How can you contact native people without speaking their own language?

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Use basic words, shared numbers, expressive gestures and a friendly approach to improving communication when speaking to locals in a foreign country.

  • Learn a few words and phrases in the native language before your trip to make basic communication easier.
  •  Use expressive body language to communicate when speaking to locals.
  •  When appropriate, use numbers to make your intended meaning clearer.
  • Take a professionally guided vacation to experience the region without learning the language, or have a local tour guide show you the highlights of the city so that you can easily find your way.
  • Approach locals with courtesy to encourage open communication.

Speaking to locals without knowing the native language is a challenge that you can overcome by using simple communication strategies. Gestures, maps and local resources such as guided tours are effective tools that make the communication barrier easier to overcome when you fly to new country.

Preparing for your trip beforehand also improves your ability to communicate when you don’t know the local language.

Learn Simple Words and Phrases

Before you leave home, learn some basic phrases and words in the local language. Words like “help” and phrases like “thank you” only take a few minutes to learn, but they send a clear message that others easily understand.

Translation resources like apps and dictionaries are useful when you want to learn a new word or phrase before your trip.

For instant access to the local language while abroad, carry a translation dictionary with you on your travels, and download a translation app if you have a smartphone.

While apps are convenient, carrying a translation dictionary as a backup is recommended, especially as internet connectivity might not be available.

Use Expressive Body Language

Expressive body language is an effective way to share meaning when visiting foreign countries. For example, when you mimic taking a drink, most people understand that you want a beverage.

Although you may feel a little silly, expressive gestures and body language are an important part of communication among all people, including those who share the same language.

Body language is also a way to communicate with others. Friendly gestures are usually the best way to show someone your intentions before you begin to speak. Friendly gestures include smiling and keeping your hands open and visible when you approach someone. Try to use clear body language to improve your communication with locals.

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