Is it all Greek to you? Find more vocal confidence by trying that foreign language on holiday.

Are you going abroad on holiday?  Are you going somewhere you don’t speak the language?

If you hate speaking in public, because you don’t know whether or not you’re going to say something wrong, or if people are going to judge you – a great way to start boosting your confidence is when you’re on holiday.

I know it can be intimidating, and yes, I’ve been told off in France for not asking with the right inflection or accent (I was about 9 years old!) but I’ve found one of the easiest ways to get a smile from a local, or someone who works at the hotel, is to use a phrase or two in their own language.

This is a great way to boost your confidence with speaking, because if you receive a smile from someone, you’ll smile too and that makes you feel good.  Often you’ll get an acknowledgement of gratitude from whoever you’ve spoken to – and even if you don’t get the words right, a thank you for making the attempt, where so many people don’t.Let’s be honest – the British as a whole are lazy when it comes to languages, because so many people speak ours.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try – how often do you go to a conference, or event, and everyone is speaking English as the common language?  If others can find the confidence to speak at events in their 2nd or 3rd language – you can have a go at saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in a language that is foreign to you.

Picking up a few words and using them on holiday is a no-risk way to improve your public speaking skills because you’re never going to see these people again.  It’s actually also a way to get served quicker in the places you go to regularly (because they like you better), and to assert yourself if you need to – a quick “La shukraan” (“no thank you” – say it La-ah Shock-ran) carried more weight to it through the markets of Egypt for me, than just shaking my head or an embarrassed ‘No thank you’.

Asking how to pronounce or say things is a guaranteed way to endear yourself to the hotel staff, a shopkeeper, waiter, or taxi driver – to build a bit of a relationship, and we always get treated better by those we have a relationship with than those who think we are cold. Trying out a few phrases and asking ‘is that right?’ makes those you ask feel special.

So, how can you improve your vocal confidence and public speaking skills on holiday?

Here are a few key words and phrases that I find the most useful, and as they are the ones that are most common, you’ll be repeating them, and practising something helps us get better at it:

  1. Thank-you … if you only learn ONE phrase then this will be it – a thank you goes a long way
  2. Please – because it’s always nice
  3. No – useful in conjunction with ‘Thank You’ especially in haggle-heavy cultures
  4. Yes – useful in conjunction with both ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and to confirm you’ve understood something
  5. How much is that? – Before you say ‘no’ with a laugh or smile on your face to get in to the haggle
  6. Numbers – learning 1 to 12 is useful for time – and multiples of 20 for payment can be helpful – but this is also what fingers on hands are for!
  7. Do you speak English? – If it’s getting tricky this one can get you out of a sticky situation – or let you know whether you will be doing your best sign language
  8. What is this? – Handy for menus where you’re not sure what you might be eating … if your waiter doesn’t have much English get ready for more charades fun!
  9. Where is the toilet? – handy if you ate something off a menu that doesn’t agree with you!
  10. Beer / Wine / sun-downer of choice – use in conjunction with your numbers and enjoy!

Of course, you could not bother with any of the above, carry on hiding from speaking where you’re not confident and fall back on that old faithful technique of, shout very loudly and slowly at whoever you’re speaking to whilst making random shapes with your hands and face.

Happy holidays!

Let me know where you’re going to and what you’re going to try – and when you’re back from your break, tell me how it worked!

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Thank you montage image by WoodleyWonderWorks on Flikr

Cartoon by Markus Koljonen on Flikr website: