Suitcase - language barrier

5 tips on how to defeat the language barrier when going abroad

Did you ever wish to go somewhere, or even had the chance, but you declined it because you’re afraid of the language barrier that might exist? Don’t worry, I do that too sometimes, but here are 5 useful tips that helped me get by easily:

  1. Smile!

As simple as it may sound, in a nerve racking situation, it might not be the first thing that comes to hand. If you need or want help , of any sorts, or if you want to be treated nicely by the people among you (or in restaurants), the easiest thing to do is to smile. 🙂

  1. Point!

Another very easy thing to do to overcome the language barrier, and one of the most natural things that come to mind when you don’t speak the language but wish to order something or get somewhere: pointing! Whether you point on a map, menu, smart phone or on a piece of paper with some writing on it, it will most certainly help if you find a person to help you as well. You might be amazed on how many things you can get by simply pointing, then proceeding to nod or shake your head for approval or disapproval (be careful if you visit Bulgaria, things are a little different with nodding and shaking there).

  1. Learn the basic words

Yes, I agree that this might be called a little bit cheating, but it is very important to know the bare minimum of words, in order to break the language barrier, for instance: “Hello!”, “Where is…”, “I need…”, “Food”, “Water”, “Help”.

For this tip right here, I would recommend getting a little dictionary and carrying it around with you. There are plenty of travel-sized dictionaries with basic and also more complicated words and expressions, and also the way to pronounce them (You might want to exercise it at home a little bit, so you avoid completely butchering it later). Bonus points: You will always have a souvenir from all the places you went to, based on the language the folk there speak (well of course, unless you go to places that speak the same language). Or if you don’t want to carry a dictionary with you, you can note down some words in a little notebook. You might also want to carry a pen with you for that case.

destination sign and language barrier

  1. Speak using gestures

This one pretty much goes hand in hand with tip no.2, but I can’t say that they are exactly the same thing. Sometimes you can’t just point around, since it might be considered impolite.

Extra tip: Always inform yourself about the countries’ etiquette, tradition and general culture before going there. It might save you quite some explaining.

This is a great exercise if you want to join the theatre sometime, use your body and your hands (sometimes your legs too) to get your point across. Perhaps combine those two with some noises and words that you might know, that could help the confused person looking at you understand what you want.

  1. Use your smartphone

I wanted to keep this tip as a last resort, mainly because battery-drainage is a real thing when you are in a foreign country.

You know what you can use your phone for: anything!

Your phone is this magical device that can provide you with: recommendations for places to eat, sleep, party, hang out, but also with GPS (if you are covered by your data provider, find wi-fi or if you downloaded the offline maps), and let’s not forget about the most important thing: a translator. There are plenty of good translators that you can use when you are in a foreign country (some even have an offline mode).You can also note down everything you might need on your phone. Sometimes you might find more information online than in real life, from locals or other tourists.

The bad part about your phone is that being on your phone while traveling won’t let you have the full taste of what traveling means. You will want to record, photograph and capture every moment to ‘save it for later’, but think about now. Live the moment, breathe in the air of the place you’re in and don’t forget to enjoy yourself! No one will blame you for taking pictures either, but don’t let that be your focus point for the vacation.

Now that you’ve read all those tips, what are you waiting for? Pack up, get ready for your holiday and conquer the language barrier!

Author: Amira Miculescu

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *