Traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language can be daunting. The good thing to know is that you don’t have to let your fears keep you away. There are a few universal things that anyone can relate to and you are already using all these things without even knowing it. Now you might not be able to have an ultra deep, life changing conversation, but you can get what you need. My favorite things to have that help you get what you want are easy, simple, and effective. I’m going to use the example of buying something at a market for the points below…
Watch other people’s movements.
Watch the body language and hand gestures of other people to understand what the people of a culture use. Let’s say your buying fruit at a fruit stand. If the other people just put stuff in a bag and hand it over, then you just do the same. Almost every language out there uses the same symbols for numbers so you can figure out the price very easy. Watch if they take a number and wait quietly in line or if you just have to push to the front and get someone’s attention. Then just follow suit.
Buying food in another language.
Grunting and pointing
Basic hand gestures cover a lot. Buying something when you know what you want is very universal. Making a happy sound and smiling, or shaking your head “No” is a very easy way to haggle. You can point at something you want and when you hear the price shake your head yes or no. People are always happy to take your money. Some hand gestures will take care of the basics that you will need for your trips. You might not be able to describe some complex thought, but you will be able to buy goods and food. Just don’t go overboard with this, there are some hand gestures that are really bad and will cause bad things to happen.
Take your cell phone.
A picture is worth a thousand words. If you are planning a trip, try using your cell phone to take pictures of many different things that you might need before you go. The list could include a bathroom, a hospital, a gym, some food, tourist locations, a picture of your hotel, a taxi, a train, a bus, and the list goes on. Even if you don’t have service on your phone while you’re traveling, it could still be very useful and if you have wifi on it as that is also available in many places. It’s also a great back up when you need to take a picture or video. Instagram that super sweet pic you just took with some free wifi that seems to be found all over the place.
Speaking of cell phones, if you really want to have a conversation in another language, but don’t know it and you happen to have wifi. I highly recommend checking out Google Translate. I use it all the time and it would let you have a conversation if you needed. It works very well for me and most people, even if it isn’t in their dialect will be able to pick up on the idea you’re trying to get across.
A small pocket dictionary will let you find very specific items when you go places. It really helps if you have to go to a pharmacy or find something that doesn’t seem readily apparent on the shelves. In some countries, many things are kept in the back and you have to ask for them. These are the times the dictionary comes in handy. And I’m talking Holy Cow! The best 8 bucks I have ever spent good. Try asking for a box of band-aids when you can’t find them, and they only keep them in the back of the store. Dictionary, you have my utmost respect.
You honestly don’t have to really worry much at all if you’re going to a very touristy places like the Eiffel Tower. There will be plenty of people who speak more than one language. The farther away you get from the capital of a country, or at least major attractions, then you will have a harder time finding people who speak your language. Don’t let that keep you away though, use these foreign travel tips to go chase down your dreams.