As a privileged guest in over forty countries, I always try to pack basic foreign language skills. I’m not talking about investing in a Rosetta Stone course for a two-day jaunt, but rather the simple gesture of memorizing phrases such as: “hello,” “please,” and “thank you” that will seamlessly bridge a pathway to positive encounters. Best of all? There’s no need to stress over the precise pronunciation.
Case in point, on a recent journey through Poland to Hungary to Austria/Germany, I struggled less with my Polish and Hungarian (!) than I did with my German, where “thank you” stuck to the roof of my mouth before oscillating off my tongue in a tangle of incorrect vowels. On more than one occasion (I wish I could blame on Oktoberfest), I actually blurted out what sounded a whole lot like, “Thank you…Donkey,” leaving my husband to shield his red face.
We eventually queried our hotel receptionist in Vienna as to the degree of offense my mispronunciation might be causing. To my delight, he did not laugh, assuring me that no one would be the least bit insulted or confused by my efforts at gratitude.
So take it from the donkey lady herself, give the native language a gallant whirl and disregard any smirks or raised eyebrows (if only from your traveling companion). I promise your display of respect will supercede any enunciation gaffes…