10 Tips To Overcoming The Language Barrier

One of the biggest worries people have when going to a new country is the language barrier. Any traveler to a new country knows that communication with locals will not be immediate. It takes time and practice to overcome a language barrier, but here are 10 tips to help you get started:

If You're Not Confused

1. Don’t shout

We have all been there, we have all seen it, we have all commented on it. Those people that can’t get what they want to say across to somebody of another language, so instead they say the exact same sentence, just a few decibels higher. Did this work for you? I didn’t think so. The problem here is that you both speak a different language, not that the other person is deaf.

2. Speak slowly

Sometimes you can get a little carried away with what you are trying to say. Maybe you are excited about being in a new country, maybe you are late for work, maybe King Kong is wreaking havoc on New York City and you are the only thing that stands in the way of the giant ape and destruction. Whatever it is, take a second to slow it down and not speak so fast. The faster you speak the less people will understand.

3. Get over being self-conscious

One of the major hindrances of the language barrier is being self-conscious. You are going to make mistakes, you are going to say things incorrectly, and you are going to have to brush up on your charades skills for getting your body language across. The key is to just get over it and accept that these things are going to happen.

4. Grab a notepad

The loyal notepad! Who would have thought this could be so useful when traveling. Any phrases that you think are useful that you may use regularly should be jotted down in preparation to be whipped out at any given moment. Simple things like numbers are usually easy to learn, but asking how much a bill is in a restaurant may be a little trickier.

5. Cut out your native slang

Every language has slang. There are always new words that the kids are saying these days and these are fed into our daily language. Put yourself in the shoes of the other guy you are speaking to in a foreign country, however, and you’ll quickly realize that he’s spent years studying textbook English to gain a basic understanding of English. Bombarding someone with cockney rhyming slang will leave people totally baffled. Cut the slang out, and you shall go far, young grasshopper.

6. Be wary of your words

Not all English speaking countries use the same words for the same objects or situations. England and America are constantly at war as to the correct use of words: faucet or tap? Apartment or flat? Lift or elevator? Find out which form of English people relate to in the country you’re visiting, and you’ll find that getting your point across with locals might go a little easier.

7. Technology can help

Although I don’t like to rely too heavily on the apps on my iphone, they are, in fact, a great help when you need a quick go-to for a word. I’ve been in stores looking for items like shaving cream. Instead of playing out a very highly skilled and thought out rendition of my daily morning shave, I just type it into my Google translate app and bingo.

8. Make a good guess

Don’t be afraid to just try out words that you think are correct, even if you are not 100% certain. The chances are that most of the time you will be correct, as you are dragging it out of that deep dark sub-conscious without even realizing you are doing it. And if you’re wrong, so what! Nobody died, civilization didn’t fail, the world is still intact. You just said a word wrong. No big deal.

9. Relax

When you get nervous your brain starts shooting random words across the language plains of your head, which are crashing into each other, causing traffic delays, and doing stunt shows. Not helpful. Relax, take a deep breath, and remember your training. Now try it again. Better right? Usually being relaxed helps the flow of understanding and communication. So just remember to breathe.

10. Get emotional

First of all, if you are trying to communicate with somebody but you are showing minimal emotion, you are going to find that you are coming across a little boring. Nobody likes a robot. Secondly emotions are universal. Happy, sad, and angry: all of these are understood in different languages without having to use the language. So take Whitney Houston’s advice and don’t be afraid to get so emotional, baby.

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