Travel in a foreign country – be it for work, for pleasure, in a group or totally solo – can be a daunting prospect. There’s so much to consider, so much to plan, so much to do. And of all the challenges one can face while abroad, the language barrier is certainly up there.
From beginner French to Cantonese, from Portugal to the Congo, here are three tips to help you cheat your way to translation (and a happier, simpler, easier trip).
1. Lock Down the Basics
It might not seem like much of a cheat, actually learning your target language. “Where’s the fun in that?” you ask. Well, this one’s more for your own safety than anything else and, in all honesty, it shouldn’t take more than a few hours here or there. So it is a sort of a cheat, really.
Having a grasp of the basics wherever you’re going is vital for your safety. Please, thank you, where is the train station, what time is it, good morning, I’m allergic to eggs, etc. etc. These few simple phrases are enough to start a conversation, to point you in the right direction, to bring you home healthy and happy. You could learn with an audiobook like Rosetta Stone. You could learn with a textbook, a pocket dictionary. You could even try a course on Duolingo – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.duolingo&hl=en_GB. The Internet makes it easy. So go on, do a bit of homework. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Failing that, download an app like Google Translate. It’s far from perfect, but it works offline these days and has a camera function to conquer even the most stubborn of restaurant menus.
2. Pre-plan, Pre-book
The unfortunate truth is, even with half the world speaking English and even with a few basic foreign language phrases in your pocket, there’ll come times during travel abroad where communication simply breaks down. Perhaps your phone battery’s dead and Google Translate’s out of reach (although https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest has you covered there). Perhaps, despite its best efforts, Google Translate isn’t translating correctly at all. To help avoid this as much as possible, pre-book, pre-plan and pre-schedule your trip way ahead of time. We’re talking hotel rooms, taxis, local transport tickets, maybe even dinner reservations. The more you do online before actually arriving, the better.
3. Bring Your Own Entertainment
This tip goes without saying. Chances are, most movie theatres abroad aren’t going to come equipped with English subtitles for your viewing pleasure. Chances are, the TV only has local channels. The grace of modern technology is that, when you’re dead on your feet from tourism and your brain totally fried from all those office meetings, we no longer have to rely on the native versions of these things. Now, your laptop, smartphone, tablet, whatever, is your best friend.
So be smart. Get a Netflix subscription, download your favourite album, bookmark your favourite casino game (https://casino.paddypower.com/game/age-of-the-gods-cptn anybody? Themed Hercules jackpots have never looked so good.) Whatever your jam, keep it on hand.
Travel will always be tricky. But with enough foresight and enough tech jammed in your pocket, it can be easier, smoother and less stressful these days than ever before. So go on, get out there! Book your ticket and set sail for adventure. Just be sure not to lose your phone overboard in the process.