The first two weeks of an adventure abroad can be quite challenging. Different culture, different climate, different people - but the biggest challenge might be the communication in another language. Here are five tips for you how to deal with a language barrier that will probably encourage you not to give up even if it gets more difficult.
Knowing the basics never hurts
Knowing the basics of a language is the least you can do, it will show people that you are trying your best in being understood. Every culture appreciates its own language so knowing the basics is the best way to show respect. Besides, it will give you the basic security that you need. Get a feeling for the pronunciation, the grammar and the most useful phrases and words like "Please" (Por favor) "Thank you" (Gracias) and "Excuse me" (Permiso). Remember, it never hurts to know good manners in more than one language. The best is to write them down, in case you forget. Also, take notes of new words and phrases that you learned throughout the day.
Use your hands and feet
It will happen to you that people won’t understand you. Don’t be discouraged! You can try to show what you want by pointing to it. Use all your communication weapons: mimics, sounds, hand language, even drawing is allowed. Use your creativity towards any complex situation. Always be open and playful and nobody will leave you without an answer; if you try hard people will try hard with you.
Even if some words are in the wrong order or you pronounce it differently, even when people ask you to repeat what you’ve said a couple of times: keep talking. It will get better with practice. Don't wait until perfection, languages are never spoken as in your books, not even by natives. People tend to use slang and paraphrasing which is a never-ending story when it comes to know them all. If you just jump into the pool of language somehow you will find your way to say what you want, and if not someone might dive to rescue. The most important thing is not to get frustrated and start all over, this time using your notes as floats.
Get in touch with native speakers
What if I told you that being abroad is like attending the most didactic and interactive class of your life? Yes, having the opportunity to be surrounded by natives is the best way to learn the real deal. So get your butt out of your hostel and go strike ahead to non-touristic activities like workshops, classes or why not a volunteering opportunity?! You know it, native speakers are the best teachers. They cannot only help you with the pronunciation or the right words but also teach you common phrases, sayings and slang words. In addition to that, they know the city and cool places to go to. Don't miss the opportunity of having your study book and travel guide all in once by making friends with locals.
Take yor time
Coming to a foreign country is overwhelming. There are so many new things to see, hear and taste. So many new and different people, behaviour and social ways you have to get used to. Give yourself some time to adapt first, and then work on your things-to-improve-list like your second language. Frustration is your only enemy, don't let it wrap you in its negativity. By the time you feel in your element you will be having conversations or at least a pleasant exchange of coherent sentences.
The most important thing to remember is to not be discouraged. You are only learning by practicing, and the best practice is to get out there, use our tips and talk!