At every course I attend there is always at least one – often more – pearls of wisdom that shine out for me. At our Inclusive Interpretation workshop held at Rapaki Marae and Auckland Zoo last year Gail Richard shared this gem, which is relevant to first-person guiding;
“Find out who is coming on your tour and where they are from. Say hello in their language. If they hear hello – just one word – that will put them at ease.” Gail Richard (NAI)
This summer I had the chance to join a group of tourists from various countries – as a customer myself – on a guided kayak tour. It was a mixed group, with Aussies, Chinese, a Swiss family and us – 18 in total. Our guides were lovely, personable young men. Outdoor enthusiasts – you know the type. They started the tour with wine and cheese; very convivial. But as I observed them struggle at times throughout the trip with keeping the group together and safe, communicating not only with a mixed group with different levels of English understanding, but the extra challenge of communicating across water, I remembered Gail’s gem and realised that something was missing. They never really asked us who we were. Or said hello. It would be such an easy thing to do and would add infinitely to their visitor’s experience. And perhaps ultimately feel part of a group that is connected – even if only for the three hours of our kayak tour.
Gail had lots of other terrific tips for communicating with an audience with mixed languages and all would have been relevant in this situation. But for the purposes of this blog I’d like to suggest this one as a New Year’s resolution to anyone who deals with non-English speakers; find out who your own most common customers are, and learn how to say hello in their language. I’d love to hear from anyone that gives this a go.
Here is a checklist of ten to get you started…
Bonjour (good day) – French
There are around 114.8 million people who speak French – it’s the official language in many European and African countries including Belgium, Rwanda and Niger, as well as Canada and pacific countries closer to home such as Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world – at least 50% of China’s 1.3 bn population speak it.
Nay hoh – Cantonese (Yue)
This language is spoken in Southern China, Hong Kong and Macau
Ohayo / Konnichiwa / Konban wa- Japanese
Japanese is pretty much only spoken in Japan, but we get plenty of Japanese visitors to New Zealand so it’s worth adding into your arsenal. The greetings above are used in the morning, around midday and evening – in that order.
Spoken in both North and South Korea.
Namaste – Hindi
Derived from ancient Sanskrit, Namaste literally means “bow to you” and is used as a greeting and farewell in India and Nepal.
Shalom (hello; peace) – Hebrew
Israelis are common independent travellers in many of parks and outdoor places and shalom can be used to greet and farewell them.
Hola – Spanish
Outside Spain, Spanish is the main language of all Central and South American countries (except Brazil) and is the second most common language in the United States of America.
Hallo / Guten tag – German
German is spoken in Germany, Austria and Switzerland
Jambo / Habari – Swahili
Around 80 million people speak Swahili, it’s the official language of five African nations including Tanzania and Kenya, but is fairly well known throughout eastern Africa.
Of course, Aotearoa New Zealand has two official languages. So for a uniquely ‘kiwi’ experience for your visitors, why not use a Te Reo Māori greeting…
Kia ora – hello (informal)
Tēnā koe / kōrua / koutou – hello (formal, to one person / two people / a group)
Print off this “Global Greetings” check sheet below for a handy pocket-sized resource. It will be placed in our INNZ website members area as a PDF as well.
For more languages, pronunciation tips or to learn how to say thank you and sorry there are plenty of clips on YouTube – if you can work around the cheesy backing track I found these ones from ‘inDifferentLanguages’ quite good.