How to break down the language barrier

How to break down the language barrier

Traveling abroad is one of the most exciting things you can do, but it's completely normal to get a little nervous, especially when going somewhere for the first time. One thing I was nervous about my first time traveling was the language barrier, which I've heard from many other people. What I quickly learned, and you will too, is that simply learning the basics and trying just a little goes a long way. 

Here's some of our basic tips and some apps to help you get through! 

 Photo c/o Eunice Beck

Photo c/o Eunice Beck

Make the effort.

Okay, maybe you should’ve paid a little more attention in high school French. Never fear—language barriers are a thing, but not enough of a thing to hinder your adventure.

If you want to work wonders for your travel experience and cultural immersion, start by learning just a few key phrases. Some staples to keep handy:

“Hello!”

“I don’t speak [language].”

“Where is the bathroom?”

“How do you say ____?”

“Thank you.”

“Have a nice day!”

Feel self-conscious about word usage, pronunciation or political correctness? Stop it. Nine times out of ten, the locals don’t care about any of that. In fact, they love when foreigners make an effort to connect in their language. This action speaks louder than words, no matter how eloquent your words may be.

No excuses.

You may consider yourself too busy, too old or lacking the “natural talent” for the gift of gab. Before indulging these excuses any further, take a look at EF’s EPI (English Proficiency Index), which ranks countries by English skills.

EF EPI europe map.png

First, you’ll notice your destination is likely a moderate level of fluency or higher, which should qualm all anxiety over potential barriers.

Moreover, notice how much of the world knows English as a second (or third, or fourth) language. Over 70 different nations are on the index. As travelers, it’s our duty to put forth even a fraction of that effort out of respect for our hosts.

The Tech

You can’t return to your high school French classroom on account of that being, you know, really creepy and all. But the window of opportunity is still wide open! Just find a speaking partner who will critique your vocab, accent and cultural nuances. They can also give examples and keep you from developing bad habits. (On our trips the Tour Directors are also happy to help you practice!)

Thanks to technology, such a luxury is available no matter your geography or years since graduation. Try some of these, and you’ll become a polyglot in no time!

DuoLingo

Learn one of over 20 languages during your commute with this simple app that is fun, effective, and best of all, free.

Memrise

They have a slightly different technique by mixing up translations and teaching you multiple things at once. It's also free.

Busuu

Start at the best level for you, making it great if you already have some experience. You can take quizzes as you progress.

AccellaStudy Essential Apps

AccellaStudy uses different apps for each language. It includes things like flash cards and audio quizzes. The best part? You can use it hands-free—now you can learn while walking between classes and not crashing into anyone...or be a safe-driver on your commute! Win-win!

Google Translate

Learn simple phrases to break down language barriers through photo translation, phonetics and lessons to help you become more cultured. Plus—this is so easy to use on the go.

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