Written by Ellis Ian Fields
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Monday, 19 September 2011

image for Talk Strange To Be Understood Abroad, Says Expert
They will understand you.

English tourists are being advised by a travel expert to adopt bizarre accents if they want to be understood by waiters and sales staff abroad.

EIF News & Features' Travel Editor Peregrine Trip reckons the traditional method of making yourself understood - speaking loudly and slowly - is no longer good enough. He realised there was a problem during a recent visit to Dubrovnik, in Croatia.

The Pearl of the Adriatic, as Byron called it, is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, very few of whom speak Croatian and therefore have to get by as best they can in English.

"It really is one of those places that sound like the Tower Of Babel after God rather abruptly halted the building project," says Trip. "There are of course Anglophones, but there are Japanese, western, eastern, and northern Europeans. None of them, of course, speaks Serbo-Croatian, so English is the lingua franca."

But Mr and Mrs Trip, despite speaking perfect English, found it difficult to make themselves understood when ordering food or asking for the bill.

"It was frustrating initially, but after a day or two it dawned on me that what the waiters and so on hear mostly is an English strangled by European or oriental accents, or even, indeed, spoken by our friends from the Antipodes or America.

"So when they hear, 'I say, may I have the bill please?' They don't understand - they are more accustomed to hearing 'Ken ve heff zee beel, pleece,' 'Hiy, mate? We need the bill?' with that exasperating upward inflection, or even 'Iss pay pureeze'. And this is becoming a problem for English travellers more and more these days.

"So for the rest of the visit I entertained myself by adopting a different accent everywhere we went. Spanish was great fun, but the gesticulating and drama that goes along with Italian is guaranteed to get you noticed."

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