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Question of the Week: Language barriers with guests. How do you deal with them?

Language barriers can be frustratingly complex, especially when important information about the property needs to be conveyed. How do you manage communication and cultivate friendliness when you and your guests don’t speak the same language?

Translate your templates?

Illustrate property and appliance signage?

Use a voice interpretation app?

Share your tips and photos in the comments below. We’ll feature the top ones in our October monthly recap!

18 Replies

7
fluff

Smart phones with spoken Google Translate, a god send!

Any important signs are multi lingual. (just the 3 most used here)

Templates are indeed in more than one language.

10 months ago
5
Sara Jarvis

I asked some of my favourite guests on the other site to write their reviews in their language, I have also added bits in Chinese, Russian, Potugese etc to my listing it really draws guests.

I change it periodically to German, French etc.....even if they speak English they love it.

10 months ago
5
Sara Jarvis

My new guest who arrived from Manila last night was soooooo glued to his google translate whattapping me too much , with irrelevant comments; then when he arrived his English was perfect he is doing a PHD .....so I told him my phone will be switched off, as he wanted to carry on messages after he was installed.

I think some people are addicted to their phones and miss the joy of travel.Thank goodness he’s gone to take the Harry Potter tour all day.

10 months ago
9
M Adamopoulou

Very nice topic Laura. All of my guests so far has spoken English so I had no problem. My house rules are only in English. Thanks Sara for your helpful information. I mostly liked your idea of adding bits in different languages in your listing. Very helpful and thoughtful it makes guests admire you more and fill thankful. Thanks again for mention it.

10 months ago
1
Mzsingitana Te…

For every booking I get, I normally check what is their preferred langauge and send them a message in their langauge using google translate.

10 months ago
1
Mzsingitana Te…

For every booking I get, I normally check what is their preferred langauge and send them a message in their langauge using google translate.

10 months ago
5
Sara Jarvis

Thank you M.ADAMOPOULOU...For the compliment.It has its funny side, I asked my Phillipino cleaner to write a welcome email to current guest, she did it at home to cut and paste and looked embarrassed when I asked what is the language called...she replied. Ragatag”. Was she pulling my leg? Or worse she may be illiterate and didn’t want to say......shall I drop it?

10 months ago
3
Villa Junona Croatia
Yes, to cope with language barriers was not so easy for a relatively small team running a hotel in the very popular Summer destination. To say the truth, it appeared to be unexpected. We altogether speak (more or less fluently) 6 languages – Croatian, English, Russian, French, German and Portuguese.
The worst situation happened in the middle of August when everybody worked up to 16 hours a day and sometimes there was a girl at the reception who speaks three languages, but no Croatian.
There was a guest form Croatia, staying with us just a night. After she left she wrote a negative review. It was not so bad, actually. She admitted that the view was fantastic, the place was comfortable and the room was very good and clean. (Pogled je predivan. Kvart je tih. Soba je uredna.) But she was furious for having to speak English where in Croatia. (Nije mi se svidjelo što u Republici Hrvatskoj recepcionerka ne priča hrvatskim jezikom nego smo se morali sporazumjeti na engleskom.)
Actually we sometimes had guests, mostly from Hungary, who endlessly used google translate application. It was a real disaster. Sometimes we can not understand each other cause voice interpreter said something weird such as "water does not pass water”, so we ended up using international words, pictures and pantomimes.


That time I caught myself thinking it is time to start learning new languages. But which ones? So I investigate the issue and put together the data about all our guests. What I found out you can see at the diagrams. We had guests from 30 countries, they spoke 20 languages. The most popular were Polish and German. And what about Croatian? It is at the 10-th place. Less that 4% of our guests spoke Croatian.
9 months ago
1
Alex Cameron

Google translate has been incredibly helpful especially with Chinese.

9 months ago
1
Vakbapartments

Google translate has been amazing, and my guest get excited when I am making the effort to speak the language with them. I kind of feel good to. It creates some sort of ease and comfort to the guest.

