How to Overcome Language Barriers While Traveling

You have figured out your next travel destination, packed your backpacks, and ready to go. But there is a problem- language barriers are a problem. You are traveling to a new destination where you don’t understand the local language, nor do the people understand your language. So, how do you get around this?

Well, communication is a crucial factor for every traveler. It’s only through proper communication that you can connect easily with the local people and get on with your travel activities without being grounded. To access accommodation, transport, and shop around, you must find a way to understand and be understood.

Language barriers are a problem for many people. It hinders their traveling expeditions, making it hard for them to explore the planet and immerse themselves in foreign cultures. If you are a bit nervous and worried about traveling to a destination where language barriers are a problem, this article comes in handy. We have compiled fun, practical, and straightforward tips on how to overcome language barriers when traveling. Read on!

What are Language Barriers?

Language barriers occur when communication is hindered due to a lack of a common language understanding between two people. It occurs when two people cannot communicate as they don’t understand a common language. With a language barrier, it’s difficult to understand the other party as there is limited comprehension and communication.

How Do You Overcome Language Barriers When Traveling?

Language barriers have been a huge hindrance to travelers. Many people shy off traveling simply because they can’t communicate in the native language of their favorite destinations. Here are some tips to breaking language barriers:

Learn a Few Basic Words

Mastering a few phrases and keywords can make a huge difference during your travel expedition. You don’t have to be fluent; all you need is to understand the most common words that you may need the most.

Learning a few words shows that you have an interest and respect for the culture of the place. You can master foreign words such as:

  • Hello
  • Yes
  • I need your help
  • No
  • Hotel
  • Taxi
  • Please
  • Thank you
  • Good morning
  • Good night
  • Sorry

You don’t have to understand whole sentences and statements. Simply learning universal words gives a strong impression of who you are and what you are up to. It’s a great way to overcome language barriers and opens the way for interaction and socializing.

Get a Phrasebook

Mastering a foreign language within a short period can be challenging. That’s why every travel packing list should include a phrasebook of the foreign language translated to your native language.

The best thing with a phrasebook is that you can use it anywhere, even in remote locations with no internet connection or electricity. All you need is to keep revisiting your book when you need to communicate.

Spend More Time with the Locals

Interacting With Locals Helps Overcome Language Barriers
Photo by Follow Alice from Pexels

Staying close to the local people is a great way to learn the local language. Take every interaction opportunity to mingle with the locals and learn a few words from them. Mostly, local communities are willing to share information with tourists in their region. Hang out with a few locals and try to learn from them.

You can explore the culture and pick up some expressions and gestures that you may need. Learn how to greet people while conveying respect, and you will notice that locals become happy to communicate with you.

Stay Confident Even When You Don’t Understand

Language barriers can be challenging and intimidating. If you don’t understand the local language, the best thing is to stay confident and firm. Don’t let the people around intimidate or take advantage of you.

It’s okay to use your local language or broken pronunciation as long as you can get across your message or goal. Show that you have an open mind despite the language barriers that hinder communication. Make the smallest effort, and you will likely notice a positive reaction.

Do Mutual Teaching

Giving out is the best way to receive back. Reciprocal teaching is a great way to interact and learn the local language. Whether it’s in the shop, on a local tour, or interacting with local communities, it helps break language barriers.

When you go to places, interact with the local people and ask them about a few things as you teach them your language. Many people will likely want to learn your language. This could be a great way to learn a foreign language while teaching them yours.

Practice Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is an excellent way of overcoming language barriers. Body language is a perfect way of bridging the communication gap. Facial expressions and body language provide hints when there are language barriers.

You can use gestures to send a message to the other party that you need a particular service or product. While gestures can help overcome language barriers, you should double-check them by doing some quick research on Google before you leave, as some can be offensive in different cultures.

