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How to Deal with a Language Barrier: a Piece of Practical Advice

Advanced communication is possibly the only thing that separates human beings from other less developed animals. We know how to convey our feelings, intentions, and emotions in movements, words, images, and sounds.

language is a powerful tool that allows us to build better connections within communities and identify allies. Unfortunately, language can also be a divider and create cause conflicts. Why? Because there are so many of them.

As Brandi Gratis from Nullab puts it, there are multiple examples of language barriers that one may encounter. For example, the commonly known type of language barrier is when two people simply speak differently and cannot communicate normally. However, another form of a language barrier is when people share a certain language yet speak different dialects. Even tiny differences in contexts and meanings can create unwanted tensions.

One of the greatest examples is India where people speak 22 different recognized languages, read in 13 different scripts, and employ over 900 dialects.

Breaking a language barrier is extremely important for people who want to communicate with others properly. If you are moving abroad to work or study, quickly adapting and learning the language locals speak is detrimental to your success.

How to overcome a language barrier

The general advice that you will hear from people is actually quite solid. There are several tips that many of us hear whenever we ask how to “learn” a language:

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Try to convey your thoughts using whatever arsenal of words available to you. It helps you build confidence and encourages you to learn more.
  • Practice makes perfect. Try to talk as much as possible, read aloud in the foreign language of your choosing, try to think in that language.
  • Make learning your hobby. Watch movies and YouTube videos in the language that you want to learn, listen to authentic music.

Yes, these tips do work. However, they are very vague and do not actually give you an opportunity to break the barrier right away. So, common sense aside, let’s talk about actual practical things that you can do to break a language barrier:

  1. Talk in simple terms. By simply communicating, you will slowly but surely build a strong lexicon. However, you need to communicate now. Use the simplest words and employ gestures to add more context. Instead of trying to say “I would like to eat salmon at a fancy restaurant”, say something along the lines of “I want to fish for dinner”. Then, go to a restaurant and point at salmon on the menu. Simple. Effective.
  2. Use translation apps. There are so many great translation apps that you can use to communicate better. Even Google Translate is not that bad considering the latest improvements and massive support from the community. Use modern technology to build stronger communication!
  3. Repeat words. A lot. Repetition is akin to practice yet the context here is different. Yes, trying to increase the volume of practice is cool, but have you tried just repeating a word until you hate it? Hate or love, you will definitely remember it.
  4. Learn a joke in the language you are learning. Many people tend to get mad when they are not understood. The tension is easily broken by a joke and a smile. Try to be funny. It works 95% of the time. Sadly, in 5% of the time, it will look awkward.

The main takeaway

Breaking language barriers is something that you must do as quickly as possible. Learning on the go is the motto of a modern human. Use our tips to build strong connections while still being a humble student!