Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Five useful travel tips when dealing with a language barrier on holiday

Finding yourself in a difficult or tricky situation because you’re unfamiliar with a foreign language is not uncommon. It could arise from something fairly straightforward such as needing directions to the nearest beach or help to understand the dining options on a restaurant menu; or it might be something more serious like calling an emergency doctor if your child falls ill, or reporting the theft of your goods to a local police officer. Whilst not every situation is black and white, much of your reaction or response in these scenarios comes down to logic and common sense, but here are a few tips to help you on your travels:

·        Don’t assume everyone speaks English – it’s an assumption that many of us make, but 82% of the world’s population don’t speak English, so you are more than likely to encounter locals who don’t understand a word of what you are saying.  It’s worth doing a bit of advance ground research on the country you are visiting as some areas will have a greater population of English-speakers than others – it always helps to be prepared.

·        Know when not to use a phrase book – phrase books are great for quick, off-the-cuff words like ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’; they are also useful as a reference guide – i.e. translating a written word on a road/street sign, looking up words to help you on your travels for insight and exploration. Where they fall short is from a conversational stand-point. If a local launches into a full-blown conversation and it’s clear they need to communicate with you for a specific reason, using a phrase book simply won’t cut it.

·        Keep calm and breathe – regardless of a language barrier you’re likely to pick up vibes if someone is irate or angry by their tone, facial expression and body language. If that happens it is best to avoid shouting back, but instead stay calm and if possible try to find a local who speaks English to help you interpret or use drawings/pictures to help explain the conversation. Of course, in many scenarios this may not be possible.

·        Avoid shouting and waving your arms about – never shout louder, talk in a slower, more condescending voice or wave your arms frantically in an attempt to communicate with someone. This is more likely to exacerbate the situation and come across as insulting and rude. It is worth remembering that although the person may not understand English, they are human and they will pick up on bad manners that are offensive to them.

·        Use someone who can speak the lingo – if we’re completely honest, all of the above scenarios can be dealt with quickly and more effectively by having 24/7 access to an interpreter in your pocket such as traveller service i-interpret4u (www.i-interpret4u.co.uk). This will ensure that you are able to communicate in 85 different languages via your mobile phone or any landline, immediately at the point you need it with connection to a live interpreter in under a minute – great peace of mind when travelling overseas with your family and no need for stress and panic when the language barrier hurdle strikes.

We’ll be blog-posting more tips like these on a regular basis in line with current travel topics and trends so do come back and visit again…

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