Heading abroad but don’t speak the language of the locals around you? Don’t sweat it! While it can sometimes be stressful traveling to new, far-off places (especially if your surroundings are foreign to you), knowing who to talk to or knowing what apps to download can make all the difference. And hey, what else is traveling for? Don’t let the language barrier keep you from getting to the destination of your dreams! Whether you know a few words or none at all, follow these simple steps for how to get by when you speak a different language, and your next trip will be smooth sailing.

Plan it Out

How to Get by When You Don't Speak the Language

Prepping ahead of time is key to getting off on the right foot for your next trip abroad. Once you find flight deals and get that next trip booked, you’ll want to map out your route from the airport to where you’ll be staying in detail. Need a fool-proof way to avoid getting lost? Use your phone or notepad to record any routes you take as well as any landmarks you see so you can jog your memory if you lose track of where you are. If you’re taking a bus or train, it’s a good idea to snap a photo of the map and detailed steps of how to get to your destination; that way, you won’t be in a bind if you hit spotty phone service or Wi-fi and don’t know where to go or what time the next train’s leaving — yikes! It’s also important to print out the address of your hotel or any other important places you’ll be visiting, or even just having them in the notes on your phone so that locals or other tourists will be able to point you in the right direction. Or, bring along your hotel’s business card on your excursions so you could easily find your way back if needed.

Who Should I Ask?

So many people, so little time. With tons of tourists and locals out and about, how do you decide who to ask for help first? Well, for starters, if you’ll be staying in a hotel, the front desk staff will usually have maps and travel brochures handy and will be more than happy to help you. It may be a good idea to ask them to help you highlight the places you’ll be heading off to, so if you do get lost, it will be easier for folks to help you retrace your steps. Also, you can always walk into a local shop or restaurant. Odds are, the staff working there are used to helping many tourists and may be able to lend a helping hand. We know, it can feel awkward to use hand gestures to convey what you’re trying to say but doing this can still help you communicate and save you time and a lot of stress. Oh, and don’t forget to smile!

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Invest in Travel Apps

How to Get by When You Don't Speak the Language

Downloading apps like Google Translate or Duolingo can help you get that quick crash course in the language you’ll need, or just help you get by when you arrive. With Google Translate, you can simply point your camera at a sign or menu, and it will automatically translate it into almost any language and dialect! You can also use it to communicate with others; just speak into the app’s mic, and it will translate the words for you — easy-peezy! Or, Duolingo features fun, educational games for those trying to get some of the basics of the language down. Other helpful apps to consider are OpenTable, where people can post pictures as well as rate different items on your restaurant’s menu, that way you won’t have to cross your fingers and hope you like what you picked. Additionally, Like a Local selects people who have lived in the neighborhood for a while and allows them to post reviews of some of the local hotspots around town.

Focus on Learning Key Phrases

How to Get by When You Don't Speak the Language

It may be overwhelming to decide which phrases or words to learn as you’re about to go on your trip. To make things easier, it’s better to focus on 5-10 key phrases that are likely to come up the most, such as those used when asking for directions or prevalent foods in your country of choice’s cuisine. Remember, you don’t have to go crazy trying to learn an entire language in a short amount of time. Important words or phrases to learn include your basic polite greetings, but learning to ask where certain places are located or if somebody speaks English can go a long way in making your trip go a lot smoother. Even if you mess up (it’s okay, we’ve all been there!), just showing that you were willing to put in a little extra effort will encourage people to help you out. Bon voyage!

Know any more tips on how to get around when you speak a different language? Let us know in the comments below!



2 Responses

    • Gabby Teaman

      You’re welcome, Sheri. Keep up with Miles Away for more content just like this!:)


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About The Author

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.