How do you communicate when you don’t speak the local language of the country you are visiting?
Here are a few “study tips” for your real life language test.
Say it with me now:
I don’t want…
These are, in my opinion, the most basic words you should learn to say in any language. Before you jet set off to the exotic-island-off-the-coast-of-the-desert-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean-southwest-of-the-mountainous-regions-of-who-knows-where, do yourself a favor and learn to say these common phrases in the language of your destination country before your departure.
Make noise, make moves, but don’t make volume.
Let’s say you’re a C+/B- student and the dog ate your homework, you misplaced your notebook, you left your notes in the back pocket of your freshly washed pants, you ended up watching your favorite sitcom and/or drama-of-the-moment (or any other excuse you can remember from your grade school days) and you didn’t learn those phrases before leaving. How do you study last-minute?
Grunts, hand gestures, head shakes or nods, “umm’s”, pointing to maps, miming and the like can also help you express what you want to say. (The highest grade for effort I’ll give you for this is a B- at best.)
When you do try and use words, refrain from turning up the volume (unless you’re a naturally soft-spoken person like me). Getting your message across at above-average volumes won’t magically translate your words. I’ve seen many people mistakenly try this when attempting conversation with others, assuming that having a loud voice will somehow help clarify their words.
Reality check: it doesn’t. In fact, it can make the other person feel stupid and insignificant while simultaneously making you seem…how shall I say this…like a culturally inconsiderate tourist. Perhaps you’re not intending to come off that way, but you never know how the other person will interpret your actions. It’s best to play it safe and speak clearly and audibly. Your point is more likely to be understood if you maintain a polite and courteous tone.
Use your face
Facial expressions: the language of the universe. Show a child a photo of someone laughing and they’ll instantly recognize happiness. Cry in front of a stranger and they’ll know you’re sad. If you’re at a complete loss, resort to the tactic of wearing your heart on your
BUT, be warned: if you’re walking around and you LOOK like a tourist, people can sometimes take advantage of your “deer-caught-in-headlights” expression. You don’t need to be blantanly transparent with your feelings; in fact, it might be better to be poker-faced when meandering about. In other words, avoid becoming a target.
Communicating is the key to a successful journey – literally and figuratively. Speak, move, emote, and you should be able to pass even the most challenging language tests with flying colors. Good luck!