The conversation divide, basic language must haves

One of the biggest challenges with International travel is the language divide. While it may seem no matter where you travel someone will speak English, it’s that one moment when you’re in the back of taxi cab, a crowded restaurant or negotiating the price of a trinket that you really wish you’d bought that pocket sized dictionary.

No one can become a language expert for every country they visit but we can all take the time to learn a few key phrases ahead of time. While traveling on business, there seems to be three keys things you do – get somewhere, meet with someone, eat (and sleep). So really, the key phrases you need to ensure you have learned or at least are in your back pocket are A. Directions B. Meet and introduce yourself and C. Ordering and understanding food.

Directions: When you travel overseas, you will get lost at some point whether you admit it or not. Learn the correct words for Right. Left. Stop. Straight. Taxi. Your Hotel Name. And of course – Where is the tourist centre? These small words will help you find you way on foot, in a taxi, to the local tourist centre or when all else fails, back to your hotel.

Meeting and Introducing Yourself: First and foremost, learn the greeting etiquette of where you are traveling. Learn the customs. For example, do you hand shake (if so which hand) or do you bow, smile or remain stoic. Know what name to use – your first then last, last then first, only your last name? Once you have learned the basics of how to introduce yourself then the words will be quite simple. They are typically, “My name is” “It is nice to meet you” “My title is” etc.

Ordering and understanding food: If you are like me it doesn’t really matter what food words you use because you’ll eat anything put in front of you but for those who travel with allergies or have intense dislikes, learn the words for what you want and what you don’t. Spicy. Vegetarian. Peanuts. Know your wants/dislikes and learn the words.

Check out some free online tools like Free Translation or Word2Word for simple words. Don’t be afraid to Google the language and customs you are curious about as there is a wealth of information specific to each language and culture on the web. Last but not least, pick up a basic language lesson book or dictionary from a store like Chapters or Amazon – having it in your briefcase could mean the difference between getting to the hotel and getting a ride.

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