Ever wondered how truck drivers cope with language barriers as they travel across Europe?
Meet Pete. Pete has spent his whole working life on the road, trying to learn some of the languages as he drove. Pete told us about his life travelling through Europe, from young adventurer to truck driver to businessman, and how he has developed his languages along the way.
Pete grew up in the Lake District area in the North West of England, but he got his first taste of a life on the road pretty early on. First of all, he set off as a boy travelling round Europe, often hitchhiking in trucks. Soon after he got back home he went to work for a local Haulage company, where he got his HGV license. By 1984, he owned his own truck and was travelling frequently through Europe, but was still struggling a bit with the language barriers:
“Back then every border had customs documentation to complete before entry or even transiting. Without understanding other languages, working in other countries and completing official and complex documents was extremely difficult.”
“I always tried to be polite with everyone I met, but on occasion, I used to forget which country I was in at Motorway toll stations and in the early days I was making some funny mistakes. I had this habit of saying ‘un petit pois’ when asked if I spoke and French. Of course, the right answer was ‘un peu’ not ‘petit pois’. No wonder they looked confused at my answer! “
“So, I bought little phrase books for the countries I visited and taped courses for learning French, listening to language tapes in my truck as I travelled. This became a great past-time, not only helping me navigate round Europe, but making the journey go by quicker as well.”
“This method has got even better with the MP3 lessons you get now. With MP3s you can repeat a lesson very easily and usually from the audio controls on the truck’s steering wheel. “
Pete also talked about how he used his imagination to recreate interactions in his head and practise conversations, so that when he got to his destination he was prepared to speak with confidence.
“One of the skills I have learned over the years is visualisation. I found that, using a simple version of visualising, I could imagine a variety of everyday conversational situations in a foreign language and practise before I actually got to the country. “
Having discovered the power of role play for himself, it’s no surprise that Pete took to the Rosetta Stone immersive methodology once he had discovered it.
“I received an offer for a Rosetta Stone course and I took the plunge and picked Spanish (European Version). The immersive technique is brilliant and the course is easy to use. I was so impressed with the Spanish course, I decided to buy the French course as well.”
Pete went on to own his own company complete with 5 trucks and then latterly to working for race teams in motorsport and Formula 1; work that took him even further afield. Throughout, his language skills stood him in good stead, and he’s still travelling and learning!
“Thirty-three countries and three continents later, I still love travelling and I look forward to using my improved language skills on my next holiday later this year, or indeed, in my next adventure career-wise.”
“After a life of continuous learning, my greatest achievement will be if I have managed to inspire someone else to learn more. To me, ambition, reading, learning, imagination, inspiration, visualisation and actually doing something that improves your own or somebody else’s life, are vital. You add to your experience when you learn from your mistakes. Failure only happens when you fail to learn.”
You can see more from Pete’s life on the road and his more recent adventures on his instagram account
Thanks a lot for sharing your story with us Pete!
Language learner, teacher and contributing author to the Rosetta Stone magazine
Netflix Star on Portuguese; Episode 3
Netflix Star on Portuguese; Episode 2
Survey shows: Language boosts your career
Netflix Star tries Rosetta Stone Portuguese
Don’t let lack of resources stop you being resourceful
How Learning Mandarin Chinese Changed My Life