ขอบคุณ (kháawp-khun) = “thank you” (in Thai)
I’ve traveled to several countries and spent a good amount of time in each place; however, the only language I speak fluently is English. Not being fluent in another language has never stopped me from visiting, or wanting to visit, a foreign country. And actually, I never thought of it as a potential travel barrier until a friend asked me “how do feel so comfortable traveling to countries where you don’t speak the native language?”
While language barriers can definitely make any travel experience challenging, there’s a common language everyone knows and that’s body language. I can’t tell you how many times body language has helped me during my travels.
I vividly remember this one time when I was in Medellin, Colombia and I was looking for the nearest post office to mail something to a friend who was back in the States. I saw on my phone that there was a DHL on the other side of town, but I was convinced there had to be a local post office in the area.
So I ventured out in the neighborhood looking aimlessly for a post office and didn’t find one. I ended up asking, or attempting to ask, a few people I ran into if they knew where it was. I don’t know if you ever traveled to Medellin, but English isn’t widely spoken there. Needless to say, it was quite challenging to try to describe what I was looking for.
Eventually, with my best Spanglish accent and my great body language skills (*inserts body roll GIF*), I was able to explain to someone what I was looking for. And after all of that, I was told there wasn’t one in the area. LOL 🤦🏾♀️
I’ve been to a lot of countries where English is barely spoken and I’ve been able to get around with a few great resources I learned about while traveling. As always, sharing is caring.
So, here are 4 ways to prepare for a trip to another country where you don’t speak the language:
Download Google Translate
This was a life saver for me! The app can found in the app store on most mobile devices and the best part about it is you can even use it if you’re not connected to wifi if you save the language on the app.
Check out YoutTube Videos
I actually just did this just this week. I wanted to know how to correctly spell and pronounce the Thai phrase I mentioned in the begging of this post. 🙂 See why I love YouTube? It’s great because you can hear how a particular word or phrase is pronounced and most travel videos will mention basic words you’ll need to know to get around different countries.
Get a Travel Guide
This one may seem obvious and thanks to the internet you can get a digital version. Gone are the days where you have to go to the bookstore to buy a travel book. A lot of travel bloggers have created guides with helpful tips and other useful information on various cities. The best thing about the online guides is that they’re so much easier to travel with.
Hire A Local Tour Guide
This is one of my favorite things to do when I first arrive in a new city. It helps me get to know the city and the culture and be more connected. Local tour guides are knowledgeable of the area and can definitely help out with any language barrier fears.
Throughout my travels, I learned a few phrases that helped me communicate with locals. Here are a few that came to mind:
Sing Ken Ken = No Worries
Salamat Pagi = Good Morning
Suksma = Thank you
Danke= thank you
Kháawp-khun = Thank you
Kháawp-khun ka = Thank you (used in a formal setting for women speakers)
Kháawp-khun krap = Thank you (used in a formal setting for male speakers)
Sawasdee = Hello
Sawasdee ka = Hello (used in a formal setting for women speakers)
What phrases or words have you learned while traveling abroad? Drop ‘em in the comments below…keep it clean! 🙂