I have found that when I travel to a foreign country there are a few key words that are good to know. “Hello, good-bye, please, thank you, and do you speak English” to name a few. And, the most important phrase of all, “where is the bathroom?” Before leaving on a recent mission trip to Russia I mastered (somewhat) the pronunciation of all these words. Unfortunately, it’s not all I wanted to say while I was there.
In most European countries it isn’t hard to find someone who speaks English, but Russia is a different story. So, the members of the mission team I was working with did what we all do when the translators are busy; we talked louder (which never helps, but we all do it) and used lots of hand signals. And smiled; it always seems to go better when you smile. A smile seems to assure the locals that you are friendly, nuts maybe, but friendly just the same. It works with just about everyone except airport security. They seem to be void of a sense of humor. I think it’s a job requirement.
The other thing we do, when trying to communicate, is eliminate all unnecessary words from a sentence. Eventually, your sentences start to sound like “you, me, go, walk” as if shortening the sentence is going to help break the international language barrier. But, if you add the hand signals; point to the other guy, point to yourself, and move your fingers in a walking motion, you’ll eventually get your point across.
Our last day in Russia I saw the disadvantage to this type of communication. I looked at my husband and said, “you, me, fly home, plane” as I waved my arms in a flying motion. Great, now we speak poorly in Russian AND English.