There is one question that I get asked all the time- How do you talk to people from another county? It’s something every traveler has dealt with, and I think the more you travel, the more comfortable you feel around foreign languages.
Every time someone asks me this I tell them that I always look up how to say pleasantries (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, how much…?, where is…?, etc.) in the local language. I try to memorize them, but I always write them down in my travel journal. A lot of times when you show that you’re putting forth an effort to speak in a local language it opens the doors and is seen as a sign of respect. Also, you learn to use this awkward/make-shift type of sign-language when communicating that usually can frustrate you at times and make you (and others) laugh at other times.
Despite the language barriers I think it is SO IMPORTANT to communicate with people as much as you possibly can in whatever method you can manage. Here are some quotes on the language barrier:
“Those who know nothing of foreign languages, know nothing of their own.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe-
“Own only what you can always carry with you. Know languages, know countries, know people. Let memory be your travel bag.”
“Even on the emotional level, the language barrier is quite porous. People’s features, particularly their eyes, are wonderfully eloquent.”
“Everyone smiles in the same language.”
“Language is an immense source of joy. Everything wise and wonderful about this quirky little nation flows from its language. The formal Icelandic greeting is “komdu saell”, which translates literally as “come happy”. When Icelanders part, they say “vertu saell”, “go happy”. I like that one a lot. It’s so much better than “take care” or “catch you later”. The Icelandic language, like the people who speak it, is egalitarian and utterly free of pretense.”
What are your tips for breaking the language barrier while traveling?