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Old 10-02-2014, 08:55 PM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
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I'm with the group that say you should learn you to say 'please', 'thank you', 'excuse me', and 'hello/good day' and then buy a nice phrasebook or smartphone phrasebook app, and as long as you come across as trying to be polite with the locals, you can generally muddle through pretty well.

My parents used to host Japanese teachers on one or two week trips to the States. We spoke no Japanese other than 'Good Morning'; they spoke no English and we usually got along well and understood thing acceptably by pointing at the right line in the phrasebook.
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Old 10-03-2014, 01:07 AM
 
Location: Out there somewhere...a traveling man.
39,655 posts, read 47,957,115 times
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Most all the foreign places we've visited and the people we've encountered spoke English. They know if they want to do business with Yankee they must know English to deal with and/or negotiate.
It's nice if you know some of their language words like 'hello', 'thank you', please', courtesy words. They appreciate that you took the time to learn that.
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Old 10-03-2014, 01:41 AM
 
Location: San Antonio/Houston/Tricity
38,274 posts, read 56,082,864 times
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As an American, one of the things that bothers me is seeing other Americans expect everyone else to speak English, and be quite nasty about it. It is NOT your country and English is NOT the language of the land. Learn to be okay with not speaking the language.
So, back to OP question:
Yes!! How do you think people travel to non-English spoken countries? Don’t let a fear of not speaking the language keep you from traveling (that's #1 reason why Americans travel so little to non-English spoken countries!)

Sometimes signs at tourist attractions are even written in both the local language and English. If you are traveling to a destination that is used to dealing with tourists, you will find locals who speak at least a few basic words of English.
Learn a few words ahead of time - it helps a lot.
A phrasebook can help (but remember that you won’t necessarily understand the response you get).
Hand gestures and miming work well.
Try drawing.
Read online travel forums for reassurance. You might find tips and tricks from other travelers who visited that country already.

Always carry a card with your hotel address and phone number. That way, at least you will find your way back to the hotel.

Remember that simple hand gestures, miming, drawing, and pointing go a long way towards breaking through the language barrier. Don’t let a fear of not speaking the language hold you back!

http://www.isi.edu/natural-language/mt/chinglish14.pdf
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Old 10-03-2014, 05:01 AM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
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Other than a couple basic words like others have said one can get along just fine if they do not speak the native language of most countries. It is important to remember English is spoken in many countries or at least some, just like most of us in American can speak a little Spanish. I think the one time I remember not speaking the language but still being able to communicate was in Madrid many years ago. We wer at a restaurant where no English was spoken and we order what we thought was Lobster. The waiter seemed to realize it so he tried to explain to us what it was. Finally, in desperation, he drew a large body and 3 small ones. I say body, cause he was trying to draw a Lobster, but his art was about as good as his English. Long story we understood, he was telling us; not Lobster, but more like Crawfish. We still took it, enjoyed it and yes, it was more like Crawfish, but a little bigger.
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Old 10-03-2014, 05:07 AM
 
Location: Between Heaven And Hell.
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With lots of waving of arms, oversized gestures, and speaking very loudly, and slowly, yes.
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Old 10-03-2014, 06:28 AM
 
32,207 posts, read 33,112,696 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post

Second simple answer (or rule of travel)- if you need something translated when in a strange country where English is not common, look for a younger citizen. In China for instance they are teaching their students to speak English like crazy.
Having been to China, I wrote to someone who asked about traveling to China (in another thread) that is exactly what they should do (meaning ask a young person for help as they will likely know some English).

In general one can travel anywhere in the world without knowing the local language. In order to communicate one would use hand signs/gestures, mimicking, pictures, a dictionary (digital or hard copy), etc.
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Old 10-03-2014, 07:26 AM
 
Location: Cedar Park, Texas
1,601 posts, read 2,477,537 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonarrat View Post
I spent a month in Israel and English was understood literally everywhere I went, including a remote winery in the Golan Heights and a quaint storefront in the Arabic quarter of Jaffa. All the signs were in English, Hebrew, and Arabic as well..
It's amazing to see just how much English is in the Middle East, isn't it? I was actually very sad to see literally EVERYTHING written in English right next to Arabic. It sort of took away from the intrigue of being over there.
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Old 10-03-2014, 07:53 AM
 
548 posts, read 641,850 times
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One other factor is just how different the language is from English, or from other languages you know.

If you travel somewhere that uses the Roman alphabet, that's a huge help -- your brain has literally wired itself to be really, really good at recognizing those 26 or so symbols. You may not know what the name means, but if you're at Oktoberfest and the map says you are looking for "Betrunkenstrasse", your brain will do fine at recognizing the street sign. Ditto gradually picking up menu words like "wurst" means sausage, "kraut" means cabbage, and "pizza" means "pizza".

If the letters are in Arabic script or Chinese symbols, its is far, far harder for your brain to do anything useful with them without _lots_ of practice.

Likewise if you know one of French, Spanish, or Italian, that will be a big help in parsing the other two. In fact, being good at English grammar is a huge help -- English shares many Latin roots with the Romance languages, and lots of Germanic roots as well.

Learn the metric system too. Much easier to buy food or clothes if you have an intuitive sense of whether 100 grams is a lot of cheese or not, or if a 70cm waist is more like a thin or a fat person.

Personally I enjoy medium-level language challenges -- countries with European languages, where English is common enough that with effort you could find someone who can translate, but where you can't lazily count on every cashier or bus driver speaking it.

A country with a non-European lanaguge and alphabet, where almost no one knows English? If you're on a business trip staying in a major hotel chain, no problem. Being a budget tourist out in the boondocks, that could be hard unless you hire a local guide. If not, you have to be _very_ trusting and open to just letting stuff happen. Where are we going, what is that odd looking stew, why does that guy have an AK-47? Who knows, who cares! Not recommended in areas where crime or political instability are real worries.
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Old 10-03-2014, 08:00 AM
 
Location: Gatineau, QC, Canada
3,402 posts, read 4,462,677 times
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Most places I've been to I don't speak the local language. It helps to know a few words but I don't buy this 'carry a phrasebook' idea. I have a general phrasebook for several countries throughout Europe, and even though it explains the phonetics in English syllables, you still don't know anything about the language and you will for sure pronounce something wrong, or say it an awkward rhythm and won't be understood. Even if you are, then what? They will just bark something back that you will never understand anyways.

I just rely on sign language and charades other than greetings, please, and thank yous. Works perfectly fine for me.
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Old 10-03-2014, 08:38 AM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
7,701 posts, read 16,157,910 times
Reputation: 7736
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post

Second simple answer (or rule of travel)- if you need something translated when in a strange country where English is not common, look for a younger citizen. In China for instance they are teaching their students to speak English like crazy.
And that is how one of my cousins met his Chinese wife- he was doing his semester abroad there, and wanted to meet locals. She was a local student who had signed up for a Chinese-English language speakers club to work on those English skills, and they made a love connection as he helped her with verb tenses.
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