Bridge languages – great for camping

The other day I was discussing with an American lady the concept of bridge languages, where people who don´t necessarily know the language of the person they are speaking to, but can communicate via a third language.  Often people use English but sometimes there is a better option.  Here is a story my friend told me of using French between an English-speaker and an Italian-speaker.  She said:

″speaking of “bridge languages” you remind me of a time I was backpacking/hiking in Corsica, and in a tent a few feet away someone was snoring like crazy. Not knowing what language the guy spoke, I called out in pleading, American-accented French: “s’il vous plaît, monsieur, je ne peux pas dormir!” “Please sir, I can’t sleep!” Lots of giggles and a few loud laughs came from all around in other tents, and I knew I wasn’t alone. Snoring is hard for anyone! His friend (in Italian) got him to roll over. ″

These are a few times that I have found a bridge langauge useful:

Discussing lawn mowers:

  • Speaking French to a man from Portugal, in England
  • Speaking French to a man from Italy, in France

Discussing all sorts of things at work, in a shed, weeding and labelling perennial plants in Germany:

  • Speaking French to a man from Congo (French is widely used in Africa). 
  • Speaking German to a lady from Thailand and a lady from Morocco

… and there are more examples, but you get the picture. 

Have you any examples?  I would like to hear about them.


About Fun with languages

Blogging about learning languages, making it fun Hobbies: paragliding, cycling, reading, BBC radio 4.
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2 Responses to Bridge languages – great for camping

  1. I had a fun experience in Paris that involved French, English, and German. Three couples were sitting side-by-side at 3 small tables. On the left was an older couple. The husband spoke only French. The wife spoke French and German. In the middle was a British couple who had lived in Germany. They were speaking to the French woman in German when my friend and I sat down. My friend speaks English and has forgotten most of her high school French. I speak French and English. The six of us ended up conversing but we needed 3 languages to hold the conversation What fun!

    • Thanks for sending us this story. I love seeing the look on people´s faces when then can´t figure out what is going on. It reminds me a time when I must have had that look on my own face. I was at a swimming pool when I was about 17, listening to group of kids talking to eachother in French, German and Italian, all quite relaxed and apparently not aware that they were doing anything strange, just talking.

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