As much as English is now a universal language, there are countries that use English as a secondary language. Some of the main languages used in other countries include Mandarin, Japanese, Hindu, Dutch, French, Arabic and hundreds of other native languages. When you are travelling for a few days, you might not be able to get the chance to learn the language. So how do you get around in a country that speaks a different language from you? Here are a few tips.
Get a ride from the airport
Your first day in the new country with a foreign language will be hardest and you need to at least have a planned pick up from the airport. The easiest way to do this is by arranging with your hotel to send a taxi to you. The driver can simply hold a card with your name at the passenger-receiving terminal. Not having a pre-planned pick up might result in you getting lost, scammed and in worse cases even robbed.
Make use of the hotel reception
Most hotels will have an English-speaking receptionist. Even if the English are not fluent, it will be better than nothing. You can ask the receptionist for directions for the places you want to go to. Have them write the names of the places and where possible, give you a map with these places circled. That way, you can easily communicate with a taxi driver by simply pointing out where you want to go. Also ask them for recommendations and suggestions about what food to get, whether to take a taxi or public transport etc.
Use signs and gestures
You might find it funny or hard to make hand signs about a thing, but you will be surprised at how universal hand signs are as opposed to words. For example, a renowned traveller gives an account on the day she and her husband travelled to a remote village in Asia. They were served with some kind of meat but because of its presentation and bite sized cuts, they could not tell what it really was. She then had to make gestures like flapping wings, and swimming fish and even moo like a cow in the hope of asking what animal the meat was from. The waiter immediately understood and confirmed that it was seafood.
If hand signs are not working, or if you are better at drawing, then consider using Pictionary. When asking for a well-known thing or place, drawing it might make it clearer for the person you are asking from.
- Have a notepad and pen
You will find it easier to remember the names of places and things when you have them jotted down. You can also use it to draw a simple map showing the direction of your hotel to the places you have been to in case you are hoping to return there.
Use translator apps
Google translate is one of the best translator apps. All you have to do is input your question in your language and ask the app to translate it to the local language. In case the person you are asking cannot read, the app has the audio version. The only disadvantage of translator apps is that they do not have smaller local languages that exist in different countries. It will still be of great help.
Learn basic words and phrases
There are words, which will come in handy if you can say them in the local language. Words such as please, thank you, where is, what is, how much, goodbye, toilet, and sorry are very necessary. Also, learn the numbers in the local language so that you can keep track of your spending and avoid getting scammed.
Ask help from the right people
If you find yourself lost, asking for directions is always the best play. However, do not ask random people because you might easily fall into the wrong hands. The best people to ask for directions are traffic police, security guards or staff at a restaurant or hotel. These people are mostly friendly and always ready to help without ill intent.
Download an offline map
A mobile map is going to be your best friend for the time you are going to be a foreigner. Getting an offline map is best because it still works in case you run out of data or Wi-Fi.
Learn landmarks in relation to your hotel
Landmarks are the easiest way of tracing your way back to your hotel. Try to find a building with an odd shape or colour and relate it to your hotel. That way, no matter how far you are from the hotel, as long as you are within sight of the building, you can always find your way back.
Be patient and kind
The worst thing you can do in a foreign-language-speaking country is being rude and ill-tempered. Strangers are always ready to help but when they realize you are not receptive, they will easily hold back their assistance. Always practice patience, do not get into fights with locals even verbally, and try to be as humble as you can be. A simple smile can get you more help than you expected.