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Ways to Overcome Language Barriers While Travelling

Travelling is a great way to learn new things, indulge in sights you had always dreamed of laying eyes on, as well as relaxing and enjoying some much-needed, well-deserved rest. But whether you are travelling to a foreign country by yourself, or going with a group of your friends or family, one thing that most travellers struggle with is the language barrier they encounter while they are away.

Although it might be hard, it isn’t, however, impossible to make your way through your trip without knowing the native lingo. In this article we look at four ways you can overcome the language barrier you will face on your upcoming trip:

Learn Important Phrases and Words

One of the easiest ways to get any important information across to someone that speaks a different language, or to ask an important or simple question, would be to learn the relevant phrases and key words. These phrases could include the likes of “where is the hospital” or “can I use your bathroom”, and the key words could include “hospital” or “taxi”. Even if you do not get the pronunciation quite right, or end up making the person you are trying to talk to even more confused than they already are, they will acknowledge the fact that you have tried to speak their language and try to help you. My advice for you when it comes to learning the key phrases and words you will need for the duration of the trip, is to invest in a dictionary in the specific language as well as invest in some language lessons before you set off on your adventure.

Invest in a Language App

Language apps, or translation apps such as Google Translate, can come in handy at the best of times, helping to ease any language difficulties you might have at a touch of a button. Invest in one very good language app before you go in order to get the hang of how to use it, as this will ensure you don’t struggle once you are at your final destination. Languages apps are a great way to find out what specific words mean, making it easier to choose something you like from a foreign menu when you are out for dinner, or asking a pedestrian for directions while you are out and about, as you just have to type in the word for an automatic translation.

Pictures are Universal

One of the most successful and popular communication methods with most travellers is the use of imagery.  Imagery is universal, meaning that most of the time locals when presented with a picture of a toilet, will know to point you in the right direction of the nearest bathroom, or when you present an image of the BurjKhalifa to your hotel in Dubai, that they will understand that you are looking for transport to take you to the famous landmark. When it comes to how you show the locals the relevant images, it is up to you. Either you can make flash cards of all of the relevant landmarks or important things you will need to put across to the relevant person (by printing them out before you leave home), or you can save a library of the images to your phone instead.

Slow Down

It’s easy to get frustrated and, in turn, talk faster when you can’t seem to get your point or query across to someone, especially if you have an emergency and need to get to the hospital, for example. When you get nervous and flustered, your brain won’t be able to concentrate on the word you are trying to find and pronounce. To combat this, you will need to relax, take a couple of deep breathes, and try to remember what you are trying to say. The faster you are talking, the less people will understand what you are trying to say, and by slowing down you will be able to collect your thoughts and communicate a clear and rational message while ensuring there is as little confusion as possible for both yourself and the persona on the receiving end of your conversation.

No one said communicating while abroad was easy, but the above four tips will help you to conquer any language barriers you will face while on your future travels as best as possible.


Ibtisaam can be described in three simple words: Food. Business. Travel. And the best part is, is that she likes to write many wonderful, adjective-filled words about all three of these topics.

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