Blogger Abroad: Charlie Meets Axel, a Multilingual Train Conductor
Charlie is still studying abroad, navigating his way around Europe on a Eurail Global Pass, and this week he’s checking in with thoughts following a recent conversation with a German train conductor between stops! In his words:
One of the first major differences many Americans realize about Europe is the number of polyglots they encounter. This past month, I traveled by train through 7 different countries and was amazed by how the conductors were able to fluidly jump between languages.
On a few of my longer trips, I had the chance to speak with a few conductors during their “off-time” between stops. One of the conductors I talked to was on a trip from Munich, Germany, to Paris, France. Axel (the conductor) was born in Frankfurt, Germany, and was raised speaking German and English. He explained to me that he saw learning new languages as a factor of life. To paraphrase and translate, he explained that we meet new people nearly every day, but often don’t even consider what the mother tongue of these new people might be.
The difference between “meeting someone” and “having met someone,” Axel explained, is based on the level you communicate with them.
During our ten-minute conversation, other passengers occasionally would interrupt to ask Axel questions regarding upcoming stops. From being brought up bilingually, he was able to answer questions in German, French, English, Polish, and Spanish. I was truly impressed by his determination to communicate, and began to really understand his philosophy towards learning new languages.
Has a conversation in your second language—either at home or abroad—made a lasting impact on you? Tweet us @LeadWLanguages to share your story.