How to Break the Language Barrier on Your Next Trip

Jonah Andersson February 16, 2013
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Language barrier while travelling

How to Break the Language Barrier on Your Next Trip

Language barrier while travelling
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There’s nothing more exciting than traveling to a new country and enjoying the sights, sounds, and tastes of an exotic culture. Unfortunately, if you go to a country where you’re not familiar with the native language, the excitement can quickly wane.

It’s not possible to become fluent in a foreign language in just a few weeks, but you can take a few steps to make sure you don’t end up eating a live fish for dinner or visiting the rough part of town. Get started with these tips.

Buy a phrasebook or translator

You might consider hiring someone who provides French translation services to get around town, but a phrasebook or translator with the most commonly spoken questions and comments is a faster – and cheaper – alternative.

Pocket phrasebooks are available in nearly every language you can think of. Keep one in your pocket or bag to help you find your hotel, locate a tourist spot, or order a sandwich. If you prefer more high-tech assistance, go with a virtual translator. Just type in the phrase you want to speak and either repeat the phrase or let the translator be your interpreter.

Take a Crash Course

Of course, you never really know when you’re going to need your language skills to kick in. If you’d rather gain some proficiency before stepping on the plane, sign up for one of the endless language courses available in your town, online or on DVD.

Many learning centers offer 6- to 12-week language courses that provide an intro to nouns and phrases, as well as basic verb agreement and sentence structure. Many also require you to speak the language in class to help you feel more comfortable communicating. If that doesn’t fit your schedule, study on your own with a DVD or online courses that test your written and verbal skills.

learning languages
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Practice with a Friend

The more you do something, the easier it gets. As you memorize key phrases and learn their phonetic sounds, use a trusted friend, especially one who knows the language, to speak the language with you.

Sounding out the words and phrases over and over makes them sound more familiar, which makes them easier to say when the occasion arises. If possible, find someone who has at least a passing knowledge of the language to correct mistakes and help you improve syntax and pronunciation. This will help you sound a little less foreign in your destination.

Travel is a lot more fun when you aren’t intimidated by a lack of the native tongue. Practice the language before arriving to make the trip less scary and more exciting.


Adrienne is a freelance writer, blogger, and aspiring novelist. When she’s not writing, you might find her daydreaming about traveling to France, whipping up some tasty Pinterest recipes, or reading voraciously.

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