Language Barriers

I was stopped on my way home from work today by two Spanish tourists. It seems they wanted to get to Olympia. But they were at Victoria station at the time, on the southbound platform of the underground line. To get to Olympia from there, you have to get the Westbound District line, to Earls Court, and then change to a train that goes to Olympia. As I tried to explain. But they didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Spanish, so the brief conversation we had was somewhat frustrated. I tried to tell them where they had to go. I was trying to tell them to walk down the platform and follow the signs to the District Line. All the lady could tell me was “two stops”. I’m not even sure if I communicated to her she was on the wrong platform; she may have been trying to ask me if she had got off the train at the wrong stop, and may not have realised she needed a different train.

It’s very difficult trying to communicate with people when you don’t share a language – we’ve had the same problem when we visit other countries. Sometimes you can use universal gestures to get your point across. But sometimes that just doesn’t work. And it seems trying to direct someone to the District Line was one of those occasions.

I still don’t know why these ladies chose to stop me, but at 5:15pm on a week day, I think perhaps they were acting out of desperation, as the sea of commuters steadfastly headed for their train home and ignored two lost Spanish tourists. It might be that I was just the first person who stopped for them.

I do hope they managed to find their way to Olympia in the end.

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6 comments so far

  1. sputnitsa on

    🙂 It is hard for someone to be somewhere without a grasp of the language. It’s such a shame they didn’t have a dictionary they could use…

  2. ralfast on

    I’ve been on both sides of that equation. Especially troubling when it happened in Spain, and I am a native Spanish speaker!

  3. My accent slipped! « Neither Here nor There…. on

    […] So unless you really want to take the chance avoid “dialecting” as much as possible. After all dialects and languages are hard enough in real life. […]

  4. Ana on

    Well done for helping them. You were there, and they chose you like you said. I think with language, there isn’t so much a barrier. What there is, is the ability to communicate and understand the message. We often try too hard to understand each other, (and that’s just those of us-who speak the same language) and I don’t think there is need to try, when we can just understand. Language is wonderful as it is very dynamic and we can make use of it when we need, and when we don’t need it, we can just be who we are, human.

  5. Yarnspnr on

    I know exactly what you mean about language problems! I’m an American and I spent three years living in North Wembly, a suburb of London. Boots and bonnets…please! 🙂

    • ralfast on

      I learned the difference between the two by watching Top Gear, and even then it took me awhile.


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