9 months ago
1
Stephenandrichard

Im Scottish living in France and hosting people from various countries around the world, when i first arrived in France i had very little French at all, and it was indeed a baptism of fire to learn some basic vocabulary very quickly as for some reason i thought all my guests would be from the UK...what was i thinking?. Anyway i learned to practice pre written pieces especially all my do's and donts, and places of interest etc etc. I also cook for guests and nothing is more global than the language of food, and it is amazing what you can pick up, also i have found guests are keen to learn wee bits of your language, i speak Doric Scots and so many fun times have been had. I also use a brilliant app called Deepl that translates languages more accurately than google translate...as my french guests have been very quick to point out!.

Happy hosting.

Richard.

9 months ago
2
wendy crews

In our small hostel we only speak English. Most visitors coming to New Zealand have at least basic understanding of the language. In the winter we have a large group of South Koreans stay for 2 months. There is usually one of them who speaks English well. With the others I usually get them to show me what they need. We have had no problems.

9 months ago
2
Alasma

Google translate is at hand if we struggle with language.True there is always 1person in group as a translator.

9 months ago
2
Jan Anderson

I had guests this summer from France - quite limited English. They had left their bedroom window open and I needed to close it while they were gone (rain coming in). I did the Google translate message to explain what I had done - so they didn't think I was snooping in their room. The gentleman had left a pair of shoes on the windowsill which I had to move in order to close the window. So I typed out the message and left it attached to their bedroom door :) This worked well!

Jan

Fireflies Bed & Breakfast

9 months ago
3
Martina Stoecker

I'm a bit concerned about translating with Google. A welcome letter is o.k. but as text is translated sometimes very funny I decided not to go further.

Once I had a review in Russian on TripAdvisor where I only could respond in the same language. When I re-translated into German it was awful. But in that case I had no other choice.

I am testing Linguee now ( thanks to Stephenandrichard ).

Until today we have never had any problems with guests speaking foreign languages. Of course guests from Germany are very happy to be welcomed and hosted in their home language.

Even Africaans has never been a problem, as it is quite similar to my home language.

Sunny greetings / sonnige Gruesse

aus Wilderness

9 months ago
7
Katerinka12

Dear partners,

Is it really something new to you - Google translate? And do you really care if in country X guests speak A, B and C? :)

I just wonder, why no one of you offered help in translating? Are we on Partner Help?

If you need good/bad/happy/etc review in Russian, please, drop me a message on the forum and you will receive good,, well written and not funny (promise!) review.

P. S. How I wish to know how to speak Chinese. I will be rich then :))

9 months ago
7
fluff

Oh yes, Chinese would be excellent.

Thank you Katerinka12 for your offer of Russian translating, I just may call on you for that one, I can offer Spanish and Total-Gobble-De-Gook in return!

My usual method, especially written, for translating is run it through Google translate, then translate it back again. Often you see some hilarious mis-translations, just adjust the terminology and grammar in your own language until the back-translation comes out OK. The verbal service can be a little hit and miss but worth a go as it's usually close enough for both parties to work out.

Oh, I can also swear in French, German, Italian and Gujarati!

9 months ago
9
M Adamopoulou

Katerinka12 very thoughtful of you to help us all with the translation. This summer I had guests for a 7 day stay from St. Petersburg for a 4 day stay from Moscow. I missed my review from the firtst one because they were oldies and only spoke Russian and it was hard for me to explain to them about sending a review. Next time I will certainly ask for your help. Russians love my country and we have many visitors coming all year round, actually they came to Greece to buy an appartment in Oropos. The Romanian guests I had, wrote their review in their language so I also used google for translation. It was excellent but the translation was a little weird.

I liked the idea Sara suggested " have also added bits in Chinese, Russian, Potugese etc to my listing it really draws guests". I would like to add something in Russian, can you write me something attractive? Thanks in advance.

9 months ago