Travel and the language barrier

Travel and the language barrier

It’s true that not being able to communicate can be frustrating and scary. However, it should never be an excuse for not traveling.  There are universal ways of communicating like yes and no, and many other common gestures.  There are also plenty of mute, blind, and or deaf people who travel.  Not knowing a local language is very similar in that a few key phrases or gestures will help travelers through most situations.  Here are a few ideas on travel and the language barrier.

Body language.

People communicate both verbally and nonverbally.  If there’s one universal language that crosses all borders and cultural differences, it’s body language.  Often, we don’t realize how much we communicate through facial expressions or gestures.  When language is a barrier, the power of body language becomes enhanced.  It’s incredible how much miming and pointing will suffice in any language.

English

Just as body language crosses borders, English is also considered the universal language of travel.  Many tourist attractions have signage written in both the local language and English.  The chance of traveling to a place where no one speaks English is very slim.  However, communicating to locals in their language, no matter how inadequate your language skills, makes you a better world citizen.

Facial expressions.

It’s incredible how much we can communicate with our facial expressions.  Our faces express and provide hints to our thoughts and feelings.  Looking confused or worried will most often get you a response of help.  A smile is understood universally as being friendly and open. With facial expressions, sometimes no words are needed.

Hello and thank you.

Just these two phrases will suffice despite any language barrier.  No matter the destination, learning just these two phrases in the language of your destination will allow you to get by.  Although these two words are not enough to carry a conversation, they will indicate respect for the language and people.  Respecting the language of your destination will always get you the assistance you need for further communication.

The essential part of communication is giving and receiving information.  When language is a barrier, it can be frustrating, stressful, and scary.  However, travelers do not have to speak the native language to be understood when traveling to a country with a language barrier. Knowing a local language can enrich your travel experience, but not knowing should never be an excuse for not traveling.

Have you traveled and experienced a language barrier?  How did you overcome it? I’d like to know.

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