If you are an English-speaking person that has to travel to China. The first thing to hit you is the language. The signs, symbols, and language are completely different and you are thrown out of your comfort zone. Most European countries have similar alphabets, which makes it easier to read and pronounce. The challenging languages are the Asian ones. Hindi, Mandarin, and Arabic is nothing what you are used to, but that should not stop you from traveling to these amazing countries. All you need are these tools to overcome language barriers for your next business trip, solo adventure, or vacation.
There are several apps that help you translate spoken language, text from an image, or typed. Google Translate is one of them and works great offline. Download the language and you can save common, everyday phrases you would use in the phrasebook such as thank you, sorry, excuse me, and greetings. These etiquettes will go a long way and help you get out of any situation.
However, not all language-translating apps are 100 percent accurate. Grammar and the local lingo can differ from the results of the app. What you could do is translate it in to one language, and then reverse-translate it for the right phrase.
It sounds absurd, but it goes a long way if you cannot understand complex sentences. Some hand gestures may be offensive, so do your homework before visiting the country. However, pointing is a universal way to show what you want. It is an action that we have developed as toddlers, when we couldn’t speak. It worked for us then, it works for us now too.
Pointing is great for indicating direction, places on the map, menu, and at the store.
Numbers are generic in most languages. 2+2=4, if you can read this you can travel to most countries. The challenge to understanding numbers is when it is spoken. That is when the good ol’ calculator comes to use. It works well to denote purchases, bargaining, and bus routes.
However, if the numbers are in Japanese, Russian, or Bhutanese you need another alternative. You don’t have to learn a new language to read numbers, simply, remember the zero to nine symbols.
These are the sure shot ways to get around town and overcome the language barrier. It’s ok to get lost and overwhelmed with a new language, so stay calm and download a language translator, point, and don’t forget the calculator (everyone has one on their mobile).