Say What? Getting By in a Foreign Country

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You’re not going to realize how much you’ve taken English for granted till you are in an environment where no one seems to understand or speak English. At that point, the world is going to seem overwhelmingly big while you just feel lost.

When a lot of people don’t understand the language being spoken to them, they opt for just nodding and smiling or saying ‘yes’ to every question – both always turn out to be very bad ideas.


Image: Memecentre
Image: Memecentre


If you are traveling to or already in a country where English isn’t widely spoken, these tips might help;

Memorize basic phrases.

You are going to have to memorize phrases like “where’s the bathroom” “where can I get a cab” and so on. So at least you can get from the airport to your hotel room without hitches.


Use the four magic words

Do you speak English? These may very well be the best words in English language. Asking this question can go two major ways – and they are both favorable.

a. He/she speaks English and you are saved.

b. He/she doesn’t speak English but realizes you are a foreigner and tries to help. Or better yet refers you to someone around who speaks English


Talking like this would probably get you beat up
Talking like this would probably get you beat up


Use maps.

Physical or virtual maps will get you to places when asking for guidance doesn’t seem to be working. Bear in mind that these maps may be outdated so you may just end up at a dead end – staring at a decade-old brick wall or a rift (yikes!)



Be observant

If you are unable to understand the language of those around you, you have to look out for physical cues that might give an insight to what they are talking about. If for instance, you order a meal at a restaurant and the waiter starts fanning his tongue and gesticulating wildly, he’s not crazy. He’s trying to tell you the meal might be too hot for you.


As a last resort, pocket dictionaries and Google Translate might come in handy in desperate situations.


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