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Breaking Down The Language Barriers - The Wise Traveller - Travel. Live. Learn.


Guest author Laurent Huc of Nacel International gives us a few tips to overcoming the language barrier when travelling in an easy and simple manner.

Up until recently, language barriers were a hurdle for people traveling to foreign countries. However, English is now widely spoken language throughout the world. The majority of young European citizens can speak English due to their education or their career. Additionally, you'll spot many signs and printed materials written in English, too. Sure, sometimes you'll have to use a hand gesture or two to communicate. But overcoming language hurdles can be a fun challenge.


Breaking The Language Barrier - The Wise Traveller - Travel. Live. Learn.

When you know what language will be spoken in a country you are visiting, it is polite to learn the basic phrases for common encounters that will occur. Some examples include phrases like:


hello or good morning/evening
pardon me or excuse me
please and thank you


Strike up a conversation with locals in their native language by asking them if they speak English. Try to keep your sentences as simple as possible.

Keep A Pocket-Sized Notepad With You

No matter how hard you try, language and hand gestures may fail sometimes. In these instances, try drawing a picture. You do not have to be a skilled artist or anything. Just draw simple images to get the information that you need. If you haven't got a notepad on you, keep it simple. Use a stick or your shoe to draw an image in the dirt on the ground.

Carry A Book Of Phrases

You can find inexpensive phrase books that cover hundreds of different languages and many of them are pocket sized for travelling. These books are a necessary item if you are not going to have 24/7 access to your smartphone during your journey. Phrase books will contain pretty much any question or sentence you want to say.

Using Simple Hand Gestures

In some instances, a hand gesture is the simplest way to overcome a language barrier. For example, pointing at a building or gesturing towards a sign is pretty understandable. However, it is important to understand that various cultures interpret hand gestures in different ways. Take some time to research local customs prior to using any type of hand gesture, as you do not want to offend the locals you interact with.

Talk To The Right People

Before you start asking a stranger questions, consider who you are talking to. It's typically a good idea to talk to a younger person. For example, look for a university student or someone in their mid-20s or so. As mentioned above, younger generations are more likely to know English. You can also drop in at local banks, major retail stores and upscale hotels. These locations usually have English-speaking employees that can assist you.

Take Advantage Of Google Translate

Google Translate is the holy grail of language translation. You can translate essentially any language that comes to mind by using this free tool. You can open up Google Translate in your mobile phone's browser or you can download their free smartphone app. Just type in the phrase you are trying to say or understand. Though some translations are a bit rougher than others, you are likely going to get your point across or understand a foreign language by using this tool.


Overall, it is crucial not to let a language barrier stop you from having the best possible experience when you travel throughout the world. Enjoy talking to locals and exploring their culture, as this is the ideal way to build treasured memories of the places you visit.

Laurent Huc is the director of Nacel International, a language learning experience that incorporates educational travel for complete immersion. To learn more about the exciting and effective programs offered by Nacel, visit



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Wise Traveller  | July 31, 2016
Categories : Travel Tips
Tags : Stay Connected, Language
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