When you come across tourists around your home, you expect them to speak the local language, do you not? While English is becoming increasingly more common around the world, it’s still important to show respect by attempting to speak the local language. Even a basic knowledge of phrases like “hello” “please” and “thank you” will be well received in each country you visit.
Here are tips to help you communicate around the world.
Learn Basic Phrases
Before visiting a new country, visit Omniglot and screenshot its ‘Useful Phrases” because really, they are useful. I don’t need to explain much here, just do it.
CLICK HERE to visit the Omniglot Website.
Learn how to read the local script
Having spent many months in Eastern Europe, I found that learning cyrillic early on was one of my best decisions. Study the cyrillic alphabet briefly, and then try and read Ресторан.
Now try: Нотариус. Fun, isn’t it? Imagine walking around in a country where there are signs everywhere waiting to be read. You’ll feel like you’re back in kindergarten, learning to read for the first time. And every time you find a word you recognize, you’ll feel a little sparkle of pride shoot through your spine.
Learn Arabic, At Least the Numbers
Want an easy way not to get stiffed while traveling in Arabic speaking countries? Even if you can’t read, write, or speak Arabic, learn the numbers. Not only will you feel accomplished, but you will also be able to read the prices of goods you’re buying. In Egypt, I stopped at a local restaurant for lunch and could read the numbers, so knew the maximum price listed on the menu. The waiter tried to charge me more than that maximum price, so I asked him to point at the item on the menu for me. When he did, I saw the price, showed him I knew what it said, and was able to bargain him down to the real cost. Cha-ching!
Want to learn Arabic numbers for yourself? Here’s a useful chart. It’s also very important to note that while letters are written right to left, numbers are ordered the same as in Latin. Interesting?
Know Similarities and Differences Within and Amongst Countries
In some countries, you can find older generations often will speak various languages. In Eastern Europe, Russian is well known. In different countries within the Balkans, you can find pockets of bilinguals speaking a language related to former geographic boundaries. For example, Bosnia and Herzegovina used to be occupied by Austria-Hungary (known also as the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and therefore many Croatians speak German. Alternatively, only the Adriatic Sea separates Albania from Italy, so many Albanians speak or at least understand Italian. In Bulgaria, I found a striking amount of people of all ages speak French. No one could explain to me why (by no one, I mean the ten to fifteen locals I asked) but a noticeable percentage I met preferred to communicate in French.
In Western Asia and Northern Africa, it’s well known that Arabic is the common language. However every country, and even areas within most countries, have their own particular dialect. A Kuwaiti may have difficulty conversing with an Egyptian. Though technically they both speak the same language, they have many many variances. There are at least 26 different dialects of Arabic. As a visitor, it’s good to be aware of but not to be overwhelmed by this knowledge. Knowing key terms such as “Shukran” (thank you), “La” (no), and “Naäam” (yes) will be useful in all these countries.
Another surprising bit of information I’ve encountered is that in Ukraine, the majority either speak or at least understand Russian. In Western Europe, you’ll find people speaking Ukrainian or a mixture of Russian/Ukrainian. Once you head East, you’ll notice virtually everyone speaks Russian. So if given the choice, learn Russian instead.
Prepare with Duolingo:
If you have more time and energy to devote to learning a new language, Duolingo is consistently mentioned by travelers as their favorite source. They’re continuing to grow their inventory, currently offering courses in 27 languages. Whether you are a native English speaker and want to learn Vietnamese, or if you speak Vietnamese as a first language and want to learn English, courses are available for you via Windows, IOS and iPhone. Bonus: As of April 2016, their site states that soon enough, a course for “Klingon” will be available. That’s right: you’ll be able to speak the same language as Spock himself.
CLICK HERE to visit the Duolingo Website
Imagine this: you see a street sign, snap a photo with your phone and wabbam, your phone translates the text into your native language. Or you’re sitting at a restaurant getting ready to order but have no idea what’s on the menu. Google Translate to the rescue, and it just saved you from ordering pig brains rather than pork chops.
You will find many people feel honored to offer insights into their own daily lives, especially if its with something as simple as how to say “thank you” in their native tongue. Ask! It may open up new worlds for you and them.
Take Language Classes Where you Travel
In Israel, signs were posted all around offering Hebrew ‘taster’ classes.
In Kuwait, an Arabic teacher at the school I worked at happily stayed late once a week to teach the language to whomever wanted.
In Ukraine, the language school I taught English at allowed English speakers to take Russian or Ukrainian lessons.
In Venezuela, I studied art and history at a school in Spanish while Spanish speakers studied at the same school in English.
If you’re trying to learn French, look for Institut de Français at countries around the world. While you have to pay to be a member at each location, most will let you pop in to use their resources in-house.
What I’m trying to get at is.. the opportunities are endless.
Pajalsta, Study up habibi, por un bon voyage. Hatzlakhá e hvala!
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