Lost in Translation: the tram edition

Language can be a funny thing can’t it. How do two people who have no common language communicate? How does that attempt to communicate change over generations of people?


Let me tell you about a tram ride I took.

Picture this… Riga, Latvia. Ad and I are sitting on a tram. We know where we want to go and roughly how to get there. Even so we don’t know which stop to get off at, so I have the  iPad on my lap, watching as the blue dot moves ever closer to our destination.

This would be when Ad notices the old man sitting across from us staring at the iPad himself. We thought he was just interested in the map, so we decide to show him. It then became a case of zooming in, zooming out, pointing to places and trying to understand when we mispronounced names and him pronouncing them so correct they sound made up. His wife (or lady friend) sitting next to him then decides to help and we manage to understand a single street name they are telling us. We nod thinking this is them telling us where we are and point on the map where it is.

This is where we start thinking he wasn’t interested in the iPad…

Tapping the shoulder of the young couple next to him, he starts talking to themin Latvian. They look at us and shrug their shoulders. Ad and I continue to sit unsure of what will happen next. The old man then looks around trying to catch someone else’s attention. He manages it and a man comes over to us (moving his way through a full tram to do this) and after conversing with each other for a bit the man turns to us and asks “do you need help?”

This was when we realised the old man thought we were lost and was trying his best, despite not being able to communicate, to help us. He actively went out of his way to find someone to communicate with us. We did politely thank him and the man he brought over to help us and assured them we weren’t lost..

But I’d like to thank all the people who, especially over the last few months, tried to help find hotels (from the guy in Mostar who even rung the hostel manager to come and get us)  to those who just stopped to chat to find out we were doing or to practice their english on us (again in Mostar).

 I’ve added this post to the Lost in Translation travel link up with Emma, Kelly, Rebecca and Sam. Thanks for another great topic this month! 


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