Dos and don’ts to remember when communicating with locals on a trip abroad

One of the biggest bonuses of traveling through a foreign country is that you come across with people who do not speak the same language as you. This could be a one-in-a-lifetime kind of thrill or a debilitating challenge depending on your people skills. Here are a few pointers that can help you communicate successfully with local during your trips abroad.

1. Educate yourself

Today, English has become a globally understood language and most non-English speakers can understand basic words like “police”, “restaurant”, “water” etc. however, what most people fail to remember is that the English speaking world is split into British and American styles of usage. Hence, if you are an American asking someone in Bangladesh about the elevator, you are more likely to be pointed to an escalator as they use the British word “lift” for it. Researching the style of English usage of the country you are visiting will of course save you a lot of misunderstanding.

2. Keep a dictionary/app of basic phrases

Carrying a pocket dictionary that contains some basic phrases from a local language would help you make yourself understood better. Remember to pick one that features the pronunciation of the words in your native language or you can simply download an app that can speak basic phrases out loud.

3. Communicate through writing

Even though the world today is united through its use of English language, most locals and travelers fail to understand each other because of their different respective accents. The accent barrier can easily be crossed by carrying a pocket notepad and a pen. You can either write down, in English, what you are trying to say or you can draw a picture for it.

4. Carry flash cards

If you are a non-English speaker traveling through a non-English speaking country, communicating with locals could be very hard for you. This is where carrying flash cards with pictures and questions written in the language of the country you’re traveling through could be very helpful.

5. Make commonly understood gestures

When nothing else works, you can always resort to making globally recognized gestures to make a local understand what you are trying to say. For example, you can make a gesture of using a spoon to inquire about a place to eat or make a gesture like you are manipulating a steering wheel to ask about taxis.

Dr Prem Jagyasi and Team

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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