Language Lessons

I was lucky enough to go to Paris recently. I’ve been before but there was a different vibe this time as I was with my Dad and my son so rather than the usual café/bar crawl we hit the sightseeing tours pretty hard. Of course we still managed a 1664 at the Café Kleber ;)

While I was there it struck me how few people on the sightseeing tours spoke English, and I loved it. My perfect excuse to whip out my GCSE French – perfect if all you want to do is order baguettes from people called Jean-Luc. Unfortunately, I also heard a lot of rumblings from tourists (I know because they had DSLRs or football shirts on) about why people didn’t speak English. How dare they? Where do they think they are, France or something?

And it brought me back to behaviours. When I rolled out my tres basic attempt at French, the person I was talking to almost always met me in the middle with some English. Whether they felt sorry for me or appreciated my effort I don’t know, but we got on.

Isn’t behaviour like this, especially in work culture? Sometimes it can feel like you’re speaking different languages. Whether it’s communication, tone, body language or behaviour.

The point is if you’re just going along expecting everyone to speak your ‘language’ (aka your behaviour and communication style), you’re probably going to find it hard to navigate and communicate, and are likely to only hang out with people who speak your language.

Why don’t you make an effort to find out what language(s) the people around you speak, and learn a bit of it, or a lot if you’re that way inclined!

If you’re the ‘English-speaker’ expecting everyone else to learn your language, you could just shout at them and wave your arms around until they figure out what you want and then watch them reluctantly do that for you; or watch them walk away.

The likelihood is you’ll quickly be passed over for people who are bi/tri lingual, make an effort and can accommodate to their surroundings.

It’s respectful to try and learn the language of the people you’re with. It helps communication and culture. Not foreign languages (necessarily) but language – loud, quiet, detail, facts only, storytelling, problem solving.

You don’t have to change or suck up or lose who you are, you just have to adapt to your surroundings and meet people in the middle. Who knows? You might even enjoy it.

Au Revoir,

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