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Phone phobia and speaking foreign languages

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H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017 Francés, Le Puy / Francés (parts), 2018 Norte (Biarritz), Francés, 2019 Portuguese (Lisbon)
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
 

MinaKamina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Jacobspad 2017
Welcome to the club of those who rather let somene else make that call!

I can only offer you the trick that works for me.

I do not bother with worries about embarassing myself. (I'm not British!) Instead I focus on the other person and let them know that I am making an effort and that I hope things will work out well.
Recently I had to make a call to a small company in France about a delivery that had gone wrong. It took me a week to summon the courage. Then I called. And waited...
Someone picks up the phone and says something in French, and I could not have repeated it even at gun point.
But I came prepared, I first said hello, giving them time to adjust to my voice, then I said this is .. from..... and then the frase that I had prepared it has been a long time since I spoke French and this may become complicated.
To which the person in France replied promptly that in fact, they understood me very well.
And off we went and managed to sort things out.

So that would be my advice to you. Come prepared, have a few sentences at hand that you know how to say very well and let the other person know from the start that you are making an effort. And always take the time to greet.
 

Pilger99

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
addicted since 1999 (Aragones, CF), lots of caminos in Spain and Portugal since then
If you like to be anonymous and avoid the stress try a booking site e.g. booking.com. Good part of these pages are translated.

If it's just about avoiding phone conversation, use face to face, e.g. in tourism office, at the local bar, some people at the bus stop, ... or even don't make reservations.

Even if you feel comfortable in one language this does not mean you will communicate without faults.
Certainly it's easier to notice the question mark in ones face and add a smile or a gesture if you are looking at each other.

There are some stages to go through and misunderstanding can happen on each stage.
a) First start with direct conversation and get more confidence.
b) Then stammer some sentences on the phone you have prepared and try to understand the answer. As a backup you can tell you speak English.
c) try to make an additional question to the topic .....

The day you have a real 10min conversation on phone means you are much better than school could ever have teached you.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I think this - a personality factor - is something that makes learning to speak a language much "harder" for some people, even though they might have more knowledge of the language.

I first said hello, giving them time to adjust to my voice, then I said this is .. from..... and then the frase that I had prepared it has been a long time since I spoke French and this may become complicated.
@MinaKamino's advice above is very good. It is important to let the other person adjust to you. You can both take a breath and focus on the other, before you blurt out your important statement or question. Making a casual comment is a good way to help you relax, as well as to make a personal contact.
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
I can relate to that. But it's really a matter of biting the bullet. Yes your will feel a bit foolish. But people are very sympathetic generally. I muddle through in French, Italian and Spanish. I usually travel off peak and by myself. It has added enormously to the enjoyment. I've just walked through Albania and North Macedonia and Greece from Bari. I learned a few basic sentences and get people to teach me as I go along. Tim
 

Michael; Camino-addicted

Take your time to enjoy a beautiful moment
Camino(s) past & future
A few Caminos
Next plan - Camino Vasco interior
Oh I can feel with you, I had the same when I started my "camino career" 🤔

The first challenge was France. My French lessons at school ended after one year, and that was 1982. And my Camino in France was 2007 - so much later We were travelling by bike with four men and I was the only one who was able to communicate in any foreign language.
The Germans have the prejudice against the French that they refuse to speak a foreign language in their own country. The visitors should speak French. But it was N O T H I N G L I K E T H I S.

I am anything but shy and so I approached people with my few keywords.

"Bonjour madam/monsieur, je ne parle pas français, pelerins de Saint Jacques, une question s'il vous plaît, direction......?"

The problem was to understand the answer🤔🤔 I could understand only left, right, straight ahead, church, bridge

But the french where very helpfull. Fantastic👍

As you said, another thing is a phone call. For Spain I wrote down a few phrases and normally it works quite well.

"Hola, me llamo Michael. Por favor es posible una reservación para hoy (today) or manana (tommorow)? Dos peregrinos, una habitación con dos camas."

Its not perfect grammar, but the important parts are in.

And if you say in your well prepard first sentense all the important information for the people, they will not ask so much😇, because that would be also for me the end of the conversation😭

Normally the owner of the Albergue ask only if I need two single beds or a "matrimonial" (double bed) and where I´m from.

We all learn far too much grammar and far too little speaking in foreign language classes. As a German, I don't care if a visitor masters our complicated articles and cases, but I am happy if he tries to get into conversation with me.

Try it on your next camino with a spanish speaker by your side and you will get better and better with every phone call.

