Kiri and


A language barrier and a lake

June 22nd, 2014 (by Steve)

Up until now, language hasn’t been a barrier for us in our communication and everyday life on the trip. We’ve made sure that everywhere we go, we can say the basics (“hello”, “please”, “thank you”, “1-10”, “where is the toilet?”, etc) in the local language and for everything else, we’ve either been in a situation that needs few words (like a supermarket), or a place where people speak English. OK, our pronunciation might not always have been great (I’d like to especially apologise to the Dutch here), but we’ve been able to communicate.

However, all this was to change this week as we left Budapest and made our way to Lake Balaton. We’ve got a Hungarian friend back in the UK (incidentally one of the people who had a go at soldering Bertha’s previous water heater) and when he found out that we would be travelling through Hungary, he said that we must visit his Mum. A great idea… only she doesn’t speak English, and we don’t speak Hungarian. Having received text message instructions on how to find her house and that our host would “probably try to feed you”, we arrived, not sure what to expect at all. What followed was an incredibly warm welcome with lashings of pork goulash and home-pickled vegetables. Our verbal communication left a lot to be desired, but with the help of a map and pointing and a few odd words of English / Hungarian here and there, we vaguely understood each other (maybe?!). There was clearly a barrier though, as we would have loved to have asked her about herself and her experiences of living through communism, as well as sharing our adventures… but we couldn’t. Some things don’t need words though, such as our appreciation of the Trabant in her back garden!

I’ve been aware of our reliance on other people speaking English in order to have any meaningful kind of conversation on this trip, but maybe not quite the scale of it until this point. Obviously, in an ideal world, we would have tried to be fluent in the languages of every country we’ve visited, but it’s just not possible when we’re spending so little time in each one, and it’s even harder with a language like Hungarian that’s so different from the surrounding countries. At least with Poland and Slovakia, we’ve been able to rely on what we picked up of Slovenian and Serbian to help prompt us (as they’re all part of the Slavic family). I’ve enjoyed observing the origins and commonalities between languages, which seem to remain as lingering shadows of past politics. I’m sure it’s no coincidence, given the history of Europe in the last 100 years, that German has proven a very useful language to converse in where the local language and English have failed. I’m so grateful for the basic language skills that I picked up at school!

The other area of language that I’ve observed with interest is that of late 20th and early 21st century words. There is no doubt that we live in an international world these days, so as new “things” enter the vernacular of a culture, they don’t appear to be constrained to a region. Internet. Email. Blog. Emoticon. OK, they’re pretty big “things”, but it’s interesting that the same word is used in multiple languages… is this a tiny step towards the start of language convergence?

I think what I’m trying to say through all this is that I’ve only just realised how much the etymology and history of languages fascinates me. Maybe one day we’ll move to a country where the first language isn’t English and I’ll have an excuse to dedicate proper time to learning a new language. Maybe Wales?

Anyway, after all of those words, I’ll let pictures speak about our last few days (where we stayed for free!) next to Lake Balaton:

Lake Balaton is incredibly beautiful, no matter what the light is doing

We were about 500 metres away from this sign and the police didn't seem to mind we were there

With no showers, the lake provided a great place to keep clean... as long as you ignored the dead fish

We had a slight break away from the lake to be bitten by mosquitoes as we watched England lose to Uruguay

We had some awesome sunsets with cracking light

We really didn't want to say goodbye at the end

All posts about Hungary

Slovakia, we meet again

A language barrier and a lake

Budapest BOGOF

Hello Hungary

3 Responses

I love your pics-the lake looks cold though!

Regarding language IF you have le wifi there is a smartphone app called iTranslate. You set your language to English & choose your other language. Speak in English & there is a quick written and spoken translation for you to repeat.
It’s great BUT it has to be quiet when you speak otherwise you could inadvertently say something rude!
Love your videos-will you post them when back in UK?

God Bless,


Now you realise why many people made such an effort with Esperanto…. They say that 52% of communication is via body language anyroad.

Best wishes


Thanks Roger + Richard. Surprisingly, the lake was quite warm; certainly compared to British sea temperature in the summer. As for the language, sadly we don’t have a smartphone with us (uses too much battery). Richard, I’d never heard of Esperanto; it sounds like a very intriguing concept!

Videos-wise, they’re very time-intensive to edit, so the plan is to keep shooting footage on the road, then do the editing when we get back to the UK.

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