Overcoming Language Barriers When Traveling: 7 Tips for Navigating the World When You Don’t Speak the Language by Sheri B Doyle
Many Americans don’t travel because they are overwhelmed by not speaking the language in the country they want to visit. My husband shared that intimidation before we started traveling, choosing only to visit countries he knew English was the first language. Now, he travels the world along with me, speaking only his native language of English. I won’t deny we have had some pretty hilarious things happen due to a language barrier, but they are few and far between.
What I have learned is that even in the most remote locations, hand gestures, pointing and sometimes even drawing can get you what you need. Here are my tips for traveling when you don’t speak the language:
- Be patient with yourself and with who you are communicating with.
- Always ask if the person speaks English first before asking a question or making a statement.
- Most people want to help you or understand you, so they will work hard to do so.
- Speaking loudly doesn’t make it easier for someone to understand your language; speaking slowly does.
- Google Translate can be your best friend. Either download the language you need ahead of time or look up important phrases you may need before you leave your hotel/apartment.
- In most countries someone speaks at least enough English to help you with the basic necessities.
- English is now being taught in schools around the world starting as early as kindergarten, so if all else fails children can often be great translators.
- Relax. You may end up with a roast beef sandwich instead of a salad or at the bookstore instead of the bathroom, but it is all part of the adventure.
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