Every try will open the heart of the local people. :D
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself
Find someone who will rehearse a call with you - a Spanish pilgrim on the road or someone who will run through a dialogue or two with you, like this. Rehearse once or twice and then bite the bullet and make the call:

Early in my career, I got a job that required me to make cold calls to business leaders. I was terrified of getting through to a prospective customer and embarrassing myself - and I discovered that some of the other new salespeople felt the same way. So we started each morning by rehearsing with each other. After this role play, one of us would make a call to a real company and the others would listen in. After that we would encourage and give advice. After a short time, our confidence grew.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Can anyone else relate to this?
Totally. And I have no good solution except to dive in. Which is definiely not easy. The good thing is that no matter how badly you mangle the language, you'll likely never see the people again.
 

CdnDreamer

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (12, 15 & 18) San Salvador (18), Portuguese (19)
In 2015 I took 10 hours of Spanish and went off to walk the camino. I could barely remember any words but I got up the courage to call to book a bed. I called an albergue and said un cama por hoy mi nombre es Norma de Canada. I had said "one bed for today my name is Norma from Canada". Then I have no idea what they said and I hung up. When I arrived they were all smiles and I got a bed! Since I had been successful, I continued using the sentence. I have since learned it wasn't quite correct but that didn't matter. Everyone was so kind and had understood what I needed. I think they were happy that I had tried to use Spanish.

It was a funny feeling to speak into the phone when I had no idea what was being said back to me. Sometimes I would repeat my "sentence" twice, but then I just hung up because I couldn't answer any questions. No one thought I was rude. I mostly got smiles and yes they were laughing at me, but in a nice way. Its not the same embarrassment as in a classroom setting. I was actually proud of myself for getting the bed - it didn't matter that I hung up on them, and didn't have any idea what they were saying.

I think you just have to pick up the phone and try it. No one will correct your Spanish. All you have to do is get them to understand your request - and the person you are calling is already used to foreign people requesting a bed for the night.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
I have narrated in another thread how I dealt with this challenge. The three languages that I spoke on camino, aside from English, were French, Spanish, and German. I was most comfortable in German, in which I definitely possess the least fluency. But in Leon an elderly unilingual German gentleman asked me for help and I completely forgot myself in trying to assist him. As for Spanish, I found that a few essential words were often all that I needed. Walking the VdlP, I had to call sometimes for someone to unlock an albergue. All that I needed to say was, "Soy peregrina al albergue." Someone showed up shortly. For me, the essential was to simplify rather than to start a conversation. As for French, I have a university degree in French (from almost 50 years ago) and I met a unilingual Frenchman early in my first pilgrimage. He was very rude about the quality of my French and left me so humiliated that I am still reluctant to try to speak French four years later. To communicate with Spanish speaking people who are offering a service, plan ahead (what do I need?) and simplify. If their response is too complicated, continue to simplify: "Hablo poco espanol. Por favor, quiero ...[I only speak a little Spanish, please, I want..."] then insert whatever you need. We just have to keep on trying. For booking by email, I use a prepared script. This generally works pretty well. And you can ask a friend or acquaintance what to reply if you do not understand the response. Sometimes there will be a request to send credit card information. As my Spanish improves, I can manage better. Or use booking.com. But recently many of the inexpensive hostals that I have been trying to book for my next pilgrimage have either not been on booking.com, or were already booked out on my date, months ahead. So I look up their contact information online and email them directly with my prepared script. Most often, they have space when booking.com says they are full. Generally, I try to only book ahead when necessary, and to just show up at albergues when that is an option. Good luck to all pilgrims working at communicating.
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
I wrote this in a different context a few days ago but I think it's relevant. I've just walked Via Egnatia from Durrës in Albania to Thessaloniki.

I'm in a sleepy town, Florina, far from the tourist trail. The town motto is "Where Greece begins" which seems slightly aggrandising but hey, go for it! Yesterday was a long day because of that.

Greece didn't really begin at the border, which was 22km from Bitola (in North Macedonia) at Niki, but here, another 11km in.
My last few hours in Macedonia were devoted to the language - who knows, I may come back? I was on the road at 0630 and was following that old lady in the photo. Dressed in black and walking towards a large cemetery I had seen the previous day I guessed she was going to pay her respects. Possibly widowed.