Enroll in a Short Course

Language, Learning, Books, Education, Learn, Study
Image by Oli Lynch from Pixabay

Practicing a new language gives you confidence. If you plan to travel to a foreign destination, you can give a shot at eLearning and enroll in a short language course. This is best, especially if you want to stay in a certain place for a while.

Short courses introduce you to the language you are trying to learn. It’s easier to learn through a course than learning on your own. Besides, you don’t have to know everything; only the common expressions that will aid you while traveling.

Some of the best short courses include:

Duolingo is a fun, convenient, and affordable way to learn a new language. Through Duolingo you can learn over 35 languages. It features a well-structured learning process with listening exercises and multiple questions to drill you on new words.

FluentU makes it easy to learn a new language through an immersive process. It uses real-world videos and interactive subtitles that make learning easy.

Open Culture uses audio and video to introduce new words, tone variation, emphasis, conversation, and much more. It trains you on how to develop an accent and speak a foreign language like a native. 

Memrise allows you to learn languages using real-life videos of native speakers. Besides videos, this tool has learning tips and guides prepared to help you grasp language seamlessly.

Babbel is a comprehensive language learning system. It features an empirically proven method that enhances learning, helping you to build on both grammar and vocabulary.

Get a Voice Translator

Photo by George Milton from Pexels

How about hiring a human to be your translator from a foreign destination? This way, multi-linguistic locals can do the talking so you can get around easily. These translators use their mastery of both your language and the community’s native language to break the barriers.

Picking voice translators is a great way to support indigenous communities. Some translators double up as tour guides who can take you around your favorite destinations.

Hiring a local voice translator doesn’t have to break the bank. Most of them charge fair rates while ensuring you can travel easily. They help you interact with the community, creating a great traveling experience.

Use Digital Translation Tools

The increasingly digital world has made communication simple. With translation apps, you can easily overcome language barriers and communicate with people easily. Some apps have advanced features and can translate local dialects easily.

Whether you are hiking or exploring your favorite destinations, you can turn to digital translation tools whenever you find yourself stuck and trying to communicate.

You can speak your language through the app, which translates to the local people's foreign language. To respond, the other person can speak through the app, which then translates to your language. Not all apps are accurate, but they can be a great way to communicate your message and understand the response.

Best Tools for Language Translation

Fortunately, there are numerous convenient tools to help you overcome language barriers and communicate like a local. Apps and other web applications are a great way to overcome language barriers, especially when traveling.

Here are our favorite translation tools to help you communicate with locals while traveling:

Google Translate

Google Translate helps to translate phrases in hundreds of languages. Through the mobile app, you can scan written words and translate them to your language, input speech, and much more. You can also type words in your language and translate them to what the other person understands. The voice conversation translates speech in real-time.

The best thing about Google translate is that it’s free to use. All you need is to download it from Google Play or Apple Store and get going. It works well even with a slower mobile connection.


iTranslate allows you to translate over 100 languages effortlessly. This app comes with free and paid versions. The free version is ideal for basic translation, while the premium version is ideal for offline translation, voice conversation, and web translation. It’s inexpensive, starting at $3 per month.


Linguee uses a multi-language dictionary on a search engine to translate various languages. With this tool, you can search the meaning of expressions, words, and text in different languages. Besides translation, it also searches the web for related words and documents to help you understand the foreign language seamlessly.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, these tips will help you in breaking language barriers and open the way for seamless communication. Utilize these strategies to overcome language barriers and interact with communities effortlessly. Remember that you don’t have to speak the native language. The most essential part is to pass and receive information while being understood. With a mastery of the native language in your travel destination, it’s easy to interact with people and have fun.

Disclaimer: Hey reader! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase using any of these links, we'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Hidden Lemur is committed to promoting sustainable travel, and we only partner with brands that we believe contribute positively to that cause.

Dennis Muvaa

Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is a full-time writer and content marketing professional. He loves traveling off the beaten path and is passionate about sharing tips to help people make the most of their travel experience. Dennis also loves sporty cars and soccer.

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