Traveling to non-english speaking countries is no walk in the park. A country, where there is little to no English signage or locals fluent in English, can be the most difficult, confusing and possibly funniest thing you’ll ever experience. If you’re not one to let language keep you from an amazing travel experience, try these tips to help you get around better.
Learn basic words.
You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish with courtesy. Learn to say “Hello,” “Thank you,” “Yes,” “No,” “Please,” “Goodbye,” “Do you speak English?”, “Where is…?”, “I’m lost,” and “Help.” in whatever language is being spoken. If you’ve arrived in a country without knowing any of these words, just ask someone at your hotel’s (or any hotel’s) front desk. The effort will earn you considerable goodwill from the locals.
Use hand gestures.
If you’re at a loss for how to explain what you’re trying to say, try pointing, miming, and playing charades – It can often get your message across. If you think you’ve mistakenly offended someone, pull the Namaste gesture: Press your hands together with your fingers pointing upwards and your thumbs close to your chest, and bow your head slightly. It is usually received as a sign of respect and peace.
Carry a notepad and pen.
When hand gestures don’t get your message across, playing Pictionary often does. You can draw pictures to make yourself understood. The other person can use your notepad to write numbers or draw a map.
Use a translator app.
They are usually far from perfect but if you’re in a bind or simply want a guide for the basic words and phrases that you’re trying to learn, they can be extremely helpful. Using the google translate app, you point the app’s camera at text (a menu, a road sign, a plaque in a museum), and the app automatically translates it. It also lets you have a conversation with someone where you talk into the microphone, and the app translates whatever it hears in either language into the other.
Carry around your address
It is always advisable when traveling, to carry around the address of where you are staying while wandering around. Taking a business card from your hotel or having the address handy in your travel notebook are easy ways to do this. This will ensure that you can always find your way back by showing your taxi driver the address or asking directions.
Possibly the most helpful thing to consider when traveling to a destination where you don’t speak the language is to always be nice. People instinctively want to help you and will often go out of their way to do it. Smiling especially goes a long way in almost any country (except Russia, where it is not customary to smile at strangers).