Home Travel Tips 4 tips for breaking the language barrier while travelling

4 tips for breaking the language barrier while travelling

written by Webjet Australia February 13, 2015

Whether you're jetting off to a remote village in Cambodia or exploring quaint country towns in Turkey, there may come an occasion when your harness of the local language is less than sufficient. When travelling to a non-English speaking destination, it's often unreasonable to learn the local dialect before your arrival, but this doesn't mean you'll be stuck with no way of communicating.

Here are four quick tips for breaking down the language barrier on your international holidays:

Learn the basics

While you don't typically need to learn an entire language before landing in a foreign land, it can help to have a few key phrases in your repertoire. Consider locking down several commonly used sentences, such as "Do you speak English?" or "How much is that?"

As well as learning these phrases to communicate in your moments of need, try memorising certain greetings. Being able to say "hello", "thank you" and "please" in the resident language is likely to earn you the appreciation and respect of the locals. 

Go digital

For many of us, the idea of leaving our smartphone at home is ridiculous. Of course we need our mobile in arm's reach at all times – particularly when exploring a foreign land. The ability to look up maps if we get lost or contact our family when feeling homesick can easily make the roaming charges worth it.

And there is another way your smartphone can help you when travelling abroad. Connecting to certain apps and websites, such as BabelFish or Google, gives you access to instant translations of signposts and menus, while typing an English phrase could show you what to say when conversing from someone who doesn't understand your native tongue.

Play Pictionary (or Charades)

If your smartphone plan doesn't quite fit in your travel budget, or you're so far off the beaten track you can't get mobile coverage, you may have to rely on a more physical approach to translation. Practice how to demonstrate key phrases using pictures scribbled on a notepad or even cast your mind back to those times you played Charades.

Explaining yourself through arm gestures and facial expressions may look amusing from the outside, but can be an effective and endearing way to communicate with the locals.

Don't be afraid to get it wrong

One of the best things about travelling to a new and exotic country is throwing yourself in the deep-end and finding yourself out of your comfort zone. Language is one of those areas where the more willing you are to make mistakes, the more fun you could actually have. 

No one expects tourists to have a perfect grasp on the local language, so if you find yourself fluffing a few lines and saying some embarrassing things, don't fear! The natives are more likely to believer your attempts are encouraging than offensive, and you may find many are willing to jump in and help you improve as your travels go on. 

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