Traveling to a new country can be an exciting experience. But if you’ve been hesitating to finalize your plans because of a possible language barrier, there are a few straightforward tips to help you over that hurdle:
Learn the basics
Determine the basic phrases you’ll need to know before your trip. Being prepared to ask basic questions and understand the answers will take a lot of confusion out of your trip. Some examples may include asking about the restrooms, how much something costs, and where to find public transportation. You may also want to learn how to ask for help in case of an emergency, whether it’s simply saying, “I need help” or “Can you please call for help?” Of course, if you’re too overwhelmed or simply too nervous to use the local language in extent, you may want to learn how to say, “Do you speak English?” or “May we please speak English?”
Utilize hand gestures and sounds
Many hand gestures and sounds are universal. If you need something to eat or drink, most people will understand what you mean if you mime those actions while asking a question. The same can likely be said for most activities. However, before your trip, be sure to learn what hand gestures to avoid in the country you’re visiting. Holding up two fingers like a peace sign or signifying the number two in the United States means something different in some other locations. Speaking of numbers, many countries begin counting with the thumb instead of the index finger. Knowing this will prevent you from getting more than you asked for at a restaurant or shop.
The internet is a wonderful place when it comes to learning. There are many websites and mobile apps you can use to educate yourself on countries and their customs. The same can be said for language learning. Some of the top apps used by people worldwide to learn different languages include Duolingo and Babbel. Duolingo is completely free (with ads) and can be used on a mobile device or on your computer. You could also choose to listen to podcasts or audiobooks to help you learn a new language.
However, if you can’t invest the time required to master a language and just need a quick resource for translations, consider Google Translate. While not completely accurate, Google Translate is constantly updated and will give locals a general idea of what you’re trying to say. The app also has the option of playing the words out loud from your smartphone if you aren’t confident saying them yourself.
Another way people can learn a new language is with physical media like textbooks and workbooks. The “For Dummies” collection focuses on practical phrases specifically for travel and also offers workbooks that you can write in to practice. If you don’t want to purchase anything for your language learning, your local library may be your best option. Most libraries have a solid collection of books covering French, German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and more. You may also be able to check out audiobooks, DVDs, or CDs focused on language learning.
With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to enjoying a trip abroad, even if you aren’t fluent in the language spoken at your destination.