The world is full of endless opportunities for adventure. If lack of fluency in other languages beyond your native tongue has been holding you back from traveling to the destinations of your dreams, it’s time to cross an item off your bucket list. While not knowing the local language can feel overwhelming, there are some things you can do to ensure a successful trip.
Here are seven tips for traveling with a language barrier. Once you’ve mastered the basics and are feeling comfortable enough to communicate with locals, book your trip with the best cheap business class flights!
Reading this post is a great start. While getting around a foreign country when you don’t speak the language does come with challenges and anxieties, they’re far from insurmountable. On the flip side, a nonchalant and unprepared approach can be inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst. That’s why it’s important to adopt a proactive strategy before traveling abroad.
Before you even get on the plane, spend some time researching the country you’re visiting, including its official language. Some countries speak multiple languages, so it’s important to be aware of this in advance. In this case, familiarize yourself with the primary language spoken in the regions you plan to travel to.
While you’re at it, why not download a language app now and get a jump-start on learning the basics to help you get around?
Know the Basics
While there’s no need for an intensive language course to master fluidity, learning a few key phrases in the local language will go a long way. Start with, “yes,” “no,” “please,” “thank you,” and “where is the bathroom?” Then, add more as you go, like directions (left, right, straight, etc), how to order from a menu, and any other phrases you use day to day.
While no one expects you to be fluent, learning a few important words and phrases is a wonderful way to earn the trust and respect of locals.
Take it Slow
If you’re an English speaker, you’re lucky. Wherever you go, there’s a good chance you’ll find someone who speaks English. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll speak it well or that they’ll feel any more comfortable communicating in your language than you do in theirs.
If you do run into someone who speaks English, recognize that they may have varying degrees of fluency. Rather than assuming that they understand everything you say, talk slowly, use basic vocabulary, and enunciate. Don’t forget that gratitude is a language everyone understands.
One thing to avoid: Don’t talk louder or shout when someone doesn’t understand. This doesn’t promote understanding and no one likes being yelled at. If someone isn’t grasping what you’re saying, you’re not going to improve the situation by saying it louder.
There are upsides and downsides to living in the digital age, but the pros far outnumber the cons when it comes to bridging the language gap while traveling abroad.
Digital tools like Google Translate and iTranslate can offer invaluable partners in helping you make sense of the world around you. Another one of our favorites: The Word Lens app. This app translates printed pictures plus it doesn’t require a network connection!
Many translation tools aren’t exactly elegant. In fact, they can be relatively crude. However, they are very useful in a pinch.
Bring a Book
Language dictionaries may seem outdated, but the bottom line is phones die, books don’t. There may be time on your travels when your phone battery dies or you don’t have a connection. Don’t find yourself empty-handed when this scenario plays out. Instead, have an accessible alternative at the ready.
Pocket dictionaries and phrasebooks don’t take up a lot of space in your luggage. Plus, they more than pay for themselves if you find yourself phone-less in a location where you don’t know the language.
Use More than Words
When words fail, pictures can come to the rescue. There’s a reason for the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Can’t read a particular sign or notice? Pay attention to photos, icons, and drawings. Many travelers even swear by emojis for overcoming language barriers while traveling abroad.
Be Aware of Non-Verbal Cues
Body language speaks volumes, so be mindful of yours (as well as that of others) while you’re traveling abroad. Using face and hand gestures to communicate can be tricky territory, especially when you factor in that many of these things vary between countries.
Again, this is a place where research can help you communicate while preventing you from coming across as a rude or entitled foreigner.
One last thing to keep in mind: While using new or limited language skills can be intimidating, doing so can not only help you communicate but can also help you be more comfortable communicating. The more comfortable you get, the easier it comes.
It’s important to remember that no one is judging your language skills. In fact, the vast majority of people will appreciate your efforts, no matter how rudimentary your skills may be.
Don’t let your fears about the language barrier prevent you from taking advantage of today’s great airfare deals. With these seven tips, you’ll be ready to travel in no time!