Breaking the Communication Barriers Abroad

If you’re a predominantly English-speaking traveller or if English is indeed the only language you speak, you can probably attest to the difficulty you sometimes have communicating while you’re away visiting some faraway place. Considering how English is the most widely spoken language in the world and that you’re likely to find someone who understands the language on some level virtually anywhere you go, spare a thought for those for whom English isn’t a language they speak or understand.

I say this because this is indeed a post written in English, so it’s not so much aimed at those who don’t speak it (I mean how are they going to read it?). If you answered in your head that they can run the content through Google translate then you’re on the right track with your thinking because this is indeed the type of thinking travellers have to constantly apply when they find themselves in situations such as those which would have them needing to communicate or interpret some communication abroad.

Look for tourist info centres

You will always find someone who can help you in your language at a tourist centre, especially if your language is English. They’re usually very friendly too, coming up with suggestions on how to navigate your way around the foreign land in which you have a very limited understanding of the language. I remember getting a note scribbled down for me by a very friendly Brazilian lady who worked at the tourism info centre in Sao Paulo, which I was to hand to the bus driver when I wanted to get to my hostel.

Collaborate with your embassy

Ambassadors often get bored in their jobs with nothing much happening, so you might be lucky to find someone on duty who is willing to help you get the hang of communicating effectively, locally.

Physical reinforcements

You’ll be surprised at how much can be communicated with non-verbal communication as carried out through hand gestures. Otherwise usually people who speak two totally different languages can often reach common ground on the basis of nothing more than their facial expressions and the pitch and tone of their voices. So use your hand gestures and motions – this sort of thing is tolerated and entertained when coming from travellers, especially from vendors who want your money…haha…

Use translator apps and tools

Google translate was mentioned as something one can use to translate text on the spot, but did you know that there’s a Google translate app as well? It’s horrible to be honest (well the Portuguese version, which is the one I’ve tried), but only if you’re trying to translate some audio input (someone’s voice). The text-based translation works wonders though, but it would require you to hand your phone over to whomever you’re trying to speak with so that they can also type in their responses to be translated back to your language.

Otherwise voice translation tools are getting pretty sophisticated and I’m talking especially about those which have something to do with the Japanese language, which is a pity really since Japanese is only spoken in Japan.

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