The world is getting smaller every day, and people around the world are connecting through the increasing use of English and social media. However, each country is full of interesting people that may not speak your language. Even if you don’t have time to learn their language, you can find ways of learning enough to enhance your trip. Whether you speak some of their language or nothing at all, these tips will enrich your time abroad while also ensuring that you stay safe in any destination!
The Surprising Reality for Language Learners
You’ve studied your favorite language for years, got great grades in class, and know foreign songs by heart. You finally arrive in your dream destination, and they don’t understand a word you say. Not only that, but you can’t understand them! What seemed so clear in movies, songs, and journals is suddenly a mess of rapid-fire speech. You want to revert to English, and maybe you want to just point at things, but you must resist this temptation!
One of the most difficult aspects of using a language is truly using it. Arriving in a destination shatters any illusions you had about your native accent, your perfect ear, and even your overall abilities. But don’t worry: keep trying, ask them to slow down, and
make sure to enunciate your words . If you can get through the first week, you’ll find your skills developing faster by the minute. If you’ve never studied a foreign language and simply wish to survive with a few key phrases, then you can:
Fake It Until You Make It
You don’t need a degree in Spanish to get around in Spain, but it would be nice to try their language before relying on English. Of course, they may know some English and can certainly help in a restaurant or during air medical transportation, but you’ll get the VIP treatment if you try to speak like a local. To start, make a list of things you need to use daily like:
I would like coffee, chicken, eggs, etc
Please and thank you
Sorry, I can’t speak well. Can you speak English?
It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s more than the average tourist will attempt. You can also learn phrases or words that are more aligned with your interests like specific foods or activities. This will make people more receptive to helping you, and your trip will be all the richer for it.
False Friends: This Word’s Not What You Think
One of the hidden humors of trying a new language is learning about
false friends , a.k.a. words that sound the same in your language but mean something entirely different in another. Let’s say you’re in Russia and want a preservative such as vinegar. You ask your guide, and they look shocked as you actually asked for condoms. Yes, “preservatives” are condoms in Russia, France, and many other European countries.
You’ll likely encounter some false friends during your travels, but don’t let it worry you. It’s often a funny moment for both parties when they realize, “this means that in your language?!” Most false friends are harmless enough, and you shouldn’t have any problems during a more serious conversation. However, if you’re ever in a situation where you need to phone the police or require air medical transportation, you must follow this next tip to avoid any medical false friends or worse: a lack of any words.
In Case of Emergency
You’ll likely be safe during your entire trip, and worrying about things will only take away from the magic of travel. However, just as you have a fire extinguisher in your home just in case, it’s important to have a little language cheat-sheet ready for anything that may occur. You should try to create it before departing abroad, but luckily with the
magic of smart phones you can find an online dictionary anywhere.
Take the time when you land to write a few basic phrases down on a piece of paper and leave it in your wallet or passport. Write them down so that you don’t have to rely on your phone’s battery in the case of emergency. These phrases should be things that you may need to quickly relay to the police or an
air medical transportation specialist. This includes:
My heart hurts
My face/arm is numb
My stomach hurts
Keep it simple, and you can point to any affected areas once they arrive to be more specific. It may be difficult writing the words for spleen or liver, so keep it to just stomach on the phone and use your hands once they arrive. This will save time, and it’s likely they will know some English anyway. However, it’s always best to be prepared so that you can feel safe during your travels. By following all of these tips, your vacation will be safe, exciting, and full of great memories!
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