Language barriers suck. And even though we’re fortunate enough at Airmule to help provide the gratification that comes with immersing oneself in a foreign land, we still hear tons of users express an almost crippling intimidation of visiting China due to the language barriers between English and Chinese (or Mandarin).
So if you’ve also doubted visiting a country where English is a rarity, look no further for assistance.
1. Download multiple translator apps
It’s 2017. Apps are a more obvious recommendation, but make sure you have more than one in your arsenal, as each will specialize in a different area of the translation process, such as optical character recognition or offline use.
2. Learn five hilariously mistranslated phrases
There’s no doubt that “please”, “thank you”, and “hello” are great phrases to know in another language, but try asking a mistranslated question instead, like, “How many elephants does this cost?” You’ll quickly lower their guard and maybe even grab a few laughs. But don’t forget to practice beforehand. One mispronounced vowel and you could accidentally mutter an insult instead.
3. Pen and paper
Yes, sometimes old school > new school. And hey, a picture says a thousand words, right? Keep a pen and small notebook in your back pocket at all times to sketch out things like numbers or a slice of pizza when you’re in a rush. Worst case scenario, you end up in a sudden game pictionary.
5. Watch a foreign movie on your flight over
Watching a foreign movie that’s produced in another language is a fantastic way to understand the natural ebbs and flows of a country’s dialogue. At the very least, try switching the language of an English movie over to something else. Toy Story in Mandarin, anyone?
6. Get friendly with your tour guide
Crowding aside, booking a tour in the country you’re visiting is actually a great way to learn important words, phrases and questions. Your guide will be bilingual, and anyone who’s willing to interact with large groups of people on a daily basis is almost certainly social enough to spend some extra time helping you practice. But don’t forget to tip! Especially if they spend more than 5-10 minutes helping you out.