Author Topic: Thanking people when you don't know if they understand you?  (Read 968 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Ereine

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1128
Thanking people when you don't know if they understand you?
« on: August 11, 2010, 10:20:23 AM »
A group of possibly Romanian construction workers live in my building, there's an apartment that's shared with a number of them. They haven't immigrated here, they just stay for some time doing the work, so I don't think that they have much to do with the surrounding culture and don't really have any need to learn the language. They seem to be polite people and always open doors for me when we're at the door at the same time (I don't have much to do with any of my neighbours, I just sometimes see them in the stairway). I've usually thanked them in Finnish, but I'm not sure if it's correct. I don't think that they speak it, but then I'm not sure they speak English either (I could thank them in German, Dutch and Swedish also but I don't think that they would help either). I'm not actually sure that they're Romanian, though it's the likeliest possibility so finding out the word in Romanian won't help me. I have no interest in getting to know them and asking them.

So, I think that thanking them in Finnish would be the best choice, as I think that even if you're in a country for some months you should pick up some common words (like I did in Holland) and even if they don't understand what I say they could maybe deduce it from the context. What do you think?

WasabiWithYou

  • You have to give in to the champagne sometimes.
  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1162
Re: Thanking people when you don't know if they understand you?
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2010, 10:36:31 AM »
Whenever I have traveled to a country where I don't speak the native language, I have at least made an effort to learn (at minimum) the basic phrases for things like "please" and "thank you." Even if that's all one learns, they tend to go a long way. So personally, I think it's possible that they do understand when you thank them in Finnish.

Unless you are sure about their country of origin/spoken language (and it sounds as though you have some doubt), I would probably advise against making any presumptions and thanking them in the language you THINK they speak. It might be incorrect, and may embarrass both you and them.

Don't forget: a courteous smile and pleasant tone is the same in just about any language. :)

Edited spelling mistake, as "think" is not the same as "thank!"

Yvaine

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 9025
Re: Thanking people when you don't know if they understand you?
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2010, 10:52:57 AM »
OP, I am guessing you are in Finland?  :) (I did a double take, wondering why you'd thank Romanian workers in Finnish, and then belatedly had my "Everyone is not in the US, silly!" epiphany. D'oh!)

They probably recognize "thank you" in Finnish; I agree with Wasabi that they probably learned this phrase in order to get by, and even if they didn't, they probably can guess what you're saying if they do something nice and you respond with a smile and a short phrase. I have run into this situation too, and I think almost everybody can figure out when they're being thanked.  ;D

MommyPenguin

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4562
    • My blog!
Re: Thanking people when you don't know if they understand you?
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2010, 11:29:29 AM »
I agree with the others, I think they'd probably know the word for "thank you," and if they don't, it's usually apparent by context.  If I held the door open for someone and they responded, "Danke!" or "Merci!" or basically any short phrase with a smile, I'd take that to mean "Thank you!"

Ereine

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1128
Re: Thanking people when you don't know if they understand you?
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2010, 11:39:27 AM »
Unless you are sure about their country of origin/spoken language (and it sounds as though you have some doubt), I would probably advise against making any presumptions and thanking them in the language you THINK they speak. It might be incorrect, and may embarrass both you and them.

That's what I'm afraid of and I would feel completely silly trying to say "mulţumiri" which apparently is "thank you" in Romanian or so Google tells me (I think that they're Romanian because they must be from some EU country and during the three years I've lived here there's been quite many of them and all of them have been rather dark and there aren't many countries like that where construction workers come from but that's hardly a good basis for guessing their nationality). I'll continue thanking in Finnish and I'll to make more effort at looking at them and smiling, it's a bit difficult for me, though I like to think that I'm pleasant enough.

Marleigh

  • Guest
Re: Thanking people when you don't know if they understand you?
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2010, 12:37:46 PM »
A nod (just a slight tipping of the head) and a warm smile should communicate "thank you" in any language.

zoidberg

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2000
Re: Thanking people when you don't know if they understand you?
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2010, 12:40:23 PM »
A nod (just a slight tipping of the head) and a warm smile should communicate "thank you" in any language.

This. Just say thank you in Finnish while dipping your head a bit and smiling. I'm sure they'll understand.