While you don't have to know how to completely speak the language of the country you are visiting, it is important to know some key phrases.
You'll want to know how to say,
1. Hello, my name is...
2. Do you speak English?
3. Where is the bank?
5. How much does it cost?
6. Can I have...?
7. Where is...?
8. Airport/ Taxi/ Bus/ Train
9. Where is the bathroom?
10. I lost my....
11. I am going to...
12. I came from...
13. Still vs. Sparkling water
14. I need help / I need a hospital / Call the police
15. American Embassy
It's so important to know a few phrases so you can get around. Don't go into a new country and automatically expect that individuals will know how to speak English. Sometimes they don't understand or they may only be able to speak a few key phrases like you can. We want to be respectful of their native language since we're in their country. I can remember traveling through Germany. One night, I decided to cook dinner for myself in the apartment I was renting for the month I was staying there. In order to cook dinner, I had to take myself to the grocery store. I was making Alfredo sauce from scratch that night and needed heavy whipping cream. I honestly could not find it anywhere and I ran up and down the isles for a while, around 30 minutes. Feeling discouraged of trying on my own, I decided to ask someone for help who worked there. The first person I asked did not speak any English so I tried to get assistance from someone else. They did not speak English either. In fact, no one in that entire store spoke English. I tried very hard to say what I needed in German but my German was not very good plus I was not saying it correctly.
I sat in the store and downloaded an app that allowed me to type the English word for what I was searching and it would display the word in German. I went back up to the first employee who tried to help me and I pointed at my screen with a face that screamed "please help me, I am lost." She was such a sweet woman and took me right to the product I needed.
In that moment, I was embarrassed because of my inability to communicate but going to Germany was the best trip I have ever went on and I would do it all over again. I did not let that small moment defeat me and you should not allow your barriers to stop you. In that moment, before leaving my apartment, I should have wrote my list in German using Google in case I needed help.
I will never regret my trip but I do regret my lack of respect for their country. I assumed everyone could speak English as it was my first time out of the country as an adult. I was confused that they didn't speak English and wish I would have taken a few short moments to look up what I needed.
You can do anything you set out to do and you should! Traveling the world can be scary but it is worth it and necessary. Don't let language barriers hold you back.
We hear it time and time again, "I can't travel there because I don't speak the language", "how will I get around?" The truth is, you don't need to speak the language of EVERY country in the world in order to be a world traveler. You just need to travel and explore. Never allow a language barrier to be the reason you are not traveling the world. Life is too short to hold yourself back from beauty.
Cienna Richards is the CEO of Your Life Travel Club. Your Life Travel Club hosts international retreats and trips for women. Our mission is to empower women to travel the world and live their best life. Connect with us on social media and subscribe to our weekly travel card to get updates on trips, blog posts, YouTube videos, and podcast episodes.