Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Tour Organisation & langauge

Over the past week I have been trying to finalise the details of the visit by the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society in June. I have been driving round and visiting the sites, booking tours, arranging translations and organising meals. And it looks like I may have managed it, with a few exceptions everything is booked.

In order to do this I have had to take a deep breath and walk in to offices of the various sites. I am not by nature an extrovert, even if I sometimes put on a good show. I have always found talking on the telephone to people I don't know agonizing. And since my last famous career went bung, I have become even less confident to the point of shyness. So there I was walking in to offices. I should I suppose be walking in thinking, "I am bringing 32 people and their money to your establishment, aren't you lucky?" But no, I am wondering whether I will be able to communicate, I hope to heaven that I can open my mouth.

You see there is another problem. When I started grammar school, due to a stay in hospital, I missed the first few weeks of French lessons. After that things got worse - the French teacher, for reasons I still don't understood, took a dislike to me. French lessons were agony, she would ask me questions or ask me to read a passage and then humiliate me, of course that made things worse and I became tongue-tied and stuttering. Before the lessons (which were every day but Friday - you see I remember it to this day) you would find me in the toilets trying not to be sick. Such is the power of malevolent teachers that I still find impossible to speak any foreign language, I turn into that stuttering 11 year old. I can sit in the Student Agency bus and understand maybe 30/40% of the Czech subtitles to the film they are showing, but open my mouth and answer the simplest question, forget it.

So how did I get on? Firstly I found that I knew most of the words I needed, and with a little help from a friend with what declension goes with "pro" was able to come up with a bit of a script. Secondly of course I didn't always need it when I went in to the office, I was talked to in English as soon as they heard my accent. And thirdly everyone was charming and keen to put me at ease, apologising for not speaking English or speaking English badly, which often they weren't. I suppose one could say it was because they were grateful for the business. I prefer to think that it was because the Czechs are lovely.


Karen said...

I think it's cause the Czechs are lovely too.

What a great phrase though "my career went bung." It's British English. Translate for my American ears :-)

John Wilkinson said...

When I was in Thailand I found that when I attemtped to speak Thai it didn't really matter how bad I was - they were just humbled by the fact that I was attempting to speak their languae. I guess it made a pleasant change from the leagues of other obnoxious tourists who just automatically expect English-speaking service.

Anonymous said...

Of course it's because we Czechs are lovely :D

Thank you

But I think the business thing was a strong reason too :)

sarka, your regular reader

Philip Wilkinson said...

I am full of deep admiration for the way you have managed.

potok said...

Well actually Karen it is Australian slang originally - aborigine in fact - meaning dies, goes bust etc

See the autobiographical novel My Career Goes Bung (pub 1946) by feminist author Miles Franklin.

Karen said...

What a great pity it is that we American English speakers can't appropriate your Brit and Oz slang without it sounding pretentious.

There is no way I could get away with calling something "posh" or it "bloody well better..." or exclaim the way English men cry out "bullocks!" when they think something is malarkey.

Brits can get away with Oz slang but I dare say us Yanks better stick to their own!

How exciting to learn about a new feminist author too.

potok said...


English men (and women sometimes) actually shout "bollocks" which are precisely what bullocks do not have!

Karen said...

Ok, that one might need an explanation in person!


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