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.
I have a second grader who I tutor every Tuesday and Thursday, and his level of English is lower than the other kids who I teach in conventional class time elsewhere. I've noticed one important thing about our sessions. That is, when I cover up the Chinese characters that accompany his learning materials, he is lost.
When I ask him what his name is, who he is, how old he is, and really any other very low level question he sits for a second saying 'um' and then asks me for a translation.
However, in my class time I find ways to get my students to understand what I'm saying without translating for them. These kids seem to have the concepts stick far better than this particular tutee. Another important factor that I think is defining is these students' learning materials have no Chinese on the page, unlike my tutee whose book has characters under each line of English text.
What is it that defines the difference between my students?