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#MyArtTravels Tips: Overcoming the Language Barrier

Updated: Feb 27, 2018



A large portion of the world's population doesn't speak English and of those who do, many aren't entirely fluent in it. Because of this, many people struggle to communicate during international travel. Luckily, there are a number of ways to better communicate with those not fluent in the English language. Here are some tips that can help you overcome even the toughest language barrier.


1. Take advantage of visual aids.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. That's why pictures are such a powerful tool when attempting to communicate across a language barrier. By utilizing a traveler's picture dictionary, you'll have an easier time communicating with others who don't speak your language.

2. Carry business cards or pamphlets for the places you'll be traveling to and from.

By simply carrying around a few business cards and pamphlets, you'll have a much easier time conversing with foreign taxi drivers. Each time you enter a taxi, show the card or pamphlet of your desired destination and your driver will know exactly where you want to go without any confusion.

3. Attempt to greet locals in their native language.

When you have no choice but to speak in English, it's worth noting that locals can be more receptive to visitors who approach them in their native language. Knowing how to say simple phrases like, "Hello", "Please" and "Thank You", and "Sorry I don't speak XXX, do you speak English?", can often lead to more pleasant and helpful exchanges.

4. Use simple words and phrases.

If you do attempt to converse in English, avoid overly long phrases or complex words even if the person you are speaking with seems somewhat familiar with the language. Speak slowly and clearly, but don't get frustrated if at first your message is met with confused stares. Instead, try using another word with a similar meaning.

5. Avoid slang terms and regional sayings.

Slang terms and regional sayings aren't taught in most language books or classrooms. Because of this, they are often best avoided regardless of how well the person you are speaking with seems to know English.

6. When difficult ideas or directions must be conveyed, hire an interpreter.

If conversing in simple words and phrases won't be enough during your trip, then you may want to hire an interpreter. This can be especially helpful when it comes to business travel, as you'll likely be conveying more complex thoughts and directions.

Don't let something as simple as a language barrier stop you from traveling to whatever far-off destination you have your heart set on visiting. Instead, use these six travel tips for overcoming the language barrier and explore all that the world has to offer.

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