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How To Solve Language Barriers In Communication

What does language barrier mean? Have you ever traveled to a place, and people over there talk with their local language that you can't understand? Or have you ever done an interview, and the interviewers are foreigners? If in the condition above, you were feeling like talking with an alien. This is what we call as a language barrier. A language barrier is a condition when we are in a miscommunication, because of a language can be a barrier when answering a question. Then, do you have an idea about this issue? How to solve language barrier in communication?

How to talk with a foreigner easily?
For a long time ago, in 1996, I and my family went to a small village in Bogor from Yogyakarta. The majority of them were speaking Sundanese besides my origin language is Javanese. In my school, I didn't face any problem because my teachers used our national language to teach us, that's Bahasa Indonesia. Unfortunately, my neighbors and my friends in school commonly were speaking in Sundanese.

I know that we are a human. Well, at least, I am still thinking like that. Sadly, because of my foreign language skill is not good, it makes me like an alien who speak Beep-Beep-Pop to a foreigner. If I forced him to talk in my language, then probably I can ruin our mood. What should I do? And what will you do if you were me? Will you try to speak in his language by relying on Google translate?

Alright! Please don't feel dizzy by my words even though my special power is to make your head spin around! And once again, I call this situation as a language barrier. So, how to overcome it? Keep reading. I hope the tips below about how to expand your vocabulary can help you to beat the communication barrier:
  1. Explain what you mean as simple as you can
  2. For being understandable is important
  3. Draw the hard word to help you out
  4. Master the 3 + 5 magic words
  5. Memorize the vocabulary one by one
  6. Always try to use the vocabularies that you have learned



1. Explain it as simple as possible

I understand that sometimes we want to talk with the foreigner that we meet as much as we can, and sometimes we want to speak fluently with him as if we are a native speaker. But, at the beginning, it will be normal for us if it's extremely hard to build a long and complex sentence. For example, let's imagine that we are a tourist in Istanbul, Turkey. In this case, we want to buy a bottle of milk in a mini market. Do you have an idea how to get what we want?

Of course, the first thing that we should do, especially when we are alone is we have to go to the nearest mini market. Open the glasses door. Step in. Move to the milk bar. Look for the milk. Pick the bottle of milk that we like the most. Go to the cashier. Give the milk to the cashier so he/she can process the transaction for us. Pay the milk with the correct price. Get the milk back. Don't forget to smile and say thanks. And finally, let's enjoy the milk. It seems simple, isn't it?

Hotel is a similar word in each country

We can do the mission and get what we want without saying anything, except thank you. Anyway, are you sure that we are totally silent? Actually, every day, we do a simple interaction with another person near us. The communication that we made each other is using a body language. But, please attention, we won't talk about how to maximize our body language skill, right now. Let's focus on the main language in the city, island, or country that we visited. In this case, we are still in Turkey!

The question is how to explain something we want to say as simple as possible?

We can try by using everything that we have as our tools. For example, we need to find a place to take a rest. A place that we can call as a room. What do you think when we truly said like that? It sounds difficult for us, right? The fact, we can simply tell to someone that we want to go to a hotel. If it is still difficult for us, then just say "hotel, please. Where?"

How do you say I want to go to Hotel in foreign language faster?

Don't worry, if we don't know how to say it in Turkish or English. We still can say to them in our language. In my language, Bahasa Indonesia, a hotel is "Hotel". So, in Turkish, it won't be different too much. You can check in Google Translate, how to say "hotel" in Turkish?

The key is just to make it as simple as we can. So, we won't stuck in one problem for a long time.


2. For being understandable is important

Let's imagine that we should travel to Jayapura, tonight. It is the capital city in Papua province, Indonesia. Our friend informs us that the local people are using Avinomen language. Now, we have 3 problems. The first is as foreigners we can't speak their language.  Sadly, we can't find a tour guide. Moreover, we don't have a dictionary to cover our language skill. So, how to say "We want to go to Jayapura" to people in Papua?

If you thought that Google translate will help us, then I will inform you that the translator application doesn't earn us with Avinomen language. So, it will only work if we met a Papua people who can speak Indonesian. If we were lucky, we can found someone that can speak English language and Avinomen fluently. But, in this case, we have a bad luck.

Let's break the language barrier by using the tips number 1 + 2. Explain it as simple as you can and make your words are easy and easier to understand. Because for being understandable by another is the important thing. This is our goal so a language will not be being a barrier in communication anymore. Alright! Let's try. This is my idea.

