How to Cope When You Don’t Speak the Local Language


Whether you’re moving to a new country, or travelling for a week getaway, there is nothing worse than arriving at your destination to find out you cannot communicate with the locals because of a language barrier. This can be extremely frustrating as it makes even the simplest of tasks quite difficult. You don’t truly understand the inability to communicate with other people until you are experience it firsthand in another country. Don’t let this doom your vacation though, as there are many tips and tricks that you can use and apply to ensure that you get the most out of your vacation and at least communicate on a basic level with the locals and service providers. The unfortunate reality of the situation as well, is that there are more than just interactions with people you must worry about in these countries. All street signs giving directions, food menus, and important posted notices will be unrecognizable to you. Not wanting to be a burden, you may try to find your own solutions but still find yourself struggling over and over just to get by. 

Don’t get stuck being that confused tourist, here are some tips to help you cope when you don’t speak the local language.

Learn Common Phrases

While you will not be able to learn to fluently speak the language during your stay, you can try and at least learn a few basic phrases that can help you get by. Being able to look at someone and ask them where the bathroom is can save you when you’re in a sticky situation, and being able to ask, “where is this hotel?”, or “where is this restaurant?”, can have some of the locals pointing and leading you on the right path. Learning common courtesies as well like hello, thank you, and you’re welcome, are expected as well as a tourist. Do not be that ignorant traveller who feels that they have no need to respect and learn about the culture they are placed in. While you can learn these phrases once you get to the country, a strong recommendation is to learn them a few days before your vacation and practice them. Practice makes perfect as they say and the only way to ensure you are pronouncing all the words properly and coherently is by practicing. Make sure you learn basic phrases of the language to so that when you arrive at your destination the locals can help you.

Document Translation

Maybe you are not simply vacationing to the country for a week, but perhaps you recently accepted a new job in the country and will start work there in the coming week. You pack all of your things, grab all your necessary and important documentation and fly out to your new home. Once there, you realize there is a huge problem. Your documents are in English, but the country requires them to be in Spanish. This will heavily delay the processing of your documents and take a lot of your time, potentially interfering with your time at work as well as they sort it out. Thankfully there are services that can translate documents for you. Before your trip, all you need to do is access one of these services, upload your documents to them, pick the language you want them to be translated in and sit back and relax as they get it done. We all know that governments can take weeks or even months to process information, don’t slow the process down even further by making them translate it as well. Use a document translator to ensure that your documents are reliable and quickly translated.

Use Hand Gestures

Hand gestures are very simple, but very effective. Everyone understands the concept of a wave, or a handshake, or someone gesturing directions to another person. While your language skills might not be the best, you can still communicate with your hands. Combining the two together can create an effective combination for communication with others. What you lack in basic phrasing can be made up for with hand gestures as the person listening will now have a general idea of what you are asking about. Don’t be afraid to get creative with how you communicate and use your body to ensure you understand you.

With these tips, you can be sure that the locals will not only better understand you, but look to help you out as well. You will never need to worry about your documentation again either as you can have a service help you out. Travelling to a new country should be enjoyable and relaxing, so don’t let the thought of language barriers stress you out. Work to understand basic phrases and use your body to communicate and you will find yourself on the right path to a successful trip