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Language Barrier

by drj3 Online Now Jun 28, 2010 at 1:20 AM

I am planning a short travel period through Togo (and Benin) which I know are primarily French-speaking and local language. Unfortunately, I am English-speaking only (w/ survival arabic, spanish & german), am I going to be able to "get by"? I've traveled enough to know that charades/universal hand signals are a wonderful thing and usually I run into enough people that speak/understand English to some degree.... but from what I am reading--this is not the case in these two countries. Is being monolinguistic/non-French speaking a deal-breaker for basic and brief travel in these countries?

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  • cochinjew's Profile Photo

    Re: Language Barrier

    by cochinjew Online Now Jun 28, 2010 at 2:33 AM

    For Short visits to Togo and Benin, english/spanish because of its similarity to many french words and sign language should be fine. it is difficult to interact with local educated people since almsot all speak only french.. i did two trips.. cote d ivoire to ghana to togo to benin up to the border with nigeria.. did have an english speaking driver and border crossings were a breeze and togo is a very narrow country if you are just hugging along the coast.. if you are in Benin, please dont forget to visit Ouidah
    also read Bruce Chatwin's The Viceroy of Ouidah if you have not already done so, a movie with klaus kinski i think was made out of it..
    I am english and spanish speaking and i managed quite well..

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  • Re: Language Barrier

    by WildJasmyne20 Online Now Jun 29, 2010 at 5:09 AM

    I was just in Togo for my marriage in April and loved it. These two countries are sandwiched between Ghana and Nigeria and the southern areas (Lome, Cotonou) have a lot of people who speak at least some basic English. Every hotel I went to in Togo had at least one person who could understand most of what I said. You should be fine. But picking up a French phrasebook would help a lot with some of the more specific requests. If anything you can look up the phrase and show it to someone then they can help you out a little bit. You're going to have a great time! If you get a chance in Lome head to the Hotel Coco Beach for a really superb beach day, its just out of town, the hotel is pricey but the ocean here is safe for swimming and they have a very relaxed space there.

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