Language barriers and how to overcome them
Remember when you romanticised about traveling to different countries with rich cultures and learned the way of its natives? That strong urge to absorb their ethics and values? Or even just being able to easily navigate your way through intricate roads of their heritage rich estates and monuments? We often feel like language poses as a gargantuan barrier when we yearn to explore the city’s deep roots, it’s stability and serenity. We feel lost, unattached and like we’re not fully embracing their ethos.
We’re generally nervous in a new environment, especially if we’re not acquainted with their language and culture. This could keep us from discovering different ways of life and our trips feel like a mundane experience with forced smiles for pictures at beautiful spots. There’s also the obvious culture shock, and lack of communication can make it harder for us to pilot through the trip without crashing.
Which is why, here at Shivoy DMC – ‘your destination management company’, we’ve come up with a couple of ways you could breakthrough language barriers and thoroughly enjoy your trip with us.
Use Benny Lewis’s language guide
Imagine traveling to a holiday destination every few months and picking up a new language and being able to speak it fluently. This is what Benny Lewis’s talks about, as a linguist and blogger himself, has come with a general guide with tips on learning a language, fluently in a short time frame. He runs the largest language-learning blog in the world, Fluent In 3 Months.
This will not only deal with the language barrier issue, but also with sharpening your language skills, that’s never a waste of time. In fact, research shows that multilingual people constantly switch between languages without thinking about it. And this is why multilingual people tend to have better developed executive control systems, the part of the brain that controls your ability to switch your attention between things and exercise working memory, they also have more efficient monitoring systems and a heightened cognitive ability. Moreover, it’s always fun to learn a new language that can help you communicate in more than one tongue, make you more expressive and more conscious to your needs. There are other ways to learn a new language online for free, Duolingo serves this purpose and as personal subscriber, I can assure you it’s worth it. Take out 20-30 mins a day to sharpen your language skills as you plan for you next vacation. This could also motivate and excite you to speak to the natives of that area.
Carry a dictionary and learn the basics
Maybe this is a sudden trip you planned with your family or friends and didn’t really have time to learn the language fluently. You can always depend on your basic phrases and dictionaries. Of course, your phone could help you with translation but we’ll have to save our battery for days we might not have access to power.
Make a list of 100-200 phrases addressing basic needs related to food, rest, travel, salutations and a basic introduction of yourself. Remember to learn words for ‘passport’ and other things at the airport like ‘at what time is my flight’, ‘are air meals included’ and other phrases to learn in transit. Most airports will have English as a secondary language on signs throughout the facility and on visa, customs, and immigration documents. Not every agent however, speaks perfect English (if at all) and once you depart from the airport, you’ll encounter: taxis, buses, trains, tuk-tuks, peddlers, and more. Most of these phrases can help you through MICEs and sudden weekend getaways, where your intention is to stay for a short period of time. It’s a way to initiate small talk at conferences with the locals and is generally impressive if executed correctly. Try looking for the actual pronunciations of the phrases as well. It's normal fear offending the community by mispronunciation, but try, and apologise beforehand for mistakes you might have made.
You’re not the first foreigner to be there. Natives who work in hostels around the world have seen others deal with the language barrier problem many times before. And will generally understand your struggles before you encounter them. Hostel owners and volunteers at the hotel you’re staying are used to dealing with the needs of tourists, and may offer to help you by being your guide around the city or offer a beginner language class. Sign up. By taking even just a class or two, you’ll learn communal phrases and inquiries like how to order in a restaurant, ask where the bathroom is or ask for the price of a fresh juice or drink on the beach.
Also travel guides from your specific package will be willing to offer their help with communication with the natives of that area. If you’re camping and trekking out in a new place, it is advisable to go with a bilingual guide to assist your communication needs, as they are fluent in both languages and are also familiar with the locals. They are generally cost effective and sometimes help you for free.
There’s one universal language that crosses all borders, continents and cultural differences and that’s body language. People communicate both verbally and non-verbally in all parts of the world and, it can be easy to forget just how much is communicated through facial expressions, gestures with your hands or the nod of your head. When communicating gets difficult, a traveller will quickly recognize the power of body language. When asking for directions, for example, a person usually points and gestures as they’re explaining the route. A waiter asking if you need anything more, a refill, will show you the plate of food and gesture. If a restaurant no longer offers a menu item, again you’ll understand based on gestures and negative face expressions. Bottom line: use these actions and non-verbal cues generously and if unable to communicate with words and phrases, relax and see how far you can get with non-verbal communication. You’ll probably be surprised.