If you're not one of the top 1% of linguistically gifted folks on this little blue planet of ours, chances are you're going to come to some cultural or linguistic barriers during your exploits abroad. The results of which might range from comedic to catastrophic. While I would add a caveat, and point out that you will need to prepare or perhaps enhance these points with internet access, don't forget that even the neglectful among you have second chances to get online after leaving home. Airports, hotels and other accommodations, some restaurants, in-country SIM cards, or even a hot-spot from a new friend can all help you get connected and make better use of the few tips here.
1. Get yourself a translate app and download the offline language packs relevant to where you're headed. A number of large, web-based companies offer their own version of an English-to-French/Chinese/Persian/whatever dictionary and some of these have great tools such as microphone and camera features. They might even allow you to scan a menu or street sign or have a friendly stranger speak to you through your phone in near-consecutive style of translation. Success with the menus may vary as literal translations of food items can be tricky to navigate for even the native-bilinguals among you. You can still enjoy the comedy value if it doesn't end in success (I never figured out what those menu items below were).
2. Not sure about your translate app? Fine, try an app for language learners and you'll at least have queue cards or other prompts to help you communicate about basic necessities and beyond. You may have best success engaging with local youths or children at this point, but it's better than starving or wetting one's self when you can't figure how to ask for the loo.
3. Make yourself a bunch of queue card style photos with your camera function and store the pictures separately in a file or folder on your phone so they don't get lost or mixed among your holiday snaps. You can take pictures of important items before you go, such as water bottles, food items, bathroom/WC, medications, etc. but remember that some concepts of dietary needs are completely lost in some places so you are going to have to get creative with your photo diary or get really good at charades. Forget something on your list or find something cool or tasty while on the road? Great, just take a picture then and there and add it to your pool of resources.
Sometimes it just takes a little creativity to get best use out of the things we use day to day, consider your communication problems abroad an opportunity to speak in ways without words. Be aware of any poor reception of your efforts, but expect a lot of smiles during the process.
Have another use for the expensive brick in your pocket?
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