Beat the Language Barrier
Why do you like to travel? To soak up the sunshine that we don’t quite get enough of in Ireland? To visit world famous historical landmarks? Or, perhaps you want to immerse yourself in a new culture. Despite cultural experience being one of the most common reasons to travel, few of us can actually speak the languages of the countries we visit.
Language is at the heart of culture and allows you to truly experience it. You can speak to locals, venture off the beaten track and get a taste of the flavour and personality of a country. Language skills open up a whole new world you’d have otherwise missed on.
Of course, you can’t learn an entire language overnight and no one expects you to speak like a native in the run up to a short trip. However, you can take some steps to beat the language barrier and get the most out of your travels. Here’s some advice on how to start.
Brush up your skills before you go
Mentally pocket some basic phrases — asking for directions, ordering food, simple greetings — and you’re already on your way to bridging the linguistic gap. Lots of companies, such as Collins, produce handy phrasebooks for travellers, so be sure to add buying one to your pre-trip to-do list.
Try listening to audio recordings of the language as well, to get a feel for how it sounds as well as to improve your own pronunciation. There are also countless fantastic (and free!) apps to help you learn Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish or any other language you might need in your destination.
Use translation technology
As well as language learning apps, there is loads of technology out there to help you once you’ve arrived. As long as you have an internet connection, being able to enter words into Google Translate will always be a lifesaver. Google has also incorporated an instant camera translation feature into the app — just point it at foreign-language signs for real-time translation.
Translation technology is rapidly developing and is aiming to break through the language barrier altogether, with innovations like the Pilot earpiece. Keep an eye out for the latest tools and gadgets, but don’t throw away your phrasebook just yet. The tech world still has a long way to go!
Make friends with the locals
Language is complicated, ever-changing and very much alive. Ultimately, no app or phrasebook will ever teach you more than a person can. Use those basic phrases you learnt before your trip as a starting point and test them out with locals in bars, shops and restaurants. Often, people will be delighted that you’ve made an effort to speak their language instead of assuming that they understand English.
Make sure you venture out of tourist hives into places where locals go to socialise – or even better, choose a destination where not many people speak English. This way, you won’t be tempted to fall back onto your safety net.
Stick to simple phrases (you’re just trying to communicate, not deliver a poetic speech!) and cast away your fear of making mistakes. Breaking the language barrier is a challenge, but with a little bit of effort you’ll find yourself reaping the rewards and enjoying your holidays abroad even more.