When you travel to a country where you don’t speak the language, everything is more confusing and difficult. Sure, the people at the hotel probably speak English, but other conversations around you are impenetrable.
Even if you have an English speaking tour guide who takes care of arrangements for you, it’s nice to have at least some basic understanding of the language, so you can respond to the waiter at dinner, instead of staring at him blankly. Simple phrases like “Please” and “Thank you” are appreciated everywhere, and help establish a friendlier rapport with the local people.
Start with a free language guide
World Nomads has published free language guides for 25 different languages. You’ll find French and Spanish, Mandarin and Swahili, and a long list of other languages. These guides are so popular (did I mention they’re free?), that they have been downloaded over 2 million times.
The World Nomads language guides are designed for international travelers. They give you a start on a language, with a basic set of phrases selected to cover the main things that tourists need to know.
You’ll find standards like “Yes”, “No”, “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “How much”, and numbers up to 10. There are also some phrases related to transportation, hotels, and getting directions.
How these free language guides work
The guides are available in two formats: (a) you can download an mp3 file for your iPod or mp3 player, or (b) you can get the iPhone app (which also works on the iPod Touch).
The mp3 version gives you a language lesson about 15 minutes long (varies by language). All of the selected phrases are explained in English and in the foreign language you’re learning. Some languages have a PDF transcript available to download, so you can see the words you’re hearing.
The iPhone app is more useful. You see phrases divided into categories, and can click through to just what you’re looking for. As on the iPod version, you hear natives speak the phrases, so you hear the correct pronunciation.
Obviously there’s only so much you can get out of a 15-minute language lesson. You’ll never carry on a philosophical conversation or political debate.
In fact, you can ask for directions and not understand the answer at all, unless it’s accompanied by a fair amount of hand waving and pointing. And if you decide to try bargaining in the local market, you’ll have to stick to a max price of 10.
But knowing some of the basics is better than none at all. Perhaps it will inspire you to learn more, and you can move up to a more serious language course. Or perhaps this is all you really need for your trip. Either way, this is a place to start.
Check these out and give them a whirl before your next international travel. After all, you can’t beat free.