"Dabar Den" (good day) I said as we fell in step. She gave me a quizzical look and raised her free hand to the sun. She had no English - why ever should she? Clearly what she said meant something like this "No, no, no! How can you be wishing me dabar den at this time? It is morning! It is early. Look at the sun! Dobro utro, Dobro utro!" (Good morning)

The first chapter of every language book is always about saying hello, and you often feel eager to get on to *real* language - but that is always a mistake. Nothing is more real than greetings. I told her I was going to Istanbul and she told me she was going to the cemetery to put flowers on her mother's grave. I'm grateful to Maria for her lesson.
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Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Even though I had worked for some years in French, sometimes the only anglo in a team, French on the telephone was difficult for me, so I understand your concern.

My castellano is even worse but I am crippled by having good pronunciation, so my interlocutor assumes fluency. Aiee!!!! I have since adopted the approach of writing out my text, then speaking slowly with a John Wayne accent-- they understand, then, that I am not a fluent speaker and we soon achieve clarity and understanding. Remember that, while the Spanish are very proud of their language(s), they are kind and helpful to pilgrims and foreigners (I except a priest in Jaca and a bartender in Santiago from this general rule), and will do what they can to see you safe.
 

TMcA

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona to Santiago (2013)
Le Puy to Pamplona in segments (2013 - 2016)
Pamplona to León
I have since adopted the approach of writing out my text, then speaking slowly
Excellent advice. This will help you feel prepared, that you have done your homework. So you will be a little more confident, a little less fearful when making each call. You can even rehearse a few times before you call.

Also, take solace in what I think to be this fact. Understanding a person speaking a language that is not your own is more difficult on the phone than it is in person. You don't have any facial or body language clues to help you. And sound quality on the phone may not be as good as that in a face to face conversation.

The Camino is sometimes an exercise in humility when we have to ask for help or anything else, especially in a language that we do not speak well. That humility is a good thing, though. :)

Tom
 
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Anamiri

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
Yep, but I find the Spanish more patient, (than the French, I still shudder from that experience). Trouble is I can practice what I say - I cant predict and normally cant understand the answer.
face to face with mime is much more successful.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x4), Fisterra/Muxía(x2), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham,
C inglés. Next: Gd St Bernard to Rome
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
Yes of course, it is the hardest, speaking on the phone. You are not alone.
I don’t know if it’ll help you but it helped me: I start the conversation ‘hello etc’ then immediately add ‘I speak very little German (or whatever). Then I carry on with my rehearsed ‘ do you have a bed etc etc’. At least they know from the beginning you are not fluent!
Because if you sound good from the beginning with your rehearsed phrases ‘I’d like a bed for one night from etc’ they may burst into ‘ ah yes but my mother-in-law is sick this week and had to have a hip replacement so you’ll have to get the key from my third neighbour on the right hand-side....’ which leaves me 😳😳😳
Try it 🙂
 

Harington

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Vézelay/Francés 2011, Primitivo 2012, VdlP 2013, Via Domitia 2014, Inglés 2015, Francigena 2016
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
Indeed, join the club! I prepare in the relevant language : "Excuse me but I don't speak Spanish/Italian/whatever well, please be patient." if face to face, eye contact and a self-deprecatory smile.
 

Hurry Krishna

Indian on the Way
Camino(s) past & future
2009 (from Sarria), 2014 from St Jean Pied de Port, 2016 from Porto, 2018 from Le Puy to Santiago.
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
You are so lucky to speak some Spanish and French! I think on the Camino people are happy just to see you making an effort. Many people speak some English and most quickly work out if your Spanish or French is not good enough and switch to some sort of English. Buen Camino.
 

ELHS220

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés - 2015
Francés - 2017
Norte (Oviedo Costa) - 2018
Finisterre/Muxía - 2018
Norte - (2019)
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
I taught high school Spanish for 35
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
I taught high- school Spanish for 35 years and I still get the heebie jeebies when I have to talk on the phone. Much easier face to face.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
No need to call it a phobia. It's quite normal. It is MUCH harder to talk on the phone than to talk face to face. There have been a couple of studies that illustrated how much we rely on non verbal cues for us to determine meaning quickly.

In most cases you need to figure out how to say "Please, I have a problem, do you speak English". And make sure you can say it in a non-pushy tone of voice. I've found that in the vast majority of times, the person I called with either speak some English or refer the call to someone who can.

If you're in a remote area where English isn't common then you just have to enjoy the experience. Think of all the tourists who are foreign visitors in your home country. They have the same problems. It's all part of becoming more a part of the world community.

You'll survive quite well and you'll have a great story starting with "I was in ......"
 

