9 Simple Tips to Overcoming Language Barriers while Traveling

In as much as English is widely spoken in many places around the world, it does not necessarily work everywhere.

Tourists will be surprised at how many areas around the world English is rarely spoken or understood.

This article however is here to guide you on ways to effectively overcome language barriers whilst traveling and also give you an added advantage when communicating with locals. Read on!!

Tips to Overcoming Language Barriers

1. Do your Research

Overcoming Language Barriers
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While planning on embarking on any trip to a foreign country, do proper research on the official language(s) and other necessary informations about the place you intend on visiting.

You should know the official language of the country you are visiting, and if they are more than one, you should know the most prominent language of each city or town you will visit, this is why a proper research is highly advisable.

2. Know the Basics

Before traveling to any foreign country, it is ideal to know some basic words and phrases in their native language.

This is also applicable to places where English is spoken and understood generally, it will give you an added advantage when communicating with the natives.

Some basic common words that are often used include words like “hello”, “thank you”, “goodbye”, therefore you should get acquainted with these words in the native language of the foreign country you would be visiting.

Some other phrases that are also worth knowing in the foreign language includes phrases like “do you speak English?”, “where is the toilet”, “what’s your name?”, and more. Feel free to think of other important phrases you might probably use and learn to say them in the said language.

Before your actual trip, while making plans, check if you have any family members, friends, or someone you know who is familiar with the language you intend on learning, they should give a quick lesson on some basic important phrases.

You can also confide in some language practice apps(to be discussed more later in this article) to help you out during your practice.

Another reliable means of learning basic phrases is through some planes entertainment system which has various language programs, that is if you are traveling by air.

3. Pay attention and Learn

Paying close attention and listening attentively helps a lot in understanding and getting acquainted with a language just like close observation also helps in understanding a particular culture.

If you keep to this pace of paying attention you will notice an impulse of slowly identifying and understanding some words and phrases of the foreign language.

Also, feel free to clarify words you know you did not understand, this act will assist a lot in developing your vocabulary while speaking the said language and with time communication gets easier for you.

4. Make a sketch

In a country where you are not fully acquainted with the official language used, you should move along with a paper and a pen all the time.

This will enable you to quickly sketch out landmarks, or easily pass across information using pictures and sketched drawings, making communication easier and eliminating any form of misunderstanding.

On this note, I think it’s best you start working on your drawing skills if you are a bit lacking in drawing.

You can as well move along with carefully arranged photos of landmarks or places you intended on visiting, this will enable the locals to easily direct you to your intended location.

5. Patience is a Vital Tool

Learning and being conversant with a foreign language does not just happen all of a sudden, therefore patience is an important attribute needed in overcoming the language barrier.

When dealing with a foreign language you might feel frustrated, confused, and lost at some point, it’s annoying when you don’t understand what someone is saying or the other way round.

On this note, patience plays a vital role as you might have to use more descriptions or talk louder and be more observant to effectively communicate with the other party.

A reliable and effective method to adopt while communicating is using signs or demonstrations for illustrations. For example, pretending to eat with an invisible spoon in your hand can easily translate into a request for direction to an eatery or snack shop.

Another effective method as earlier stated, is carrying a pen and a paper with you regularly.

6. Use Translation Apps

Recent modernization and technological advancement have made quite many things less difficult and this advantage can be adopted in dealing with different languages while traveling.

Relying on technology by using a translation app can save you lots of stress in communicating as well as boost your communication skills in a foreign language and get you set and prepared for a conversation with locals.

To go about this, I’ll advise you to make a compilation of a few words and phrases that are needed in your usual conversation, translate them using a translation app, practice, and keep them saved on your device during your trip.

This simple practice will not only save you time, it will reduce stress and help you towards effective communication.

Some reliable translation apps you can install in your device and make use of for your assistance includes Google Translate, trip lingo, and the word point.

7. Move along with a Phrasebook or Pocket Dictionary

In as much as technology is vastly common around the world, there are some villages and rural areas with low internet receptivity or no electricity.

Therefore, it is advisable not to solely rely on digital technologies like phones or translation apps in overcoming language barriers while traveling.

On this account, you can fall back to other old fashion techniques like getting yourself a pocket dictionary or portable phrasebook and carrying it with you wherever you go. This will help assist in areas where technology can not be relied on.

8. Go straight to the Point

At times when communicating with a foreign language, it is very effective and less stressing just going straight to the point by saying a word and avoid making any extra phrase that might lead to confusion.

For instance, you can just say “photo?” and demonstrate with your hand to pass information across rather than saying ” can you help take a photo of me and my friend?”.This is a quick hack and shortcut while communicating in a foreign language.

Also, avoid using slang when communicating; say “it’s raining heavily” other than “It’s raining cats and dogs”, say “toilet” other than “restroom or bathroom”, this will help avoid unnecessary confusion as it is a more straight forward approach.

9. Have Fun and Enjoy the Process

When learning or communicating in a foreign language, don’t take it too personal, enjoy the process and have fun as you learn.

Though it might be quite challenging, being lost at some point in a conversation, it is not an offense or a bad omen. Introducing yourself to new phrases and words will help improve your vocabulary in the said language.

Feel free to ask questions and try to understand and pronounce some new words or phrases while communicating, as practice they say, makes perfect.

Your pronunciation might sound odd and imperfect initially, but with practice, patience, and a smile you get to meet locals who are willing and ready to teach you on seeing the effort you put in.


The language barrier might be a challenge but don’t let in be a limitation. Interacting with people from different cultures and languages improves your perception of life developing creativity and generating success.

Put the above tips on overcoming language barriers during your travels, these will assist you towards communicating effectively in a foreign land, do sure to pin this article for easy accessibility and also share with your friends.