Breaking Down the Language Barrier

Meaningless chatter, incomprehensible street signs…the language barrier is something every traveler encounters. It makes the simplest things, like ordering food, harder, and the harder things, like trying to fix your computer, impossible. Many travelers enjoy this challenge, and I agree: experiencing a different language is an essential part of traveling to another country.

However, I’m here to argue that the language barrier can be broken down, and quite easily. By this, I don’t mean you will be able to read those street signs that look like weird symbols, or strike up a conversation on politics with the person who sells you your coffee. This is just to make small interactions with locals a little more authentic.

Here are the four magic words: hello, good-bye, please and thank you.

There are two parts to this: first, like a mentioned before, it will make your interactions easier. But secondly, the locals will appreciate it. Putting in a little effort shows them you’re truly interested in their culture, and might make them a little more friendly towards you.

So go right now. Look them up in your target language. Learn them so you have them in your back pocket. And when you’re done with that, come back and read the rest of this post.

My sister likes to pretend she knows what's going on...
My sister likes to pretend she knows what’s going on…


Now, the four magic words is something you can learn if you’re staying at a location for even a day. But if you have some extra time that you want to invest into your travel experience, here are a few more words you can learn in the language of the place you’re going to..

Yes and no can usually be achieved through nodding or shaking your head, but in case of confusion, these are handy to know.

How to count from 1 to 10 is helpful when buying things, or when ordering three strudels because you deserve it.

Bathroom? You don’t even need a full question for this one, but it’s helpful to know when in the middle of nowhere with a full bladder.

Sorry! This is just to be polite.

Where is…? You’re going to get lost, and maps are confusing.

How much? Because you really want that street food but don’t want to pay too much.

Feel free to add anything else you might need! Research the country you’re headed to and develop some phrases of your own.

What phrases have you found useful while traveling?


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