I have been traveling to Germany and Greece these last few weeks, and one thing I have learned in my travels is that I no matter where you go in the world, people appreciate when you make an attempt to speak their language.
I started about a month ago using the Pimsleur Conversational German CDs, and I noticed that the one semester of German I took in college had started to come back to my mind as well. The 30 minutes a day of auditory exercises worked well for me, as it helped me focus on my pronunciation and listening skills.
Application. Once I arrived in Berlin, I found I had to immediately use my German when I asked a cab driver to drive to our hotel at Budapester Straßer 2. Once arriving at the hotel, I couldn’t find my room and found a cleaning woman and asked in German, “Wo ist das zimmer, 814?” (Where is the room, 814?) The cleaning woman went on to tell me I was in the wrong building and took the time to walk me directly to the other bank of elevators.
During this time, she asked me where I was from, how long I was staying in Berlin, and told me my German was very good and that she did not speak any English. Although it was an awkward conversation, I know that she appreciated that I tried very hard to communicate with her. I found a similar result when speaking with waiters at restaurants or street vendors or shop keepers when touring the city. People appreciate when you speak their language and try your best.
Conversation. When coming to the small city of Volos, Greece with my boyfriend, Joe, I must say that I felt very much out of my element. I had not practiced any Greek prior to my trip, and the only things I knew were the names of Greek foods that I love such as spanakopita (spinach filo pie), galaktobouriko (milk custard filo dessert), dolmades (rice stuffed grape leaves), etc. Two graduate students from the University of Thessaly (Kostas and Vasili) came to pick us up from the airport, and thankfully, they spoke English. I knew no Greek and as we drove to the city, the phrase “it’s all Greek to me” became very poignant. The Greek alphabet is very difficult to understand, and although I had seen Greek letters when on university campus sites on the buildings of fraternities and sororities, seeing every sign in Greek letters was extremely overwhelming.
Later in the day, over coffee and dinner, I had asked some of our Greek friends how to say simple phrases such as “I would like a cup of coffee with milk, please.” (Tha ithala ena potiri kafe me gala, parakalo.) or “I will see you tomorrow.” (Tha sas doe avrio.) Although I had limited conversation skills in Greek, I do know that our friends were very appreciative that I tried to communicate in their language. In fact, even though I didn’t speak much Greek, they wanted to know more about my company. I distributed my business cards, and who knows, I may have built a connection in Greece that may benefit 1000 Cranes® at a later time.
Communication Powerhouse Tip of the Week: Whether you are traveling to another country or working with a company where it has its own jargon or language, use that language as much as you can. You have global connections no matter what business you are in. You may feel awkward speaking and getting your pronunciation right. You may feel even “tongue-tied” during some of your attempts, but it will be worthwhile because you will make your country hosts and customers feel better. Think globally, speak locally.
- How does your business work in a global setting?
- What are you doing to think globally and speak locally?
I look forward to hearing your comments.