ShrugEnglish is widely considered the universal language of travel, and so, many travelers often assume everyone they meet should speak some level of English. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

While staff at the airport, hotels and some restaurants in many cities might know a few words of English (as they often deal with visitors), the locals who rarely encounter foreigners may not speak any English at all.

If you are stuck in a city where no one speaks a language you understand, and you have no clue on how to survive,, presents 5 tips on how to help you communicate anyways.

Do not panic

While language difficulties can be frustrating and even scary sometimes, stay optimistic!  Fretting will only draw attention and encourage swindlers to take advantage of you. Employ logic and maintain a confident composure. No matter how dire your situation, you will cross the hurdle eventually.

Try gestures

Body language plays a huge role in communication. Try hand gestures and miming as they are almost universally understood.

You may be worried about looking silly, but as long as you get the results you want, this should be the least of your concerns. Simple hand gestures, miming, drawing and pointing go a long way towards breaking through any language barrier.

You however need to be careful with your gesticulations as seemingly innocent gestures in your own country could prove offensive elsewhere in the world. To play safe, it’s wise to read up on taboos and hand gestures before using them.

Learn the basics

Mastering new languages can be unbearably difficult, however, learning the basics of a foreign language can be a life saver.

People are immediately friendlier when you use simple phrases as ‘Hello”, “Thank You” and “Please”. Learn the meaning of these phrases in the local language and use them. The people you are trying to communicate with will be more considerate, most likely appreciate your efforts and be much more willing to assist.

You can even take it a step further by learning important sentences such as: “Do you speak English?” or “I am lost, can you help me?” There are books and resources available online for this purpose.

Pack a notepad and a pen

When speaking fails, writing usually comes in handy. Ensure you have a notepad that has your information in case of an emergency.

Write down the address of your lodgings in the local language and the contact information of a travel buddy or local who you know. If you get lost, you can give the note pad to a taxi driver and he will take you back to your hotel in no time.

Even if you have learnt the basics, it is still important to write down information on your itinerary or things you need to purchase as you might not know how to make the correct pronunciation. For instance, the city ‘Nice” in the south of france is pronounced “Niece” rather than the normal English equivalent ‘nice’.

Use a translator

The great thing about living in the 21st century is that there is literally an app for everything- as long as you have a smartphone, tablet and internet service, all hope is not lost. Simply download a translation app!

Google Translate works wonders as it cover a long list of languages, and it gives you an option of deciphering even languages you cannot identify. All you need to do is have a local speak a word of the language into the app’s mic or you point your phone camera at the written word and it will work its magic. If you are not the techy type, you can simple resort to the old school method and hire a language translator as a guide.

Do you have more tips get around in city with locals who do not speak English? Share your tips in the comment box below. 

Source: Nkem Ndem, News Chronicle (Nigeria)

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