MinaKamina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Jacobspad 2017
Indeed, join the club! I prepare in the relevant language : "Excuse me but I don't speak Spanish/Italian/whatever well, please be patient." if face to face, eye contact and a self-deprecatory smile.
What's the matter with ye British? Get rid of that self-deprecatory smile asap. I urge you. Really.

Instead, when on the phone or face-to-face, smile you best smile, exude happiness and joy because you know you have come to the right person. Seriously, even on the phone, if you smile the smile will shine through in your voice. You'll sound like a confident person who is happy to speak to the person on the other side of the line, despite whatever problems with the language you may have.

Forget grammar. Use all your senses. This is how I conquer French boulangeries.
 

Beeks

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2019) only 2 weeks available! St. Jean PDP - Pamplona, then Sarria - SDC with the family,
I'm not fluent in Spanish. I've always had that "fear" of saying the wrong thing. More on that later.

I just returned with my family of 6 after a mini Camino in April. I'm the only one with some Spanish skills. That's a lot of pressure. Because we were a group of 6, and walked slowly because of an older person in our group, we often arrived very late. This made alburgue reservations almost necessary. After Zubiri, some members of the group ditched some weight into a 40 liter duffel bag which we had to arrange transportation for. Now reservations were practically mandatory. So, who's going to call the alburgue and bag transport people? Yo.

I ended up making 2 reservations per day, for people and a bag, in 8 cities. Yes, it is a bit nerve wracking, and I was sure to make the call in private. For instance, on the train, I would go in between cars, or I made calls from the trail, or at an alburgue, I would walk outside. I did use Google translate for "I would like to make reservation" at first, but that came easy after a while.

I referred to it as "caveman Spanish"... Me need reservation! Me need bag picked up! Would my Spanish speaking friends snickered at me? Probably. Would my high school Spanish teacher weep if she heard me? Probably.

This isn't a test where you'll receive a score. This is life on the Camino. Stop trying to be perfect. The goal is to communicate your needs. I caveman Spanished my way and ended up with reservations every night with my bag waiting for me. No problems. Yes, sometimes the person on the phone asked some random question I wasnt expecting, triggering some anxiety. Forget all that. I just repeated my desire caveman style and it all worked out. My wife and kids were pretty amazed... Dad, I didn't know you spoke Spanish!



Remember, the goal is to communicate, not be right. If someone approached you and said, "No speak English, me need taxi big, me have 6 people and bags" you would easily figure it out. In an English class he would get low marks for grammer, but in the real world they would easily be understood.

Years ago I was dating a native Spanish speaker. Her sister was also dating a non-Spanish speaker who I'll call "Jay." Jay was the whitest white guy I knew. He spoke no Spanish but was fearless and didn't care. He spoke as much bad Spanish as he could. I was terrified of saying the wrong thing and looking stupid. I said very little. One time, dude told a simple story in Spanish, and said he was "embarazada". Everyone howled with laughter, including me. Embarazda is a "false friend." It doesn't mean embarrassed, as he was trying to relate. It means pregnant! He brushed it off and continued his story. I looked at that as an example of why I keep my mouth shut.

Joke's on me. He was fluent in about a year and a half, and I still struggle to this day.

Moral of the story? Speak the language. You'll be fine.

Benny has products to sell, but has some insight and tips on language.


Buen Camino!
 

Lynn C O'Hara

Mainelynn
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2016) Norte, Primitivo (2017), Portugues (2018), Finisterre/Muxia (2016)
I was a flight attendant for a major US airline for over three decades. We flew only domestic for my early years, so the only words I had to figure out were Hawaiian!
I grew up in Catholic school learning French and spoke quite well, but with everything—use it or lose it.
When I started flying internationally, I pressured myself to pick it up again. All I could remember were all the curse words and slang I learned from bi-lingual friends in my young days. Needless to say—don’t let your mouth open in the Vatican when someone slams into you and scares you half to death. They frown on those insults! In every country I was in, I swear the devil was corrupting my brain because the only words I could speak were not appropriate!
I know how to ask for the bathroom, wine, and a few other necessities in about six languages, but I can’t seem to sort them out in the country I’m in.
One thing I’ve always found is that other foreign speakers never hesitated to try to speak their limited words to help me out. I have always appreciated their effort and would never correct any mistakes they made. They tried! Americans have never had the need to speak another language, so many assume we’re arrogant ( and sadly, some are), but try anyway! Mistakes are usually not fatal ( except when ordering food!), and I believe most people will forgive your lack of proper grammar and give you a pass!
 

