We’ve just been badly let down. Really I am furious, but can do nothing except be polite and wish them well. We had great plans and now there is nothing. I feel as low as can be, but at least experience tells me that something good will turn up soon.

We all get these frustrations from time to time  - exam results we weren’t anticipating, or perhaps something even more serious, a broken relationship, or a lost job.

Often in such cases the problem, as in our case, is a lack of good communication.  We thought we were telling people one thing, but they, not knowing us well, misunderstood and, in their minds at least, heard something entirely different.

This is why learning a foreign language can be so difficult. We want to make ourselves understood , of course we do. But we haven’t got the right words, or we are worried about our accent being so different from native speakers. Take courage.

I remember two Greek girls coming to work at the hospital where I was nursing. One had good English, but the other had almost none. She could have just frozen, but she was made of sterner stuff. At that first lunch she pointed to the salt.

‘Me, please.’  

‘Do you want the salt? ‘ someone asked.

‘Salt me please.’ And so she went on. No books, no formal language lessons, but in six weeks she could laugh at a joke.  A few more weeks and she could tell the joke. Always cheerful with a beaming smile, the patients loved her, and soon her English was good enough for her to begin her training as a nurse, instead of cleaning wards, which is how she began.  

That was years ago, but the principle still holds  - have a go, and use what you have. If all you can say is ‘Good Morning ‘ then say that. Next time try adding another phrase. ‘Good morning. How are you? ‘ and so on.  

It's how children learn.  Each week my friend brings her small grandson Jude to see us. He is only 13 months old so he doesn’t have a great deal of vocabulary yet  - leg, strap, cat  and none are the only words I’ve deciphered so far, but he obviously understands much more, and he uses what he has got. He certainly makes himself understood: he points, he grabs, he roots in bags, he yells and he gets the message across.  In a few more weeks he will begin to string words together in pairs - my milk, more biscuits, nice cat.  A year on and we should be able to have quite complicated conversations.

When you go to language classes sometimes the language taught is already over-complicated. Phrase books have lines such as ‘Is it possible to book a room for two people, preferably with a bath?’  Nowadays, when you actually go to a hotel you have probably already booked on line and all you really need to be able to do is tell the receptionist  your name and say ‘I have a reservation’.

Try using model sentences. This is when you begin with a simple sentence such as ‘I want a cup of coffee’ and then you alter it word by word – ‘I want a cup of tea’, or ‘I would like a cup of coffee’. You can then add words or phrases such as ‘I would like a cup of coffee later.’ or perhaps ‘I would prefer a cup of coffee now.’

Above all, have a go. If you are following this, my friend Anastasia began with a lot less English than you, and she made amazing progress.