Tips for Travelling When You Don’t Speak the Language

When traveling to a destination where you don’t speak the language, it is both a humbling and fun experience as you navigate your way through your travels. With my nomadic lifestyle as a blogger, I can honestly say that traveling has changed my life and pushed me in ways I didn’t think were even possible, and there have been many times where I’ve been in a country where I don’t speak the language. Naturally, there were times when I wish I could just be able to communicate with the locals better.

So for when you are traveling to a destination where you don’t speak the language, you might be wondering ‘what do I do when I need help or simply just want to be able to talk with a local?’ 

Here are a few tips I picked up on and that have made all the difference for me when I don’t speak the local language during my travels: 

Use language apps to learn the basics

One of the most popular ways to learn languages or at the very least, learn the basics, is via language apps such as Babbel. Babbel for example is available on all app stores like iOS, so you can complete a language lesson anywhere, anytime as long as you have your smart device with you.  

Memorize key phrases as you go

Before you travel and upon arrival, it is very helpful to pick up on and memorize key phrases as you go. Listen to how locals annunciate words and how they express them, as with many languages how you pronounce and express a word can make all the difference in the meaning of it. 

Use hand gestures

Informal, non-sign language hand gestures can relay a lot, from ‘I don’t know / I don’t get it / I don’t understand’, ‘slow down’, and more. So use your hands when you speak during your travels and if and when you are speaking to someone who has a different native tongue than you, they just might be able to understand more than one may think.  

Point

When you are in a café, restaurant, or looking at a map, pointing and saying ‘please’ is a combination that works! 

Be mindful of your body language

When someone sees you from a distance, the first thing that they see and pick up on about you is your body language. So whether you have your arms crossed in a stand-offish manner, your posture slumped and looking confused over a map, etc. your body language can tell a lot to a person. When travelling, it is helpful to have good posture and at least look like you know what you are doing and where you are going for safety, etc. If you need help, walk with confidence and kindly ask where something is rather than looking lost on a corner with a map or your smart device. 

Book tours in your native language

One of the best ways to get to know a new place is to book a tour. Check ahead where you can go for a tour in your native language so you can learn and enjoy as much as possible! 

Carry basic information, such as addresses, on a piece of paper

Basic information, such as the address for your accommodation, is helpful to have with you at all times. Especially in case of your smart device running out of battery and not being able to access your details, you’ll want a paper copy. You can also simply hand a piece of paper with your address on it to a taxi driver, etc. rather than trying to pronounce what could be a difficult street name. 

The most important thing to remember when travelling is to be kind and to never underestimate the power of pleasantries and good manners. 

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