MethaV

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014 Camino Frances
2017 Le Puy en Velay-Cahors
2018 Cahors-SJPdP
Le Chemin Piemont Pyrénéen (2019)
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
I quite understand your worry, I also find it a lot more complicated to speak on the phone.
Here are some tips that may work for booking a room or a bed in France. It may work also in Spain and Portugal.
1. Most places have a portable phone. Send an SMS instead of calling (google translate).
2. Try to find the phone number to the nearest tourist office from where you want to stop. There is most certainly someone who knows English and may be able to help you.
3. Have a beer or pastis before calling, it makes your tounge smoother. ;)
4. Just call again and again, and you will find it easier eventually... 😊
Metha from Sweden, struggling with several languages..
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
Thank you for starting this thread. I thought I did pretty well in conversations with high school Spanish but I just could not handle phone conversations. So this thread got me thinking about how I could do better.

The obvious was to say early that I am not fluent. But then I thought the problem was getting too much information all at once and spoken quickly. The solution to that is to ask a number of short questions that could be answered simply.

Are you albergue Xyz?
Do you take reservations?
Do you have space for tonight?
Do you have private rooms?
etc.

Then make it easy on the hospitero. Give a name in Spanish. Somos Ricardo y Margarita.
 

Anamya

Keeping it simple
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015)
Portugues (2017)
Lebaniego (2019)
Anytime I feel anxious about speaking on the phone, I always remember I am not as important to those people's day as much as I would like to believe. They will have a butchered language talk to me and 5 minutes later their attention will be with another customer or pilgrim, so worrying about it is really only hurting myself.
Then I just started behaving like 'Jay' from the post above, and these days I can get by in a fair few languages...
Good luck and congrats on identifying this issue and facing it!
 

Landon Ricketts

Smile, you are alive. You've got options :-)
Camino(s) past & future
Past - May 2018, Future - May 2019
Don't know if you have a smart phone but I found the google translate app very useful last year. It has a conversation mode where you speak in English and it translates and reads out what you want to say in the other language and then switches and reads out the response in English.
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-18
This is a lovely discussion! I would like to add two lessons from my own experience. (1) Slow down. People will respond to you at the pace you speak. If your listening ability is less proficient than your speaking ability, only speak as fast as you can listen. (2) Structure your sentences as short, simple, declarative and present tense. Noun-verb-object. Do not worry about future or past tense; just say "tomorrow" or "yesterday".

Also, French in the south of France is such a different regional dialect that even the Parisians often have trouble understanding them, so don't feel bad about having a local (such as your gite host) make the call.
 

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017 Francés, Le Puy / Francés (parts), 2018 Norte (Biarritz), Francés, 2019 Portuguese (Lisbon)
Thanks for all the kind responses here. There's some good ideas here and some interesting and unexpected experiences too. I'm glad a couple of people here have picked up on how this issue can be to do with national identity. For me as a Brit Gen-X-er, I grew up with the cultural story that we Brits were lazy and incompetent with foreign languages, because of our island mentality, and the good luck we have that English was adopted as a lingua franca among travellers.

This, I think, was compounded by stories of the French. I notice in this thread more than any other nationality, people have mentioned their bad experiences with the French. The strange thing is I've not actually had really bad experiences with the French at all. In fact, in Paris and on the Le Puy route, I found them to be really friendly and accommodating, and to be more than willing to also try and speak English to me. And yet still speaking French is so much scarier for me than Spanish because of this reputation the French have for being fiercely proud of their language and being annoyed if foreigners can't speak it well. Somehow the reputation overrides my actual experience here, when it shouldn't be so.

MinaKamina picked up on the self-effacing Brit thing, and I'm glad of that. It's a part of my personality that I really wish I could discard. It just gets in the way of real communication between people, but it's ingrained deep into my psyche and pops out at time I'm feeling insecure about my language abilities. It is however very encouraging to hear how widespread these fears are, and that not only us Brits suffer from language-guilt! I comfort myself with the thought that I can speak fluent German, and the fact that I've taken the time and effort to learn that proves I'm not a lazy island-mentality colonialist!
 

twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances May/June, 2018
Porto-Muxia-Finisterre Oct (2019)
Here is how I have reduced my self consciousness regarding my poor language skill. Let's say on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 is fluent and 1 means you know a few words but can't really build a sentence. If your skill level is in the lower third (levels 1 to 3, where I reside), within a few seconds of opening your mouth, if not sooner, the native speaker will immediately realize how incompetent you are. The thought of judging your language skills will immediately be discarded from their thinking. Where does one start when criticizing the skill of a beginner, it's hardly worth a thought about it and thus it is no fun to do as self entertainment. So the whole judgement thing is over and done within a few seconds. Since your ineptitude is blatantly obvious, instead of judgement, the average native speaker will instead focus on interpreting your tortured assemblage of mispronounced words. You will be much more likely to receive sympathy or a bit of humor from the native speaker than negativity and criticism of your self evident language problem.

