No language skills? No problem. You'll survive and get by.
That's the first thing to remember. You'll survive.
Maybe you'll have a bit of a hassle, but in any capital city or major tourist destination, you're going to be okay without speaking the local language. You might want to be careful about striking off into the countryside if the place is undeveloped and dangerous, but you'll be fine in any capital city.
Here's some things to bear in mind -
1. Someone will speak English. You might have to go to 3, 4, or 5 shops, but eventually you'll find someone.
2. There's places where expatriates hang out a lot. You can find one of those and get briefed on the local customs, areas to live, etc. Actually, the less developed a country is, the easier and more prominent the expat places are. The Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is a great example. You'll find someone there at any time who can give you the rundown on Cambodia.
3. The concierge at almost any 5-star hotels will help you, even if you're not a guest. Just go in and ask for help. Heck, even tell them you're not staying there. Oftentimes they'll give you free maps as well, if you want them.
5. The first words to learn in any country are "hello" and "thank you." If the country has a reputation for disliking people who don't speak their language (France...), then also learn "Do you speak English?" in their language. ("Excusez-moi, parlez-vous anglais?") These three phrases buy a ton of goodwill.
6. Use hand signals and gestures liberally. You can usually order chicken by going, "squawk squawk!" and flapping your wings. Yes, you look a little stupid, but it's also charming in a way. You can do similar gestures for train stations, airports, food, etc.
7. If you do have a location, food, or phrase that's important to you, write it down on your phone. If it's a language you can't write (Chinese, Japanese, etc), take a picture of it to show people.
Between those 7, you'll almost always be able to get by.
Got any good travel advice? Let's hear it in the comments.
This is first time actually contacting you, or anybody through blog for that matter. But you make it almost too easy(you must be bombarded with e-mail, good luck!).
I'm interested to know your strategy or preference on maximizing meaningful conversations abroad or even back home. I mean do you have any particular tactic or is it mostly random. Any public places or events that stir up conversations with strangers, any small talk lines or questions(etc. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?) that lead to insight and good conversation.
I'm from Finland and I'm going to travel a bit in asia(Okinawa, Seoul, Katmandu, Bhutan) and I find conversations as the best way to learn and experience different cultures. It would be such a waste to do it randomly if it there's is a way to do it most efficient way.
If you have any book recommendations, please make them available in amazon.co.uk with your affiliate id I would be happy to support you somehow.
Learning a new language can be on of the most difficult yet rewarding things one can do with their time. If done correctly, one will fail numerous times, be able to express themselves in unique ways and have easier access to a new culture. Currently Language-learning has been quite the rage, with services such as Rosetta Stone and Rocket languages selling like hotcakes and blogs such as fluentin3months having massive success. New services, such as duolingo and italki are changing the landscape of language learning business and making language learning ridiculously cheaper, and more accessible to everyone. I’ve undertaken learning 3 different languages, with varying success in each, but with each subsequent one being much easier to learn. I’ve tried to see how fast the human mind can learn a new language, especially ones that are radically different from ones native tongue. Currently I’ve learned a good amount of Japanese, Chinese and German, with my Japanese and German being significantly better than Chinese, but still not good enough to be able to have effortless conversations, which means I must keep pressing on.
I’ve found learning languages to be a very dynamic process. Each language has its own way of expressing itself, Some are very clear, cut and use short, direct words, as I have found to be the case with Chinese. Others are more vague, longwinded, or emphasize particular things, such as Japanese having a verb ending that signals the completion of something. Regardless, learning a new language will definitely bestow you with a new way of looking at the world. Here I want to share 4 things to keep in mind that have radically helped me when learning languages.
1. Spend sometime understanding the aspects of the language you are about to learn. Specifically try to focus on sentence structure and how meaning is added to the sentence. For example, German is very similar to English, it is subject-verb-object (sometimes its gets mumbled up, but for the most part it is), is preposition heavy and is written in the same scripture, which makes it significantly easier to learn than say Japanese or Chinese. But German is also high agglunative, which means it building meaning by joining words together. German also has an emphasis on cases and gender that is not present in English.
This might seem obvious, but it is very rarely done. Before you embark on the journey of learning a language and learning detailed grammar rules for a specific cases focus on things such as how nouns relate in the sentence, where conjugation happens, and how important is it. A good exercise is usually to get sentences with varying structure and translate them into your target language, something tim ferris suggests in the 4-hour-chef. Exercises like this allow you to find the pattern that will most likely hold true in 80%+ of all sentences. This is makes for a very solid foundation that would otherwise take weeks if one were just frantically reviewing, and learning step by step, instead focus on what the majority of sentences look like, dissect the key elements, and apply them.
2. Find and use a handful of excellent resources at a time; get involved in online communities. The most important thing to keep in mind when one is beginning to learn a language is to find high-quality resources. Find online communities for your target language by googling something like “learn german forum” and see what people are saying, which books their recommending etc. Another good way to find solid resources is to go on Amazon see which books in your target language have good reviews/sales. When I started learning my first foreign language, Japanese, I bought 4-5 books on Japanese, enrolled in two podcasts, had various decks in my flash card program, ranging from beginner to advanced, and used 4 different websites. This was a HORRIBLE idea. Not only was grammar, and vocabulary introduced at different times in each book, but managing progress was very hard, with notes in one book, flash cards, on my computer, and trying to juggle which activity I should do next.