Navigating Language Barriers: Tips For Elderly Travellers To Communicate Abroad

Language obstacles frequently present to travellers visiting other countries. Here are some proactive communication measures to take in such scenarios

Waquar Habib
August 9, 2023
Navigating Language Barriers: Tips For Elderly Travellers To Communicate Abroad

According to data, India spent an all-time high of $10 billion in 2022–23 alone on overseas travel. Indians are exploring different countries with a vengeance, perhaps to compensate for lost time due to the pandemic and various lockdowns.


Foreign travel involves broader and more complex logistics than domestic travel. Language becomes a priority concern for people travelling to places with unfamiliar tongues. In such a scenario, travellers could preplan for their foreseeable predicaments arising from language. Taking just a few steps and integrating gadgets as essential elements into your travel plans will do the trick.

Tips to Break Language Barriers

Familiarise Yourself With The Local Phrases

Travellers planning on foreign trips can start looking into the language of their destination country beforehand. Prior knowledge of common phrases such as “Hello!”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”, and so on will go a long way in a foreign land. If not to solve your problems, such familiarity will be warm to the natives, encouraging them to help you and be polite for your efforts alone. Apart from books, some apps can help you with simplified and more customised language. You can download apps such as Duolingo or Triplingo to gain a basic knowledge of the elementary level of any language. Travellers who find reading and following the apps tedious can always resort to watching films from their destination countries. It will help you get the general drift of lexicon and syntax.

Read The Dos And Don’ts Of The Country

Backpackers may find reading the dos and don’ts list for a country particularly helpful if their culture and dominant religion differ from theirs. Travellers have often reported instances where they unintentionally offend people of a different ethnoreligious background. Reading the list of standard formalities and instructions will help you remain mindful not just of your speech but also in control of your gestures. When reading the p’s and q’s of your destination country, a little insight into the nature of humour typical to the country will also help you immensely.

Use Google Translate And Google Lens

It is essential to realise the potential of technology when travelling abroad. You can always use the Google Translate app whenever you are stuck with a foreign phrase or incomprehensible words. The translation app has the features of text translation as well as image translation. Travellers can click images of products, wall signs, traffic signs, slogans, bus charts, and other descriptive texts to translate them directly into a desired language. The Google Lens app allows you, apart from text translation, to identify plants and animals, explore locales or menus, discover products, find visually similar images, and take other valuable actions.

Use Gestures

People say, ‘Silence speaks more than words. However, gestures can speak just as much as words. Travellers in foreign lands can always use simple gestures when in two minds about words. With simple research and observation, you shall be able to enlighten yourself with the basic “no-no”, “sure!” or “thank you” gestures of places. However, travellers must always remain acutely aware of their gestures to avoid being rude or offensive.

Draw Pictures

Always carry a notebook or sketchbook when travelling to a foreign country. You can depend on the visual medium in cases of emergency to quickly convey your message. For instance, you can draw the Wi-Fi symbol on paper when needing the internet to ask people around. Drawing things to communicate will also help develop bonds found in funny first instances that may last for a long time.

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