If your language proficiency is in the 7 - 9 level, you will be held to a completely different standard. So much of your Spanish will be good but the native speaker will think, why are you making all these little mistakes? You seem to have a good grip on it but why so sloppy, are you not even trying? I think the knee jerk reaction is you are judged, analyzed and criticized (silently) to a greater degree the more proficient you are.

This self rationalization / delusion, may not make any sense to any of you but it works for me.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
Just a story. Peg's job required her to do phone interviews on occasion. She would sometimes end up calling a recent Spanish speaking immigrant who would say "I don't speak English". Peg, if I were around, would immediately hand the phone to me. That's when I would rescue her. I would shift my brain over to speaking Spanish, something that takes me a few days (these events not being any different) and within a few seconds I would be hearing English being spoken whereupon I would hand the phone back to Peg. Mission accomplished.
 

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017 Francés, Le Puy / Francés (parts), 2018 Norte (Biarritz), Francés, 2019 Portuguese (Lisbon)
Don't know if you have a smart phone but I found the google translate app very useful last year. It has a conversation mode where you speak in English and it translates and reads out what you want to say in the other language and then switches and reads out the response in English.
Thanks, yes. It's reassuring to know I can try that if nothing else. Just have to overcome the awkward 30 seconds where I whip out my phone and point to it to try and get them to speak into it ;-)

Talking of translators, has anyone heard about DeepL: https://www.deepl.com/en/translator
This one is amazing and handles nuanced meaning really well. I've yet to see it give a wrong translation in German. The downside: you need to know how to pronounce the words as it doesn't read them out for you.
 

Landon Ricketts

Smile, you are alive. You've got options :-)
Camino(s) past & future
Past - May 2018, Future - May 2019
I appreciate that 30 second panic, I use a percentage coping method when speaking in public and it works like this. The chance of it all going completely wrong leaving me sweating, embarrassed and flustered 5% the chance of it going reasonably well and only feeling slightly sweaty and flustered add a further 10%, so essentially that leaves 85% chance of it going well :)
I found that if you start thinking that way, even if it starts out horribly wrong thats the 5% dealt with and you still have a great chance of getting the result you were aiming for. I really am no expert and am in no way trying to down play others feelings, just hopes this helps😃
Just read twh's post and think it's also a great way of coping
 

Bala

Veteran member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: SJPdP-Burgos, (2015); Burgos-Sarria (2018); Sarria-Santiago (2018).
Frances (2020)
Here is how I have reduced my self consciousness regarding my poor language skill. Let's say on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 is fluent and 1 means you know a few words but can't really build a sentence. If your skill level is in the lower third (levels 1 to 3, where I reside), within a few seconds of opening your mouth, if not sooner, the native speaker will immediately realize how incompetent you are. The thought of judging your language skills will immediately be discarded from their thinking. Where does one start when criticizing the skill of a beginner, it's hardly worth a thought about it and thus it is no fun to do as self entertainment. So the whole judgement thing is over and done within a few seconds. Since your ineptitude is blatantly obvious, instead of judgement, the average native speaker will instead focus on interpreting your tortured assemblage of mispronounced words. You will be much more likely to receive sympathy or a bit of humor from the native speaker than negativity and criticism of your self evident language problem.

If your language proficiency is in the 7 - 9 level, you will be held to a completely different standard. So much of your Spanish will be good but the native speaker will think, why are you making all these little mistakes? You seem to have a good grip on it but why so sloppy, are you not even trying? I think the knee jerk reaction is you are judged, analyzed and criticized (silently) to a greater degree the more proficient you are.

