Travel Tips: Coping with Language Barriers when you Travel
Sometimes I find myself making more excuses not to do something, than to do it. It’s all unconscious, of course… a combination of worry, self-doubt, fear and/or anxiety. I usually start with “WHAT IF” and end with either, “…I’m not enough” or “…I can’t.”
This is a common problem we all go through this at some point, and more often than we think.
18 year old Rayen has a longtime dream to live in and travel Japan. She’s learning Japanese but is worried that it may not be enough to get her around. Here’s what I have to say concerning her question.
Do you have to learn the language of the country before moving there?
No. You don’t have to learn the language at all.
Okay, I know that sounds culturally ignorant to say. But…
Beware of creating obstacles to a dream, where there aren’t any
I personally, think everyone should learn the language of where they live.
But if you’re talking about holding off a long-time dream for that simple sake of worrying you don’t know the language well enough, then I don’t see that as a strong reason to put off plans. I see it as creating an obstacle for your dream, where there is none. (We all do this)
Many times we try to be perfect. We try to have all our bases covered before we make the jump. But it’s not necessary.
Travelers and expats go to Japan on a daily basis, with no knowledge of the Japanese language. They’re convinced they’ll do what they can to survive the language barrier. They don’t see a language barrier as a big enough barrier to keep them from their dreams.
Also, everyone has personal goals, priorities and what they want to get out of their experience in a country. For instance, when I was living in Korea, I met expats from around the world, who had no desire to learn the Korean language, despite the fact they were hoping to live there two or more years. Shocking, right? Like the analogy I made in my last video of “datable vs marriageable countries”… some expats have planned in their heads, a short-termed marriage. So they don’t feel learning a new language will be beneficial to their future in the long run. Would you learn Swahili if you were only going to stay there for two years and never use it again?
*You can’t detour every language barrier or culture shock, because there will always be a new one*
Keep in mind, where ever you go, whether you’ve learned the language or are practicing it, you’re still going to encounter moments of vulnerability and helplessness, because the culture is different. There are always going to be words you don’t know and situations you never prepared for. We think we’ll try to be cool in these situations… it doesn’t happen! Awkward and dopey is how it feels, at best. So have fun with it!
Most think language barriers are going to be stressful. Yeah, they can be. I have posts about my crisises with language barriers and culture shock. I was dramatic! Now looking back on it, it was mostly drama. Nothing was impossible for me and if you can feel playful with it, you’ll find it brings you closer to local people. They know we’re foreign. These battle scars are the things I feel most proud of now. I feel closer to the country than those who just travel it, because I lived it!
Acting like a traveler
If you go to a foreign without having any prior experience with it’s language, you’re going to do whatever it takes to communicate and get your idea across. Especially, if it’s vital.
1. You’re going to mime, draw pictures, point at things… (this is how I got my Korean cellphone plan! I don’t advise it for this situation, by the way)
To be continued on … http://grrrltraveler.com/the-grrr/learning-abroad-gap-year/do-you-have-to-learn-the-language-of-the-country-before-moving-there/
Any tips or advice on this topic? Disagree with me? Leave it in the comments.
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language barriers, learning languages, travel tips, moving overseas, living overseas, travel overseas, dealing with languages, encountering language barriers, foreign languages, tips for traveling abroad, language
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