After our plane is landing to the airport, we go to the taxi pool to pick a taxi. Then, we tell to the driver that we want to go to Jayapura. But, how? In this situation, our vocabulary is extremely limited. So, we can try to show him a picture of our destination in Jayapura, and use our finger to point out while saying, "Jayapura".

Trust me! He will understand. And usually, he will try to repeat our words. So we should try to memorize and follow his articulation and pronunciation. This trick can help us to overcome language barrier in communication.

If we want to make him start to ride the car, we can say "Okay!", or add the location to remind him our destination, "Okay! Jayapura." If we want him to stop the car, give him a sign by saying, "Stop!" And don't forget to mind our language and use our body language to help us send him our message. It's very simple. But believe me, the reality is not that simple as the theory because we have to deal with our ego which can hold us to do this. Our ego will try to tell us that if we use a body language while talking, we will look like a chimpanzee. Are you dare to try?

Anyway, I have an interesting story about the language barrier that my sister has ever experienced in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. At that time was the Hajj season. That is the time when the people of Islam perform their pilgrimage. The temperature at Mecca reached 55 degrees Celsius.

AC in the tent where my sister and my brother was staying had run out of freon, coupled with the damaged fan. My sister tried to call one of the technicians. However, because she does not know who the person in charge of repairing damage to the air conditioner. So she called one of the cleaning services whoever crossed.

My sister tried to explain the condition of her room using English. However, apparently, the cleaning services did not speak English. Meanwhile, my sister can not speak Arabic. Of course, they are both confused because of their limited language skills. Then, my sister invited the cleaning services to follow her into the tent room. She patted a broken fan using his finger, saying "this fan, innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un."

Finally, the cleaning services could understand the meaning of her words. He also said something in Arabic, while using his body language, indicating that they were asked to wait. For your information, "innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un" is an Arabic vocabulary that a Muslim can learn through Quran. It is a sign that we should say when we lost something or face a bad situation.



3. Draw the word, show them a picture

Do you know a game that we should guess a picture that has been drawn by our friend? In the situation above, we can try it in real life for real action. In short time, we will be an artist suddenly. I know, probably it will be very hard for us, but this thing is useful.

For example, we are a tourist in 서울특별시 (Seoul), South Korea. And we want to visit a cat cafe in 명동 (Myeongdong). The problem is, this our first-time visit and we don't know how to go there, especially we don't know the name of the cafe. Then, what should we do?

In this instant and simple world, we can easily use Google Maps for giving us the right direction. Just simply type "the best cat cafe in Myeongdong Seoul Korea", and we will get the answer just in a few second. But, it needs an internet connection, isn't it?

What should we do when we lost our internet connection over there? Probably, we've got an insufficient balance or the signal is lost. Whatever the reason, we don't have any technology that can help us to solve our problem. In a short explanation, we may say that we must rely on our own ability to survive.

First, please relax and don't panic. By doing that we can think clearly. Our brain will search for the best solution.

Then, try to ask someone, for example, a policeman.

We want to go to a cat cafe in Myeongdong, right? Let's draw a cat, a teacup, and a house. And don't forget to write the name of the location, that is Myeongdong. If we are not sure how to write it correctly, I think it's okay if we write it down as best we can, while trying to say it when we ask it. Probably, we will get the right direction. But we still have a big chance to get lost in trip hahaha...

Alternatively, if we have a photo or a brochure of it, don't hesitate to show them. It will help them to understand what we want easier than we use our hand drawing, right?

Anyway, don't forget to write the right name of our original location in their language, such us the name of our hotel, the name of the city, the name of the road, and so on. This will help us to get back to the starting location and prevent the possibility of getting lost.



4. Master the 3 + 5 magic words

I think it is very important for us to know their basic words. We don't have to memorize many things but these words will be very useful for us in the beginning. They are Please, Thank you, Repeat please, What is this, Where, How, Yes, and No.

Why did we don't need the question word Why, When, and What?

Hmmm... Yes, I am thinking about that too, but for the first time, I am not sure that we need to ask them Why or What. Because sometimes those questions will have a large meaning, annoying, and rarely used. You don't want to answer a traveler who asks you a direction of somewhere but repeatedly says "Why", right?

Traveler: Where is a toilet?You: Oh, just go straight, then turn right.Traveler: What?You: Go straight, then turn right.Traveler: What? Why?You: Ummm... That's the fastest way, I guess.Traveler: Why?You: I don't know another direction.Traveler: Why?You: ......

Hello, friends! My name is Lutfi. I am a student of an online language in Memrise application. Currently, I am learning Turkish. This is my journey and you are reading Memrise Student's blog.

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