While English may be the universal language of travel and one of the most spoken languages in the world, there are certain countries where you will undoubtedly encounter someone who does not speak English and cannot understand you. Don’t let this discourage you but let it excite you! Travelling to a country where a different language is spoken means that you can learn a new language and interact with different people in numerous ways. A little pre-departure preparation can ease your mind and break that language barrier that you may be worried about.
Learning a few simple words before traveling can be very useful for when you first arrive. Start off with easy words such as please, thank you, hello, good-bye. Buying a phrasebook might also help you if you ever need to ask for directions or need a quick phrase when encountering someone that does not speak English. Learning apps are also a great way to learn the language before and while visiting a foreign country. Apps like Babbel can help you learn any language, even the more difficult ones such as the German language and these apps can be useful in many situations. Traveling to foreign countries has become easier in the past few years thanks to foreign language apps which can even translate words right on the spot! Another great tip is to write down any important details such as the name of your hotel and any attractions and locations you may wish to visit so that you can easily show these to a taxi driver or someone helping you with directions. Using hand gestures in certain situations can also help the other person understand what you are talking about or what you need, as non-verbal communication is key in these situations. Try mimicking what you’re trying to say in an easy and understandable way. If you’re very worried about not being able to properly communicate with people in this country, consider booking a tour in advance with a local guide. Booking a full-length organized tour where someone else takes care of all the details can ease your mind as you’ll always have a local to address any of your concerns.
While not speaking a language can certainly be frustrating and seem like a barrier, at times linguistic barriers can actually be more psychological and not connected to the language itself. Sometimes the key to overcoming these barriers is to simply “take the plunge” and initiate conversations. Don’t be shy or self-conscious just because you might mispronounce a word, confidently ask or say what you want, make the situation clear and you may actually get farther along than you imagined. Body language is in fact supposedly 90 per cent of communication and eye contact and smiling are the key to good interaction. Giving your full attention to someone can really allow yourself to be more understood. Being polite is also key. No matter how you may act at home it is always recommended to address locals such as taxi drivers, shop owners, and waiters as “sir” or “ma’am”. Make sure to always speak with people with respect so that they have no reason to deny you help. Lastly one of the most important tips is to always listen and be patient. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat a word or sentence for you if you missed something, but make sure that you are clearly trying to understand what they say.
Sometimes not being able to communicate can not only be frustrating, but a bit scary as well. English natives are quite used to traveling to countries where English is spoken and understood by almost everyone. When they encounter countries where English may instead not be so easily understood people can become discouraged and even consider not travelling there at all. Don’t let language barriers and the fear or not being able to communicate scare you away from travelling as you’ll miss out on incredible experiences and opportunities. The best part about the world being so diverse is that you have the chance to discover everything it offers and all the languages that are spoken around the world!