
Messages
12,274
Location
Memphis, TN
I was told by a traveling friend that it’s not good to give big smiles right away. Automatic distrust. Not that one should be acting unhappy. Just light smile slightly better than a smirk. No big Texas style movie grins.
 

BJC

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Oct 7, 2013
Messages
10,523
Location
97FL, Florida, USA
We recently were in Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. We were warmly greeted everywhere, and were able to communicate effectively with people everywhere in English. As previously mentioned, attitude is everything, just as it is here. I did compliment a food vendor in redneck-accented Spanish; he thanked me and grinned broadly.

Go, be courteous, (there really is such a thing as the ugly American - we have seen plenty of them) be thankful, and you will get along just fine. And have fun.


BJC
 

Pops

Well-Known Member
Log Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2013
Messages
7,700
Location
USA.
Still learning English. But, I speak Redneck very well, learned a little Tsalagi from my Grandfather and know a little German. My wife that can speak 4 languages from where she grew up. She will agree that I'm very good at Redneck :) She is especially good at Yiddish when she gets upset with me. :(
 

Riggerrob

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2014
Messages
1,302
Location
Canada
Europeans get by on three major language groups: Latin, Germanic and Slavic.
English is a horrid miss-match of French and German, but it is the most widely-spoken second language in Western Europe. It took me 17 years to master English, more than 7 years to speak passable French, but only a couple of years to learn the basics of German. I also picked up a little Spanish.

If you understand one Germanic language, you will have a rough understanding of what Danes, Dutch, Germans, Norwegians, Swedes, most Swiss and some Belgians are talking about. Spellings are similar across the Germanic languages.

Once you speak one Latin language, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish are similar.

Slavic languages are mostly spoken in Eastern Europe: Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine. Russian is still a common second language in most of the former communist satellites.
 

PiperCruisin

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2017
Messages
146
Location
Idaho
I started with German, but ended up marrying a mademoiselle from France. English is about half Germanic and half French origin. German is harder and they are more likely to speak English. Go with French.

If you don't learn much French, at the very least, rule numero uno, do not pass go, do not collect $200, the first thing out of your mouth better be "bonjour". Not "Do you speak english?", which comes second. It is cultural. You might even catch them forgetting which is a real bonus.

btw...if you're in France, go visit Chamonix. A bit touristy, but the mountains and hiking/mountaineering is great.
 

stanislavz

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Aug 21, 2016
Messages
397
Location
Lt
Slavic languages are mostly spoken in Eastern Europe: Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine. Russian is still a common second language in most of the former communist satellites.
Nope like that. In some countries, you could be beaten up for using Russian. In other ones - just misunderstood. Ie - young people in Baltic regions do undrestand Russian, but refuse to speak it.
 

Urquiola

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2013
Messages
69
Location
Madrid, Spain
In my first, and only, visit to NYC, 1980, I was warned: 'Do not make any eye contact!' Why? Is this still true?
I have no plans for coming back to NYC, I visited 6 years ago Elizabeth, NJ, close enough. Thanks. Salut +
 

pictsidhe

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2014
Messages
7,374
Location
North Carolina
As others have said, French. I don't know about eastern European countries. In the Netherlands and Nordic countries almost everyone speaks excellent or fluent English. But a half dozen of their words will still go down very well!
 

tr7v8

New Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Jul 24, 2014
Messages
4
Location
Kent, UK
As someone who travels EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) for work I would say French. We have offices in something like 132 countries in the world and French is most useful. That's despite working for a USA company where the default is meant to be English. In eastern Europe their second language tends to be German. Although in Bratislava most there speak at least 4 sometimes 5 languages.
Jim currently in Austin Texas.....
 

rv7charlie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 17, 2014
Messages
548
Location
Jackson
From an English-only speaker who's only foreign phrase is 'casa de pepe?', I offer this:

I just sold my RV-4 to a father/son pair from Argentina. The son spoke English very well, but obviously had limited command of technical English and other stuff they're not likely to teach in an English as a foreign language class. The father knew only a few phrases like 'thank you'. My wife & the father went through what must have been an hilarious exchange when he tried to update her on our change of plans while repositioning the a/c for disassembly (son & I were already in the air; forgot to tell her the plans change). Wife's son later said, 'Why didn't you just use your phone?, meaning Google Translate. If you haven't tried it; our scifi future is here. Tell it source and destination languages, tap the mic symbol, speak your phrase, and tap the speaker symbol for the phone to speak. (It is worth looking at the English text it 'heard' prior to telling it to talk; occasionally it'll make an 'autocorrect' kind of mistake.)

Charlie
 

BJC

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Oct 7, 2013
Messages
10,523
Location
97FL, Florida, USA
.. Wife's son later said, 'Why didn't you just use your phone?, meaning Google Translate. If you haven't tried it; our scifi future is here.
My wife tested it several times on out recent trip, and was pleased with the results.


BJC
 
2
Group Builder
Top