How can I overcome foreign travel language barriers?

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Answered by: Lindsey, An Expert in the Tips for Traveling Category
When you decide to branch out and travel to a non English-speaking country, in can be intimidating. Don't let this discourage you; foreign travel language barriers are not as difficult to overcome as they may seem. If you are a first-time international traveler, you are probably going to a major city or tourist attraction in a foreign land. Even if you are planning a more off-the-beaten-path destination, the following is a great starting point to embark upon your journey to international communication, travel, and memorable experience.

There are four primary rules you should abide by for traveling successfully in the face of foreign travel language barriers:

One: The travel industry is there for a reason; use that to your benefit. All major tourist destinations run on... that's right, tourism. Lodging, Transportation, Food, and all other enterprises required for travel are going to know/provide enough English to sell you their service.

Two: Know enough to survive: Think about the words and phrases you NEED to know. Look them up. I recommend memorizing a few basics: *Do you speak English? *Where is the bathroom? *Thank you *You're welcome *Where is the_____(i.e. Colosseum)? Just a few phrases can get you around a country with ease, particularly a polite request to speak English.

Three: A little help, and effort, goes a long way. I recommend learning a few extra words in the native language; buying a phrase book becomes awfully helpful in a restaurant or marketplace. Locals, with little exception, appreciate when tourists put forth the effort to speak in their language. They will probably end up speaking English to you for ease of the transaction, but it will likely be much more pleasant if you give it a go (al least at first).

Four: Be kind, be gracious, don't be an "Ugly American". This supersedes all travel tips you will ever receive.

When you are frustrated, lost, or there turns out to have been a miscommunication in your travel plans, DO NOT take it out on the messenger, the attendant, the waiter, or the receptionist. Not only will this be unwarranted, but you will likely find yourself very unhappy with the outcome. Remember, the rest of the world does not necessarily operate on "the customer is always right" philosophy. Be civil when unanticipated difficulties arise.

When you are operating day-to-day on your trip, do your best to be genuine and kind to those you interact with. Talk with locals. Many are eager to try their English skills out on you. I enjoyed my first German Bratwurst in a small, vineyard town called Freinsheim while talking to a kind older gentleman, who was excited to speak English once again. You can meet the most lovely people by simply being friendly.

Overall, it is far easier to navigate your way around foreign travel language barriers then to avoid them. A little always goes a long way. The key to successful foreign communication is effort and kindness. Whether your travel plans lead you to a major city or remote village, these characteristics always translate.

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