That’s Greek to Me! – How to overcome language barriers

With over 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, we will encounter many situations where there is a language barrier.  These situations could include a tourist from a different country asking for directions to a hotel or visiting a new country and trying to figure out which bus to hop on.  How do we communicate with another person if we do not speak the same language?

The most important way to communicate is to ensure the words spoken are fully enunciated and are communicated clearly.  Many individuals make the mistake of speaking louder when they are in a situation where they feel misunderstood. The best way to communicate is to speak slowly and clearly, for speaking louder may offend the person or come across ignorant.  Avoid using slang, long syllable words and words that can have different meanings in different contexts to ensure there is no confusion.  Also place importance on key words and keep the sentence short and to the point.


Another important way to jump over the language barrier is to be patient.  Frustration will not help the situation and present a more difficult obstacle to overcome.  We have a tendency to speak faster and louder when we become upset, which could cut the conversation short and not obtain the information needed.  Remember the person on the other end is also trying to be patient and most individuals will not fault someone for trying.


Lastly, think of other forms of communication.  For example, carry a notebook so that you are able to draw a situation, use gestures and act out the situation or pull out your phone and show pictures. Try taking in the context of the surroundings as well.  If a person came from their car holding a map, they might be asking for directions.