Unfortunately, most of us either do not have the opportunity or think we are not capable of learning too many languages. Few of us have the language fluency that the average German English translator has. This can sometimes take its toll when we visit a country where we cannot speak a word of the local language. Recently, a Chinese tourist fell foul of his language deficiency when on holiday as a tourist in Germany.
This man was on a solo visit to the country when he discovered his wallet had been stolen. Like any of us this was a frightening thing to happen and he immediately went to a local police station to report the matter. He could not communicate effectively in either German or English which put him in a difficult position. Misunderstanding his intentions the person who was trying to help him handed him an asylum seeker’s request form. He filled this in somehow or other and in no time at all he was asked to board a bus with what it seemed was a large group of refugees. The bus offloaded the group in the city of Dortmund a while later.
On arrival, German officials took away his passport, took his fingerprints, conducted a medical examination and handed him some pocket money. He finally arrived in a German town called Dülman, close to the Dutch border.
At the end of this needless journey, a Red Cross volunteer worker worked out that this Chinese man was not in the right place. The volunteer went into a neighbouring Chinese restaurant to seek some help at uncovering the truth about the confused tourist. It was soon discovered that the man was on his way to do a bit of hiking in Italy when all this took place. He was unable to explain his way out of the situation because of language difficulties he had encountered.
The story seems funny but it could happen to any one of us if we happened to be in exactly the same situation in a place where we were not familiar with the language but needed help. On reflection, it’s a bit strange that the police didn’t do what the Red Cross volunteer did so quickly later on and find a German Chinese translator to find out what the problem was. In fact, most German translators are often adept at dealing with other languages or have contacts with other translation agencies that would probably have helped in the circumstances.
The other side of the story is not to go hiking in Europe unless you can speak at least one European language a bit better or take one of those ubiquitous electronic translators with you.