How to Communicate Abroad When You Don’t Speak the Language
However, the getting lost part can be slightly overwhelming when there’s a language barrier involved. There isn’t a “get rich quick” method for learning how to speak a new language. While basic expressions like “¿Dónde está el baño?” and “S’il vous plaît.” can help you in one way or another, these phrases can only go so far.
So what to do when you don’t have an ear for languages? Just keep calm and follow our lead with these handy lingual tips for travelers. If you’re tech-savvy, I suggest you keep your smartphone or tablet in tow.
Stick With the Basics
At a minimum, learn how to say please, thank you and hello in the language before you go. These basic phrases might not amount to much but they will help you be polite with the locals. Make an effort to articulate common phrases and questions so you’re prepared when you do need to speak in a foreign tongue.
Frommer’s Will Be Your Best Friend
Invest in those handy pocket phrase books. It may seem old school but many people find these guides offer a level of comfort that some other options don’t. These inexpensive guides can help you with basic phrases, cultural tid bits and history overviews. If going old school is not your thing, download the digital version of the phrase book on one of those tablet things.
Break Bread With the Locals
Making friends in a foreign country might seem impossible. But, it’s actually pretty easy – and many foreign countries are very friendly with strangers. Once you’ve made that step to acquaintanceship, recruit them to be your teacher. Try to add a few, practical words to your vocabulary every day.
When In Doubt, Try Google Translate
Swedish to Swahili, Basque to Bulgarian. You name it, Google can probably translate it. Just copy and paste text into the handy online format of Google Translate’s web service or free app. The voice feature can even pronounce words or phrases for you! Some of the translations will be better than others, but you can usually get a good idea of what’s being communicated.
Sometimes we need to get physical to communicate. Try using hand gestures and sounds to get your point across. Do this with great sensitivity, reading etiquette guides to ensure that your gestures and sounds are not insulting to locals. If that’s not helping try a Pictionary twist and draw pictures. Whether on paper or in the dirt you’ll be sure to learn a lot and maybe even figure out how to get back to your hotel!
Not everyone is armed with travel apps, phrase books or linguistic skills. Try asking an English-speaking local for help – most likely someone working at your hotel. Instead of miming all sorts of signals that may or may not properly translate in Italian, just ask the receptionist at your hotel to write down your requests.
And remember, a smile never needs a translation – so keep things friendly and lighthearted. You’ll do just fine navigating the foreign language landscape.
Alyssa is an Internet Marketing Strategist, Public Relations Specialist and Social Media Diva. We appreciate her sharing this post with us… great stuff!