Communication on the Camino
Six days into our Camino journey, one of the recurring themes I have noticed is communication. Pilgrims from all around the world who speak a myriad of languages walk the same path and stay in the same albergues. It has been interesting to see how the different places along the Camino handle the communication barrier.
Many of the restaurants and albergues that we have been to post menus and signs in multiple languages, the most common of which include Spanish, English, French, German, and Italian. Most of the pilgrims I have met so far speak one or more of these languages, so the system seems to work pretty well. I have also noticed that the Camino heavily employs the use of pictures, especially on bathroom signs. The men’s room and women’s room door pictures are often very creative and vary greatly among the places we have been to. The other place where we have seen a lot of pictures is on the road signs. I know we have a lot of pictures on road signs back home, and they don’t seem out of place to me because I’m used to them. Here it’s different. Some of the pictures make no sense whatsoever, so we’ve starting making our own interpretations which are more fun anyway.
Back on the subject of languages, it amazes me how many Europeans speak multiple languages. Pilgrims from all over Europe seem to speak at least some English, as do many of the Spanish locals. In the United States, most of the people that I know only speak English. I’m starting to realize how self-centered that mentality can be. We shouldn’t expect the rest of the world to speak our language. Speaking Spanish has made my Camino experience exponentially better so far. Many of the best conversations I have had have been with the locals in Spanish. Even though many of the townspeople can speak English, it isn’t necessarily easy for them. When people find out that we speak Spanish, they open up to us and are excited to share their lives and their towns with us. When Mary, Katie, Louan and I got to Astorga, we met an old man in a feathered cap who gave us a tour of the city before bringing us right to our albergue, all because we could speak Spanish. Although walking the Camino is a meaningful experience under any circumstances, I’m really glad that I am doing it with a group of people who know and are learning Spanish. This is the perfect opportunity to improve communication skills in Spanish and in general. I’m excited to see what the rest of the Camino will bring!
Hokie Pilgrim Christie Freund