Getting around language barriers

Navigating a foreign language can certainly make travelling more of a challenge, however, it doesn’t have to hold you back. Here are six ways to avoid getting lost in translation and get by when you don’t speak the local language.

Key phrases are key
There’s a reason they’re called ‘key’, as they can literally unlock another country for you. Learn how to say a few important words or phrases before you arrive. Speaking from experience, this will change your life while in a foreign country. Not only will you be able to recognise and find facilities, such as toilets and pharmacies, you will win over the locals if you can say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ in their language. They will be more inclined to want to help you more than if you only speak in English.

Speak with your hands
I want to clarify immediately that this should only be used to say nice things! Charades is not just a game though; it can really come in handy. If you don’t know the words for something, pointing or miming with your hands is a perfectly good solution. Just look how it turned out for Bridget Jones in the video below…

Write it down
Having the details of your hotel or destination is always a saving grace when it comes to communicating with taxi drivers or locals.

Be polite
While it’s easy to get frustrated, remember that you are the visitor. If locals are nice enough to try and help you, stay calm and speak slowly, no one wants to go out of their way to communicate with someone who is angry or rude!

Seek out an expert
While the local people may not speak English, the staff at tourist information centres often will. If you’re having trouble and can’t communicate, look for a point of authority to save the day.

It really does have the answer to everything. Not sure what’s on the menu? Google a few key words and voila – now you know your options. When in doubt Google can often act as a personal translator for you while you’re on the road. It can also help with how to pronounce words if you’re worried about sounding silly!

What has helped you before to overcome language barriers while travelling in a foreign country?

Written by SJ


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