I like to travel and have traveled to many countries. Naturally, people sometimes ask me for advice. With questions and concerns about destinations, money, food, and safety, something they may not think about is language. There seems to be an idea that English is widely spoken all over the world, which simply isn’t true.
What is sad about this idea is that often the same type of person who believes that people in foreign countries should know some English also believe that all visitors to the US should speak English too, especially immigrants. A little hypocrisy perhaps?
Have you ever seen someone trying to communicate with a person who doesn't understand, and they respond by speaking even louder? Or they try to explain what they’ve just said by explaining it with even more incomprehensible words? Not cool.
To travel anywhere in the world and communicate, you need an open mind, a few basic phrases, and a good understanding of body language. Pointing at menus is basic body language for travelers.
Before I travel anywhere, the first phrase I practice and memorize is “Do you speak English?” Even if you are pretty confident that they do, it is still polite to ask it in their language.
“Do you speak English” is your most important phrase. Even if the answer is “no,” you have still established that, although you don’t speak their language, you have at least made the most basic effort to communicate in it.
Then you can get into the other basics such as “hello,” “goodbye,” “where’s the bathroom?” and “another beer please.”
If you know some basics of any language, please leave a post!