Going Places Educational Travel Blog - How to Break the Language Barrier While Traveling
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February 2, 2017

How to Break the Language Barrier While Traveling

Rest assured that when you travel with passports, your group is accompanied by a full-time tour director who speaks the native language. However, keeping these tips in mind will enhance your experience by allowing you to be a bit more independent and make it easier to interact with the locals.

Learn the Basics
Traveling to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language can be a little overwhelming. It’s important to know a few key words and phrases that will go a long way in communicating and understanding others. For example, learn how to say:

Please and thank you
Yes and no
Hello and goodbye
Where is ____ ?
I want/I don’t want
How much (does it cost)?
Do you speak English?
I understand/I don’t understand
Excuse me

Download a Language App
Translation apps are great to have when you’re navigating a foreign country. Google Translate is extremely popular because not only does it offer support in more languages than competitor apps, but it’s free. In addition to type-to-translate support in 103 languages, Google Translate also offers:

Download it from the App Store.

Bring a Translation Dictionary
Even if you download a language translation app, it’s still not a bad idea to bring along a pocket translation dictionary just in case. It’ll come in handy if your cell phone dies or you can’t get on WiFi and you don’t want to use up all your data. Check out Amazon’s Best Sellers in Travel Language Phrasebooks to choose an option that fits your needs. If you’re unsure, you can’t go wrong with anything travel-related by Rick Steves.

Play Charades
If you don’t know how to say something, an attempt to either act it out or point to objects to try to communicate can be beneficial. But you should also be aware of cultural differences. For example, the OK sign, a common gesture meaning an agreement to us, is seen as offensive in Germany, France and Brazil.

Similarly, giving the peace sign does not mean peace in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand and giving a thumbs up in many parts of the world can have negative connotations. You’re probably better off avoiding using hand gestures when traveling overseas, just in case!

Make an Effort
I’ve found that locals tend to be more willing to help tourists who approach them in the country’s native language rather than assuming they speak English. Even if it’s minimal, they’ll appreciate your efforts.



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