Learning new languages can be a daunting experience

Relocating on its own comes with a lot of stress and when the thought of not understanding the local language crosses your mind, relocating may even more from stressful to scary. Imagine that you walk into a room with a friend and immediately after exchanging pleasantries with those present …everyone else zooms in to speaking and laughing in another language that you can’t even make out a word of what they’re saying. Think of it this way, you were there with a friend and you were still left out. Compare it to when you’re in a new environment with probably no friend. No worries vacation-today.com  got you covered. Let’s dive into ways that will make your language barrier worries disappear into thin air.

Before you set out

Okay, let’s take a step backwards before you relocate if possible try learning the local language of the community you’re headed to. You could use language apps such as Duolingo (a free app that tests your knowledge in a variety of languages) and Word length ( immediately translate a foreign word when you hover over it with your smartphone) dictionaries and maybe take up an online course on that language. Knowing the basics are obvious, for example how to say words like ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’ however, other phrases such as ‘where is the toilet’, ‘do you speak English’, ‘please repeat that slowly’ and ‘I’m allergic to…’ will go a long way to help you settle in nicely.


In a foreign land with foreign language speaking people

You are taking in the new view, trying to get accustomed to the new environment and probably exercising your basic skill of the local language already. Below are some tips that will help you manoeuvre your way around this new local language for starters.


Listen and Learn

Just as it’s best to observe how people interact to understand the culture, it’s also a good idea to listen to how people communicate to identify the words and phrases of a country. As you observe people communicate and also get involved in conversations, don’t be afraid to clarify the words, to help with building your own vocabulary. The more you know, the easier communicating will become as the days go by.


Speaking Slowly and using Visual Clues

It can certainly be easy to feel confused, disgruntled and frustrated when you feel that you are not being understood by someone or vice versa hence patience is a big part of overcoming the language barrier. Sometimes to overcome this, people tend to talk loudly and use more descriptions, which can be more confusing to the person on the receiving end of the conversations, who is looking out for one-off words and phrases that they recognize to be able to piece the conversation together. Articulating each syllable or letter of the word and playing charades to support your points can be more effective -for example, pretending to take a photo with your invisible camera in your hands, or motioning with your camera can easily translate into your request to someone on whether you can snap a shot of them.

Another good idea is to carry a pen and paper with you, besides a trusty foreign language dictionary.

Sketch it

It is a good idea is to carry a pen and paper with you at all times. A crude drawing of a landmark, a sketch of a map and your surroundings, or spelling words to watch out for can break down any misunderstandings.

Time start working on your Pictionary skills!

Or, if you realize your drawing skills are a bit lacking, you could load up a few photos of the main things you want to see and then show them to the locals; they should be able to recognize what’s in the pictures and point you in the right direction. You can either bring the photos and maps with you or save them onto your phone.


Keep it Simple

Think about the main words that you are conveying when you are communicating with someone – they are looking just as much for the clues as you to string together the sentence. To get your point across, you may want to take shortcuts in how you communicate, such as saying “photo?” rather than “can I take a photo of you and your store?” may suffice.

Also, get rid of any slang from your vocabulary. “It’s raining cats and dogs” could simply be translated into “it’s raining very heavily”, for example. Even more simply put, think about what words are typically used – restroom/bathroom doesn’t always translate as easily as the toilet, which is more direct, straightforward and understood.


Have Fun while at it

While communicating in foreign lands can be challenging, the main thing is not to take yourself too seriously. Being “lost in translation” is not necessarily a bad thing – learning new words and phrases can go hand in hand with uncovering new sights to learn more about another country.

Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and try to learn a few phrases, and keep building upon this as you travel. A smile, a kind, and patient approach, and a little practice each day can go a long way – Try to get into conversations with the locals as frequently as possible. Your pronunciation may be far from perfect, but some of your fondest and most unforgettable memories may be a humorous exchange with a local, breaking down the language barriers one word at a time.