5 Common ways to communicate whilst abroad

By Jon Searle

1. Miming – This is probably the most common form of attempted communication when you don’t speak the language. I’m sure most of the travellers reading this will have to admit to holding an imaginary fork in their hand whilst shovelling equally imaginary food into their mouth.  Something which is perhaps best kept to ourselves is how each of us does the mime for toilet.

2. Pointing – Pointing is extremely useful…when combined with language. To a person who can’t understand what you are saying, the possibilities of a ‘point’ are endless:

  • I have come from here.
  • I want to get here.
  • What is that?  
  • I was just attacked down this alley, can you help me?

It is best combined with mime, word or sound then maybe (A point to your bum followed by a sound effect?).

3. Mouthing – Exaggerated mouth movements are probably appreciated by your helpful foreign friend, but for the wrong reasons. I’m sure that it is more for his own amusement that the Spanish man you are talking to is nodding his head in agreement only to conclude with a stereotypical “qué?”

4. Talking slowly – If somebody can understand your native language but realises that you are talking too fast, then I am sure they have the linguistic ability to ask the question “Can you slow down please.” They don’t need you to take it upon yourself to do it regardless, resulting in a patronising display of your idiocy.

5. Talking loudly – This poor person has taken the time to; at least, engage in conversation with you. You could give him the free but valuable gift of not shouting in their face. They are foreigners not war veterans, I’m sure they can hear you just fine, just stop talking in that alien tongue.

Learn a basic form of the language before you leave, bring a pocket phrase book, Use one of those Professional Translation computers maybe. In England I think we should remember our own frustrations when abroad and try and be helpful to our foreign visitors During the Olympic games.

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Posted on July 2, 2012, in About Life, Culture and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Another way that I’ve communicated abroad is in numbers: either counting on my fingers or writing down numbers on a piece of paper. Several years ago I was in Milan and had to get some laundry done (I don’t speak Italian…as of yet anyways!). The woman who was there didn’t speak any English, but I was able to mime what I needed. As for what I time I should return to pick up my clothes…pointing at the clock did not work, but writing down a time on a piece of paper did the trick. Thanks!

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