First word, 4 letters, 3 syllables, second word 2 letters and point to oneself- Help me you scream! Communicating with locals while traveling abroad can often seem like a game of charades or even a one man play both to you and the person you are attempting to communicate with. While you may master the basics, communicating with locals becomes increasingly more difficult if you travel to an array of countries or travel within one country with a variety of different dialectics such as India where people from the North can’t understand locals from two states South. While the task of communicating with someone who does not speak a lick of English may seem daunting below are a few traveler’s tips to make the communication barriers not as potent.
Communicating with Locals
1. The iPhone Application
This easy to use software tool lets you fake a language as quickly as you can move your hands across the screen. Not only can users convert a variety of downloadable languages into English but users can also opt to have the foreign words phonetically spelled out or listen to the iPhone’s sound system repeat the words. These features ensure that users can properly pronounce the word (as not to confuse their listener) and allows users to translate words and phrases on the go.
2. Phrase Books
While fading into the limelight in the midst of all the technological innovations, this tried and tested communication technique is always reliable. Not only is it easy to carry around while on the go it is probably the most comprehensive guide for language translation.
I like the lonely planet ones as they are compact and easy to use.
Almost all good guide books have a small section in the back with some basic conversational items such as hello, thank you, where is the toilet etc. Depending on how thorough the guide book is, it may also have a section for food, words for directions and types of accommodations. Guidebooks are a good alternative if you are trying to reduce you backpack weight and need to restrict the amount of books you are bringing.
4. Learn on the spot
Probably the best way to communicate with locals is to try and learn their language. Not only will they appreciate the effort and likely be even more receptive towards you but it is also important to understand fundamental words such as thank you and hello to ensure you are a gracious guest and a respectful traveler. Practically from the moment I land in a country, I try to learn the most basic words in order to engage with the local populations. Plus, its always a nice bonus to walk away from a country with a lexicon of usable words and phrases.
Communicating with locals is not always easy but these helpful tips make communicating with locals that much simpler.