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Don’t Know the Lingo When Traveling Abroad? Here’s How to Get by!

Don't speak the language
Written by Gabby Teaman

Studying abroad at the destination of your dreams? Or, maybe there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to explore, but it’s not known for having tons of English speakers? We get it, traveling to a foreign country can sometimes be intimidating, especially if you don’t speak the language. But, don’t let the language barrier get in the way of your wanderlust. Believe it or not, there are a few ways to make your journey abroad easier. And, don’t worry, you don’t have to be a language expert  – phew! So, bring out your adventurous side and follow these simple steps to help make your next trip smooth sailing.

There’s an App for That?

Don't speak the language-translation app

Whether you’re looking for a translation app to help you have a conversation with a local, or you’re not sure what to order on the menu, there really is an app for just about everything at little to no cost. For instance, Google Translate and Duolingo are among some of the most popular apps that fellow globetrotters use to get around. Google Translate is free and simple to use; just speak or type into your phone’s microphone, and it’ll have almost every language and dialect translated for you. You could also hold your phone’s camera up to almost any text and it’ll provide a translation for you. On the other hand, Duolingo is a good app for people who are looking for a quick crash course in the basics of the language of their choice through entertaining games and quick lessons. If you’re a big foodie and are looking forward to trying new foods, but aren’t sure what to get, use OpenTable, where people post pictures of foods from different restaurant menus around the world, as well as the type of food they’ve tried so you know exactly what to order. Even if you can’t find your restaurant there, you’ll be able to get to know some of the popular ingredients included in the country’s cuisine. Similarly, Like a Local allows locals to post reviews of their favorite places around the neighborhood, from restaurants to nightlife.

Help! Who do I Ask for Directions?

Don't speak the language-lost with map

Even if you planned out your trip to a T, odds are, you may feel lost at one point or another. When that happens, don’t freak out. Most people will want to assist you, but some may be more able to help you than others. That’s why hopping into a local shop, restaurant, or hotel and talking to the staff there is a good way to get directions or ask questions. Don’t be afraid to mime out what you’re trying to say or even point at objects; it may feel silly, but it can help you get to where you want to go. If you’ll be staying at a hotel, ask the front desk staff to help you point out directions or routes on a map or your phone.

You may also enjoy: 7 Ways to Prepare for Common Travel Emergencies

Learn Little by Little

Don't speak the language

If you want to start learning the language of the country you have airline tickets to, that’s awesome! But, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to learn everything at once. Instead, try studying up on 5-10 key phrases that you think will come up the most often, such as greetings, questions about transportation, how to order at restaurants, and how to buy souvenirs. Keep your phone or notebook handy so you could record any phrases, words, or info you learn along the way.

A Little Courtesy Goes a Long Way!

Don't speak the language

Messing up is an inevitable part of the travel experience, especially when trying to communicate with others in a foreign language. Don’t worry, we’re all human, and it happens; most people will understand that. No matter how much planning or prepping you do, nothing will be perfect, and that’s okay! But, a little courtesy and politeness never fail in these types of situations. Minding your P’s and Q’s and remembering to smile will make all the difference, and will encourage others to want to help you out even more. Just remember: Each country/culture has its own rules for etiquette, so studying up on your country’s preferred modes of politeness will only serve to help you in the long run.

How do you get around when you don’t speak the native language while abroad? We want to hear about it in the comments below!

About the author

Gabby Teaman

Gabby Teaman is a content writer who loves writing (of course!), editing, food, and the Oxford comma. When she’s not writing for Fareportal, she can be found Snapchatting videos of her puppy, blasting show tunes, or watching Netflix, all while trying to read everything in sight.

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