Monday, 7 January 2013

Communication break down in a big way!

I have just spent a fabulous week in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. The weather was hot, sunny and a major change from the cold, wet drizzle from which I had escaped. It was relaxing, refreshing and a world away from work.... except in a way it wasn't really, as there was communication break down to a major degree.

There are around 5,000 Russians who arrive weekly into the area. At present there are no Germans, Belgians or Scandinavians because they are advised against travel to Egypt given the current domestic difficulties. There are some Polish, some Italians and some British. The resort staff speak english, french, german, italian and spanish but hardly any know any Russian. They aren't really keen to go to to the trouble of learning as the Russians behave as if the staff are something scraped off the bottom of their shoes. The Russians, however don't ordinarily speak any English or any other language but their own.The result is similar to what I see on a daily basis: Communication breakdown leading to frustration, infuriation and temper tantrums. The difference is that the one throwing the tantrum is an 17 stone, twenty something not a pre-schooler.

It was almost funny to see how they tried to get around the problem. They tried raising their voices, then moved on to shouting then stamping fists on tables. The worst was in the Italian a  la carte restaurant where the menu was a mix of Italian and English. The poor waiter was flustered, upset and completely overwhelmed, the Russian couple angry, disappointed and so very frustrated. 

The same strategies we use with the children would have worked brilliantly: lots of gesture and visual clues. The 4 s's if there's limited vocabulary knowledge:
1. Go slow
2. Show
3. Say less
4. Stress (the important words)

Pictures and symbols would have solved the issue where no spoken vocabulary is known and if everyone could sign, well..... imagine how fantastic that would be!


  1. Libby it is amazing how when we are in a foreign country that we tend to speak very slow to people whose language is not english almost as if they are not too clever. I find that scary.

  2. It is funny isn't it? I also see it sometimes when children aren't understanding!