This self rationalization / delusion, may not make any sense to any of you but it works for me.
Well said! I never thought of it quite that way, but you're absolutely right. The worse we speak, the more accommodating and sympathetic the listener. I know the moment I sat "Buenos dios," the listener knows I don't have a clue how to speak Spanish. They generally go out of their way to help me out... same as I would happily do were the situation reversed. But I never thought of it in terms of scale. Lots of fun. I'll keep this in mind. 😊
 

micamino73

Active Member
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
Spanish isn’t a foreign language in Spain.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Santiago, St Jean to Santuago, 2015
Camino Portuguese, 2018
Oh I can feel with you, I had the same when I started my "camino career" 🤔

The first challenge was France. My French lessons at school ended after one year, and that was 1982. And my Camino in France was 2007 - so much later We were travelling by bike with four men and I was the only one who was able to communicate in any foreign language.
The Germans have the prejudice against the French that they refuse to speak a foreign language in their own country. The visitors should speak French. But it was N O T H I N G L I K E T H I S.

I am anything but shy and so I approached people with my few keywords.

"Bonjour madam/monsieur, je ne parle pas français, pelerins de Saint Jacques, une question s'il vous plaît, direction......?"

The problem was to understand the answer🤔🤔 I could understand only left, right, straight ahead, church, bridge

But the french where very helpfull. Fantastic👍

As you said, another thing is a phone call. For Spain I wrote down a few phrases and normally it works quite well.

"Hola, me llamo Michael. Por favor es posible una reservación para hoy (today) or manana (tommorow)? Dos peregrinos, una habitación con dos camas."

Its not perfect grammar, but the important parts are in.

And if you say in your well prepard first sentense all the important information for the people, they will not ask so much😇, because that would be also for me the end of the conversation😭

Normally the owner of the Albergue ask only if I need two single beds or a "matrimonial" (double bed) and where I´m from.

We all learn far too much grammar and far too little speaking in foreign language classes. As a German, I don't care if a visitor masters our complicated articles and cases, but I am happy if he tries to get into conversation with me.

Try it on your next camino with a spanish speaker by your side and you will get better and better with every phone call.

Every try will open the heart of the local people. :D
My Dad said his father taught him that “every person has a right to make a fool of himself now and then.” And for myself, when learning to speak Portuguese, I decided I could be okay with being a source of amusement. Also, charades can be helpful, and amusement for both sides. 😏
 

cbacino

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte - Primitivo (2018)
Via Francigena (2017)
Appalachian Trail (2016)
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
Talking on the phone in a language other than your mother tongue is probably the most challenging form of communication in another language. It took me a couple weeks to try it on the Via Francigena, but the need for a place to sleep trumps feeling embarrassed. Some tips: 1) greet, 2) ask it is the place you think it is, 3) tell them you are a pilgrim, 4) ask if they have a bed for the night or tomorrow, 5) tell them your name; spell it if necessary, 6) repeat as necessary, 7) confirm what you think you understood, 8) thank and goodbye. None of the language needs to be elaborate. You will make mistakes as any language learner will (i.e. young children). Control the conversation, that is you ask the questions. If you let an unsympathetic native speaker control the conversation, you probably won't understand much. I had Spanish in high school in 1966 but managed just fine reserving a bunk every night on the Norte and Primitivo in 2018. Good luck.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Jul-Sept 2019: Ruta Asturianos Lebaniego / Apr 2018 Asturias / May 2016 CP: Portuguese

Beeks

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2019) only 2 weeks available! St. Jean PDP - Pamplona, then Sarria - SDC with the family,

Beeks

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2019) only 2 weeks available! St. Jean PDP - Pamplona, then Sarria - SDC with the family,
I'm laughing because the people I TRY to influence ignore me, yet I have the ability to transform the lives of complete strangers!

Benny has some interesting methods... best of luck!

😆
 

Liz Drew

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 Coastal Portuguese
2018 Via de la Plata
(2019) del Norte
I am an Aussie so bear with me here. I phone ahead, usually on the day, and ask in Spanish whether they speak English. When they sa no, I say Bugger! Then in about 10 seconds I turn on the Spanish part of my brain and stumble through. So, my advice is have a go and speak clearly and slowly,
 

Ivan_Prada

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés-(septiembre 2018)
Portugués-(en planes 2021)
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
Hi Richard:

Don’t be embarrassed in using the Castellano (aka Spanish). First, all languages spoken in Spain are Spanish. Castellano is the most common and is the one also spoken in Latin America, introduced by the Spanish Conquistadores.

I’m native of the Caribbean, where on the three major islands, Spanish is the common language. I’m fluent in both English and Spanish as where I lived (now in South Florida) both languages are taught at same time, from pre-school thru college.

