September 10th, 2008
Good communication between home exchangers is always important. But when you don’t share a common language with your home exchange partner, communication becomes essential for a successful swap. Don’t hesitate to raise any remaining issues that you might have and leave detailed instructions about your home before the swap begins. To give you an example, I sent a simplified version of our personal Home Exchange Guide (Google translated into Spanish) to the Spanish home exchangers a few weeks before the swap. That gave them enough time to ask further questions.
In return, little posts in English stuck to kitchen cabinets helped us to orient ourselves, when we arrived at their apartment. (It always touches me to find such thoughtful and caring signs left behind to ease the trip of the home exchange guests.)
Despite our careful preparations we still encountered a misunderstanding due to the language barrier at the last minute. The Spanish home exchangers arrived at the train station in Tutzing where we live and picked up our car. In the car, they found a bunch of keys among them car and house key - just as agreed (or so I thought). Our direct neighbors had an additional house key for emergencies…
The Spanish home exchangers arrived after a flight across Europe and a long train ride, only to find out that the neighbor who was supposed to have our house key was not home. Imagine the situation! Luckily, I had informed several of our neighbors of our expected home exchange guests. One of them called us on our mobile – meanwhile we were crossing and enjoying the vast Catalonian landscape on our way to the Pyrenees. It took only a moment to explain that our house key had been there all along.
At last, the way was cleared for a joyful stay of the Spanish home exchangers at our home!
September 9th, 2008
What seemed trying to push our luck a bit too far not long ago, became a new challenge this early year, when we received a very interesting home exchange offer from Spain. It was composed in Spanish. My husband’s Spanish language skills would have been very usefully now, but as he was unavailable due to a very heavy workload, I could not resort to his wonderful language abilities. My Spanish is literally “nada”, but since I am the one doing our personal home exchange corresponding normally anyway, I decided to try something new.
Google translation of the home exchange invitation. The result was not too good. The translation tool hadn’t recognized some of the words. These words were placed in Spanish within the English translation. The syntax was baffling. However, I was able to understand the overall message. I liked the message and it felt good, but I needed some more reassurance whether I could trust my own judgment under the circumstances.
I sent the email to a friend – a native of Argentina. On the phone, he translated the message word for word for me. His first comment was: “This is a very polite, kind letter”. He only confirmed what had showed through the imperfect Google translation already.
After consulting with my family, I replied favorably to the home exchange offer. I wrote my message in English and added the Spanish Google translation for easier reading. And that is how I kept up my correspondence with the Spanish home exchangers.
A last language hurdle before the home exchange arrival, next…
September 1st, 2008
Have you ever turned down a home exchange offer because of communication problems? I am not talking about misunderstandings that can arise sometimes in communicating with a potential swapper. I am talking about the challenge of overcoming a language barrier.
No doubt, English is the lingua franca among home exchangers. With so many other languages spoken, especially in Europe, it could happen though, that you receive a home exchange offer composed in French, Italian, Spanish, or in another unfamiliar language.
Is it possible and advisable to do a home exchange under such circumstances?
A few years ago and with less home exchange experiences to count on, I always immediately and politely turned down such offers. Communicating is such a vital part of a successful home exchange. No wonder, I did not feel comfortable trying to arrange a home exchange under the circumstances.
And that is what I still advise today. If you are new to home exchange, get yourself familiar with the concept first, before tackling the language barrier.
Next, for the advanced home exchanger: How to successfully overcome a language barrier.