So you’ve landed in a country where you don’t speak the native language…what do you do now? Don’t panic! First of all, it’s quite likely that the population at hand speaks a few words of English. Second, if you prep a bit, you won’t look like quite a disaster. And finally, keep a few language barrier tools in your belt for when you need to really make a conversation work (or work better!).
If you know in advance about your travel plans, you can plan ahead to have some working knowledge of the language (and customs) of the country you’ll be visiting. Visit your local library or bookstore or research books online. There’s a wide range of books from beginners’ guides to full blown study courses. Take some time (even if it’s on the plane ride!) to immerse yourself a little bit into the language you’ll be greeted with a few hours later.
One of the easiest ways to navigate during a language barrier is to have a few key phrases memorized or written down with easy access. Ordering coffee, asking for a restroom, locating transportation, for example, are all generic phrases that you can put to memory for a short period of time. You can also keep a pocket sized dictionary on you (or on your smartphone) for when you need to be reminded of translations.
These days, there are a seemingly endless number of apps that can help you navigate a language barrier. Google Translate, Duolingo, and others are among the most popular free apps you can download for learning or translation help. Here’s a list of seven apps popular in 2018.
One of the easiest ways to get flustered during a language barrier is to make hasty decisions or speak too quickly, or, to get frustrated by the process. Memorizing how to say, “I don’t speak ____, do you speak English?” is a good way to get the message across that you are not from those parts!
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