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  • Tips for traveling to foreign-language destinations

    2013-08-13

    International travel can be a blast, but some people find it very intimidating. Americans embarking on Asia travel or Africa travel, for example, may be faced with a language that is a far cry from the English they speak normally. There are a few measures you can take to make this kind of experience easier. Here are a few tips:

    Pick your phrases carefully
    Mastering an entire foreign language before you embark on your trip is probably out of the question, so it's best to memorize a few crucial statements that you think you'll need. The best one to learn is most likely, "Does anyone here speak English?" This is a better phrase than, "Do you speak English?" because it will allow whomever you are speaking with to point you in the direction of an English-speaker. Other emergency phrases like "Where is the nearest hospital?" are important, as are everyday questions such as, "Is there a restaurant nearby?" or "Do you have wireless internet?"

    Make your own flashcards
    While foreign vocabulary might trip you up while you're traveling, pictures are universal. You can create a few flashcards that will help you get around. For example, a flashcard with a red cross on it will likely be recognizable as the symbol for "hospital" in most countries you visit. Similarly, flashcards featuring a cup of coffee, a credit card or an airplane will likely prove useful. For extra convenience, draw these images on the backs of old business cards so they can be kept right in your wallet.

    Hotels are your safe space
    Even with these safeguards in place, you may find yourself stranded at some point with no English-speaker in site. Your best bet, in such a scenario, is to look for a nearby hotel. Most large hotels and hostels hire individuals who speak at least basic English to stand behind the reception desk. You can go there to receive information or assistance, even if you don't have a room booked at the hotel. Make a habit of stopping by the reception desk at the hotel where you're staying every morning before you leave to gather basic information about what you plan to do that day.

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