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How To Travel Abroad If You Don’t Know the Language

Some people don’t travel abroad because they don’t know the language. They’re afraid that their lack of communication skills will put them in harms way or make their experience less enjoyable. Thankfully, being foreign to the language does not have to keep you from traveling the world. There are a few tricks you need to learn in order to have a successful travel experience.

Most of the world speaks English.

In most foreign countries, people learn how to speak multiple languages throughout their lives. English is a very popular language, and you may find that more people you meet while traveling will be able to talk with you in English. You can always ask those you meet while traveling if they speak English. If they do, try to communicate with them using the basics, as they may not have a full understanding of your language.

Learn the language.

If you plan on traveling for an extended period of time, it is best to try and learn the basics of the language. Though learning a language can take a great deal of time, having a good understanding of how to communicate will make your experience better. If you know that you’re traveling, take a class before you leave. If you can’t make it to class, invest in a computer software program or smartphone/tablet app that will teach you the language. Doing this will help you learn sentences and be able to understand words and phrases that are being spoken to you.

Get a phrasebook or translator.

If you’re only going to be traveling for a shorter period of time, make sure that you carry a phrasebook or translator with you at all times. This way, you can refer to these guides when you need to communicate with someone. Just make sure that your guidebook was published in your country, otherwise the pronunciation will be wrong.

Learn the basics.

Before you leave for vacation, you need to at least know the very basics. This includes “hello”, “excuse me”, “sorry” and “thank you”. You can also learn “where is” if you need to ask for directions.

It is also a good idea to learn “what is ____ in your language?”. This way, you will be showing a truly genuine approach to learning more about their language, and you’ll also pick up a few new words. You’re probably going to forget most of what you learn, but anything that you retain will be better for your trip.

Make sure you’re being polite.

Different cultures have different forms of being polite. For example, in French, “you” can either be “tu” or “vous”. Using “tu” is common when you’re talking with people that you know, and “vous” is more formal. If you misuse these words, you may end up offending somebody. Have a good idea of what is considered polite so that you can get the most out of your travel experience.

Learn emergency words.

You never know when an emergency situation is going to occur, and you don’t want to be stranded during an emergency because you don’t know the language. Knowing the words for “toilet”, “help”, “doctor”, “hospital” and “stop” is always a good idea, though hopefully you’ll never need to use them.

Don’t forget the power of a gesture.

If you are completely unsure of how to say something, don’t waste your time trying or even yelling at someone hoping they’ll eventually understand. Instead, point to the object you want. Just do so with a smile on your face. Most people will be willing to help, and a gesture can go a long way.

Don’t keep yourself from traveling abroad due to language barriers. Instead, have a good understanding of the basics and ensure you’re always being polite. This will make your travel experience much more enjoyable.

Hans Schultz is a writer and computer whiz.  He likes to write about technology and computers.  Hans is originally from Germany and recently enrolled in accent reduction courses.

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