5 Funny Language Barriers Travellers Face and How to Overcome Them

Posted by - May 11, 2017 | Category: Contributing Author

Signs in Arabic

If you travel frequently and visit a lot of non-English speaking countries, you must have experienced some funny moments. Here are some funny language barrier stories and how they can be overcome.

Arriving in a location and not being able to get to your hotel

You manage to get through the airport and jump in a taxi looking forward to getting to your hotel. Then you realise your taxi driver cannot speak English and you cannot speak Mandarin. You know the name of your hotel in English, but Chinese?

Luckily there is a solution for this problem. Before you travel print a card (or more than one in case you lose it) with your hotel details written in the native language such as Chinese. You can give this to your driver or show people where you want to get to if you get lost.

Getting the culture or religion wrong

In some countries, it is not only the language but also the culture that you need to be aware of to prevent any faux pas. When traveling in Iran what seems regular to you that might get you into trouble. That casual thumbs up might seem innocent enough but the locals will find that ‘up-yours’ gesture very offensive.

If you want to immerse yourself into a destination, then learn language and culture side by side. When traveling to middle eastern and Islamic countries on online tutor might be a good idea to help you learn before and during your trip. Preply is one of these sites where you can find an online Quran teacher to help you with your Arabic and more.

Ordering the wrong food

Traditional Burmese Food in Bagan Myanmar

Have you ever just pointed to something on the menu, thinking you have a vague idea what it is, then you are served something completely different? It can be hard to know what to order when you can’t read the language and if it’s impossible to converse with your waiter too.

The phrase there’s an app for that comes to mind. Having an app of a phrase book to check the menu items will give you an idea about what you are ordering.

Wanting to drink where the locals drink

Seasoned travellers always talk about avoiding the tourist traps and going where the locals go. But where the locals tend to drink are usually places where visitors are not catered for. Talking to natives is the ultimate goal for travellers who really want to get to know the real destination. But when you order a plate of grasshoppers as a snack unintentionally you will wish you prepared a bit more before you travelled.

When your charades just don’t cut it

Mutrah Market Muscat Oman

You are stuck in a place where you just want to get what you need, baby wipes, coffee, gum or even pizza. Your party trick charades are probably not good enough and of course you haven’t thought of learning the words for trivial items. The poor person you are trying to speak to has no idea what’s going on. Your miming might get you more than you bargained for! Flash cards are a great idea, pictures on your phone or drawings do just as well too if you really can’t think of the words!

Do you have any funny language barrier stories? What was your most embarrassing language barrier moment?

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