One of our proudest travel moments was when we found ourselves in a restaurant in Milan with a menu written entirely in Italian, and we managed to successfully order our meal without too much difficulty AND receive what we thought we ordered. It felt like a final exam in the last semester of Italy, and we passed it. Was our Italian perfect? No way. But our server was so kind and understanding and knew enough English to help us out when we struggled. We ordered some of the most ah-maz-ing food from this restaurant; the lasagne was nothing less than magical. And the point of this story? Don’t let a potential language barrier prevent you from having a magical experience.

We read somewhere that fear of the language barrier prevents many people from traveling abroad. If you haven’t traveled much, it might seem nearly impossible to navigate a new place and communicate with people without knowing the local language. It can be intimidating and challenging, yes, but it’s not at all impossible.

Our advice for overcoming the language barrier?

DO YOUR RESEARCH. The more you know about a place ahead of your travels, the less information you will need to learn and figure out while on location. Read as much as you can about your destination to prepare for your time there. Research locations of hotels/places of interest, directions, and transportation options. Research local etiquette, laws, and customs. Find out what other tourists struggled with on their own adventures and learn from their mistakes.

LEARN SOME BASIC WORDS AND PHRASES IN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE. Common greetings and just a “please" or "thank you” can go a long way. Also, know the words for “yes” and “no”, the numbers one through five, and the names for a few basic foods. Learn how to ask for the cost of goods and for the restaurant bill/check. Learn how to ask if someone speaks your native language and how to find the toilet. 


KEEP IT SIMPLE. Use simple words when communicating. A single word question is often easier to communicate than stumbling through an entire sentence. Stay away from slang words.

BE POLITE. People will more likely want to help you if you're friendly, appreciative, and respectful. Be patient. Smile.

FOLLOW THE CROWD. Observe how the locals behave in the questionable situation. They tend to know where to go and what to do.

ASK FOR HELP. You might be surprised just how kind and helpful strangers can be on the street.

Now, go have your magical moment!


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