It is a common misconception, particularly when Brits travel abroad, that everyone speaks English. Many people think they don’t need to learn any other languages, and instead just need to simply speak louder in English.
There are roughly 6,500 languages in the world and English is only one of them. Yes, it is one of the most widely spoken in the world, but this doesn’t mean that everyone can use or understand the English language. So, here are some tips to travelling to countries where you don’t speak the language.
Stick to touristy areas
You are more likely to hear English in areas or resorts popular with tourists, as holidaymakers will be the main source of income for hotels, businesses and attractions in these areas. Therefore, the staff in these places will speak English to accommodate their customers and you are more likely to find less of a language barrier.
Learn a few common phrases
If you want to go beyond the tourist hotspots of a holiday destination and see more off the beaten track, it would help to have some of the local language. You probably won’t learn the whole language before holidaying, because language learning takes years of practice, but simply learning a few common words and phrases will help you. For example, the equivalents of ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’. Another very useful phrase to learn would be how to say ‘do you speak English?’, so that person will know you are a visitor to their country. Hopefully they’ll say yes and then you can talk in English, or they might find someone else who can speak to you, if they can’t.
Have a knowledge of the numbers
Knowing numbers in a language will help you in a variety of situations, like if you were trying to find out the cost of an item at a market, paying a bill at a restaurant or finding out how far away something is. Practise saying and hearing these numbers so you feel more confident using and understanding them in a conversation. Generally, learning the numbers between 1 and 10 should be enough to get by, as you could break down bigger numbers into their individual digits when talking to someone. For example, if the cost of a hotel room was 125€ for the night, you could say one-two-five in the language, instead of one hundred and twenty-five.
If locals do try to speak English with you, be patient. It’s not their mother tongue. Speaking to a native speaker of a language you have learnt as a second or third language is nerve-racking and takes a lot of confidence. Make sure to smile and please don’t interject or correct them, as it could really knock their confidence. So, please be patient, kind and understanding.
Travelling is an incredible experience, but please remember you’re visiting someone else’s home and they may not speak English. So, please be respectful. Also, learning some of the local language, even it is just the key phrases mentioned above or other important sentences like ‘can I order a drink please?’, would not only be a nice thing for the locals to hear when you meet them, but also for yourself. Having some of the local language would really enhance your travel experience and perhaps take you further than you ever imagined.