3 Easy Tips for Communicating When You Don’t Speak the Language [Travel Skills]

How do you think you might feel if you were in another country and could not speak the language? At best, you can expect some communication problems. Worst case, you break out in a cold sweat and it’s a total disaster. When you follow these tips for communicating when you travel, you’ll be better able to navigate any language barriers.

Keep reading to learn how to be understood and to understand when you’re traveling and when you don’t speak the language.

CONTENTS – In this article, you’ll learn the best tips for communicating with people around the world including:

Tips For Communicating With People Worldwide When Traveling

Traveling can be one of the most exciting, fulfilling experiences in your life. 

It allows you to see new places and people, learn about different cultures, and discover your own world with fresh eyes. 

However, there are some pitfalls that come along with traveling that you and every traveler should know before leaving for an adventure to a foreign land. One of the biggest challenges is any language barrier.

This blog post will cover tips for communicating with people worldwide when traveling so that you can have a safe and enjoyable trip.

Before You Go, Do Your Research

One of the best ways to make sure that your trip goes smoothly is to do some research on the place you are visiting

In addition to picking out the attractions you would like to see, finding out the best time to go, and figuring out how to get to a certain region or country, you’ll also want to do some cultural research. This may include:

  • Learning about the history and culture of the region
  • Gaining insight to local customs and foods
  • Understanding the currency system
  • Knowing what language is the primary language

It can also be helpful in your preliminary research to know about any potential dangers or scams that may be common in that area. For instance, in Florence, Italy (and many other cities), you’ll want to watch out for pickpockets.

By doing your research ahead of time, you will avoid any potentially embarrassing or dangerous situations. It will lessen any culture shock and let you get right to enjoying your trip.

You will also be better prepared to engage with the locals and learn more about their culture and customs. 

Plus, it’s always a good idea to know how to say “hello” and “thank you” in the local language of any country you’re visiting. If you have the time, try doing some language learning, whether that means taking an in-person class or signing up for online lessons and language apps like Duolingo. You won’t become fluent overnight, but you will learn some key phrases. 

It’s a good idea to talk with friends and family who may have traveled to the area before, too. They may offer some valuable advice or tips that will make your trip easier or more enjoyable. If they know the language, you could even ask them to help you with your conversational skills. 

Finally, do a quick Google search for blogs about travelers’ experiences in the country you are visiting. You’ll find some great insights here and probably some language tips, too.

Identify All the Barriers To Communication

One of the best ways you can improve communication when you’re traveling is to be aware of any potential barriers that may exist. Of course, language may be an issue, but the barriers may go beyond basic language barriers to include:

  • Cultural differences
  • Differing etiquette norms
  • Different environments in which interactions occur

When you are aware of these potential barriers, you can take steps to alleviate or overcome them. 

For example, what if you expect you will have significant difficulty communicating with people in another country? You don’t speak a lick of the language and few in the country speak your native language.

When you know there will be a language barrier, it may be helpful to bring a bilingual friend or family member along on your trip. You can also download an app that translates written text in real-time. That way, you will know what someone is saying.

Similarly, if there are cultural differences between you and those in the country you’re visiting, you can do your best to learn about the culture you are visiting ahead of time. 

This will help smooth over any awkward interactions. It helps ensure both parties respect each other’s boundaries while also giving you a better understanding of another.

You should also be aware of different etiquette norms in a given country. You certainly don’t want to offend someone by accident. 

For example, it is considered rude in some countries to make eye contact with someone you don’t know well, or to touch them on the head. However, this may not be seen as an insult in other cultures; rather, it means that they are trying to show respect for your personal space.

Also, consider physiological barriers. If you are experiencing age-related hearing loss and have trouble following conversation in your own language, imagine the difficulty you will have abroad. 

In that case, use this opportunity to get a hearing aid to alleviate a further barrier in communication. If you’re worried about the budget, do some research on hearing aid financing so you can cover the cost before you take your trip.

Use Technology To Your Advantage

One of the best ways people all over the world can communicate with each other is by using technology. Even in countries where language and cultural barriers exist, you can use a translation app like Google Translate or iTranslate to help break down some of these obstacles when communicating. 

The best part is that these apps work offline as well, so you don’t need to be connected to the internet to use them.

Similarly, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be used to communicate with people all over the world. This is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family who may not be able to travel with you during your trip. You can also use these platforms to keep in touch with people you’ve met abroad.

Plus, it’s a great way to learn about the culture and customs of the country you are visiting from people who have already been there.

Final Thoughts on Tips for Communicating When Traveling

There are many ways that people can communicate with each other all over the world, especially when traveling. By being aware of potential communication barriers, using technology to your advantage, and doing proper research, you can make your trip a lot smoother and more enjoyable.

Continue reading about these the different ways you can learn a language on your own

Photo credit: Eren Li (Pexels)

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.