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Unlock the World: 5 Tips for Communicating Abroad When You’re Lost in Translation

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Adventure awaits around every corner, but what happens when you find yourself lost in translation while exploring the globe?

Most Brits – around two-thirds – only speak English and many say they don’t feel the need to learn another language.

But when it comes to travel, you can get far more out of the experience when you can communicate with locals, other holiday makers and read at least the basics to navigate around.

Travel experts at Holiday Best have given their top five tips for communicating abroad when you don’t speak the language. 

Get ready to embark on a linguistic journey like never before. You’ll soon have no problems ordering a beer in Belgium or asking for directions in Djibouti.

Learn basic phrases 

Before travelling, take some time to learn essential phrases in the local language, such as greetings, polite expressions, and common questions like “Where is the bathroom?” or “How much does this cost?” Even knowing a few key words can go a long way in facilitating communication and showing respect for the local culture.

Talk the talk with tech

Say goodbye to language barriers with the power of technology at your fingertips. Load up your smartphone with translation apps like Holiday Talker, where you can speak or type in your native language and watch as it magically translates into the local tongue. It’s like having a personal interpreter in your pocket!

Use visual aids

Visual aids can be incredibly helpful for bridging language barriers. Carry a pocket-sized phrasebook or use translation apps on your smartphone that allow you to input text or use the camera to translate signs or menus in real-time. Additionally, gestures, drawings, and pointing can help convey simple concepts when words fail.

Use non-verbal communication 

Non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions, gestures, and body language, is universal and can be a powerful tool for conveying meaning. Pay attention to the non-verbal cues of the person you’re communicating with, and use your own body language to enhance your message. Just be mindful of cultural differences in non-verbal communication, as gestures that are innocent in one culture may be offensive in another.

Seek out English speakers 

In many tourist destinations or international cities, you’re likely to encounter people who speak English. When possible, seek out English-speaking locals, such as hotel staff, tour guides, or restaurant servers, who can assist you with basic communication or provide directions and recommendations.

Communicating abroad when you don’t know the language can be challenging, but with these strategies, you can navigate these situations effectively.

John Milburn at Holiday Best, said: “We believe that communication should be an adventure, not a roadblock.

“With these tips, travellers can navigate language barriers with confidence and curiosity, unlocking unforgettable experiences wherever their wanderlust takes them.

“It can’t be overstated how useful learning a few basic phrases before you travel can be, especially to give you peace of mind and comfort when travelling abroad. Even if your accent isn’t the best, or you slip up a few times, it shows respect to the culture and can strike up a relationship with one of the locals.”

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