A few years ago, my wife and I, after kids were already managing themselves; decided it was our time to travel. We visited Italy, a few month before the trip, we began to self study Italian with the help of a phone app. One day we were looking for souvenir and entered a store and in broken Italian I asked the store keeper the item we wanted. He replied in English, we bought the item and ready to go; he asked where we were from. Well, we told him and began asking questions about the US elections and candidates. He then said: “we both need to practice our new language skills, so he will speak English and me Italian”.

We spent two hours talking, whenever someone made a mistake, the other would make the correction to the correct word and pronunciation. That was the best schooling I have ever had.......😎

So, don’t be afraid go ahead and speak the Castellano and learn from the mistakes, and if you don’t know how to say it, ask. Don’t worry about the grammar (Spanish grammar is complicated) what you need is develop your confidence to basically communicate your needs.

Buen Camino, Ivan
 

longwayhome

Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJpdP to Santiago ( Sept-Oct 2018)
I have rather a phobia and to some extent it's hampering me on my caminos.

My phobia is speaking foreign languages on the phone, such as is required if you want to ring and book a room. To a lesser extent I get it when speaking face-to-face, asking directions. I get easily flustered and start to feel really embarrassed at my sub-high-school level Spanish or French. I almost always avoid doing it, if there's anyone else about who is prepared to make the phone call for me.

I think at its heart it's a phobia of making a fool of myself, and for as long as I can remember I've carried this idea that to try to speak a language and fail to be understood, or worse, to make dumb mistakes, is extremely embarrassing.

Can anyone else relate to this? How have you coped with or overcome this?
I had my best Duolingo Spanish , and a few hours listening to audio recordings under my belt, so I used Google translate to rough up a few sentences which I would read out ..requesting a bed for "esta noche". I also started with "me llama .."and a Spanish version of my first name..which helped immensely. Often the kind host would slow down and use just a few key words clearly annunciated , and hopefully say "Si" a lot. When I would arrive at the accommodation I was usually met with a wide smile.

The phone however wasn't my most daunting task. The fun really started in the hairdressers where I wanted a cut and colour. After talking about grey hair roots (I think ....though It could have been Greasy Hair) we both decided to brave it! Things took a worrying turn when she asked me did I want a "mask". I looked that up and found she was not about to blindfold me but wanted to offer a conditioner. Later after much hilarity and passing the phone and Translate app around the shop the end result was better than the version at home :)
 

Ivan_Prada

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés-(septiembre 2018)
Portugués-(en planes 2021)
I had my best Duolingo Spanish , and a few hours listening to audio recordings under my belt, so I used Google translate to rough up a few sentences which I would read out ..requesting a bed for "esta noche". I also started with "me llama .."and a Spanish version of my first name..which helped immensely. Often the kind host would slow down and use just a few key words clearly annunciated , and hopefully say "Si" a lot. When I would arrive at the accommodation I was usually met with a wide smile.

The phone however wasn't my most daunting task. The fun really started in the hairdressers where I wanted a cut and colour. After talking about grey hair roots (I think ....though It could have been Greasy Hair) we both decided to brave it! Things took a worrying turn when she asked me did I want a "mask". I looked that up and found she was not about to blindfold me but wanted to offer a conditioner. Later after much hilarity and passing the phone and Translate app around the shop the end result was better than the version at home :)
Yes, that’s a great app; best is free! There is another app called Babbel (you have to pay) is more advanced than Duolingo as it covers verbs, grammar, etc. The key to learn any language is practice. I watch movies and when visiting the country try to watch tv......😋🤪
Buen Camino
 

NorthernLight

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I read somewhere that public speaking is a primal fear, phone speaking is likely an offshoot of that.

My experience with the French is that it isn't the bad grammar and vocabulary that irks them, rather it's the music of the flow. We sound like fingernails on chalkboards to them. My French has improved enough over the years that I can now hear the jarring too. (Yeah!) That said, most French folk along the caminos are lovely and want to be helpful.

French shop keepers also consider "us" boorish and rude because "we" don't start the conversation with a polite greeting. A simple "Bonjour madame/monsieur" goes a long way.
 

Donna Sch

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdLP-Sanabres-Fisterra (Summer 2015); Levante-Invierno (Feb/Mar 2019);
England Camino routes ?2024
I loved mobile phone numbers because I have enough Spanish to write a reasonably fluent request. However I can get completely flustered on the phone. So I would try texting first then if no reply, wait 5 minutes before braving the phone. And I would definitely have my set piece ready lol. It is so much easier speaking face to face.
 

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