Do's and Don'ts: Not Knowing the Language


Communicating Without Using English

Traveling abroad poses many problems. You don't know the place, you don't know what area to stay in, you don't know all the rules, you don't know what to eat, and you certainly don't know how to speak the language. But with all the uncertainties, more and more people are choosing to travel each day. And with all the risk comes a big reward. But I think the hardest obstacle to traveling is not knowing the language. All of the other problems can be solved through communication. But what happens wen you can't communicate? Well here are some tips and tricks to communicate when you don't know the language. 


Don't leave without a phrase book. It's great to know please and thank you, but sometimes you'll run into people that don't speak a word of English, so you're going to have to communicate in their language. This is where the phrase book comes in handy. Even if it's just a page, it is helpful enough to ask for directions, to make a hotel reservation, or to order food. I always have a page tucked in my purse for when I run into those that don't speak English.

A Stroll over the Seine


Remember that not everything is pronounced as it is written. French words rarely pronounce all the letters and remember that in some countries the "w" makes the "v" sound. It gets confusing, so instead look up the phonetic pronunciation of the words. There's even some iPhone apps that will say the words for you.


Don't rely on hand gestures, they don't always translate over. In some cultures it's rude to point, and in some giving a thumbs up is offensive. So remember to be careful and respectful of other cultures and look up those customs ahead of time. Most of Europe has similar hand gestures as America, but in Asia and Africa, you may want to avoid pointing with certain figures.


Smile, be kind, and be patient. Trying to communicate with no common ground is hard. So don't get frustrated, remember it's you coming into their country and they're taking time out of their day to help you. And with this kindness, people are going to be more inclined to help you.

Parc de la Villette, Paris


Don't speak louder, instead speak slower. It's not a hearing issue if people are not understanding you, it's that you're speaking too fast for them to understand. So instead of yelling at people to communicate, make sure to enunciate your words. Or if you're like me, just pull out the phrase book and point to your question, that way you know for sure that your being pointed in the right direction.


Research key words before embarking on your adventure. These words should be like, warning or do not enter. Sometimes you'll see signs on the street, like telling you to cross because there's no more sidewalk, and there's not always pictures. So key words like warning or attention are good to know in order to safely travel. 

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