Ideally, you would have made an effort to learn the basics of the language before traveling to any new country, however, if your language skills are not up to par, here is how you can get by in airports, train station or out and about in the city.
The important thing is to make a game plan if you know communication will be an issue. Solo travelers do not have the luxury of linguistically-talented adventure partners to serve as a go-between in daily interactions. Look up the locations of restaurants, train stations and attractions before you go out so you won’t be lost without a means to ask for help. Screenshot maps with your phone if your coverage plan doesn’t include the country you’re traveling through. Pick up physical maps of cities at most bodegas or terminals. Google translate isn’t a perfect tool, but it can help you understand basic words on posted signs or unfamiliar ingredient terms on food packaging to avoid allergens.
Keep a notebook on you to write down common phrases you hear spoken–words for hello, goodbye, excuse me and “Where is the toilet?”. Write down words on street signs. Write down sentences you might need to use and in your free time, translate and memorize. This is not the most effective way to learn languages. Language acquisition is best accomplished through repeated patterns of listening and using, in other words, by being surrounded by that language until you hear it in your dreams and reading the local newspaper and attempting to order a coffee at an unfamiliar shop and making tons of mistakes. Having a prepared list of possible sentences in your pocket WILL help you ask directions to the bathroom in an emergency, though. I go over all that and more in the video.
Welcome, stranger! My name is Allyson. I am a recent college graduate, a writer and a traveler with stories to share. I post new content on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Music Credit: free for commercial use via ccmixter.org Set Yourself Free (ft. Snowflake) by Loveshadow