Not Traveling Because of a Language Barrier?

by brian on April 6, 2009

One question I get repeatedly asked about my round the world trip (RTW) is about the language ‘barrier’. How we communicate on a trip of any length makes a huge difference in how well we travel and how others perceive us, both by other tourists and natives of the country we are visiting.

As I have stated before, I had no problem going from country to country with just English. But I would recommend learning some of the local language. It breaks down barriers and opens people up. You get more respect as a foreigner who took the time and effort to learn some of the language instead of leaning on English. As you get outside of major cities, you’ll find less and less English used.

There are many resources on the Internet for learning languages. If you have an iPod there are numerous free podcasts that teach language. One I subscribe to via iTunes is

If you want to go a little more in depth, I have used Pimsleur language courses on CD in the past with great success. When I traveled to Brazil I picked up the Conversational Brazilian Portuguese before the trip and was able to ask for directions and find the bathroom easily and confidently. No stumbling for words in Salvador after listening to those CDs for a few minutes every day before my trip.

Here are some of the Conversational Pimsleur Courses on

Portuguese (Brazilian) Not Traveling Because of a Language Barrier?

French Not Traveling Because of a Language Barrier?

Spanish (Latin American) Not Traveling Because of a Language Barrier?

Italian Not Traveling Because of a Language Barrier?

Japanese Not Traveling Because of a Language Barrier?

Mandarin Chinese Not Traveling Because of a Language Barrier?

Whether you are planning a trip for next month or just wanted to pick up a few words to impress your friends, use the language resources above to get to your goal.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Pimsleur April 6, 2009 at 2:46 PM

Great post! There’s also a free first lesson for each Pimsleur Level 1 course available at Pimsleur Direct, so you can get a feel for the course and material. Hope this helps!


myrope April 6, 2009 at 8:30 PM

I agree – travelling shouldn’t be limited by language.
I like to stay long enough in one place to get a feel for it – homestays and language classes are a wonderful way to do that. And travelling to learn a language gives your trip more meaning, i think, than just seeing the sites.


brian April 7, 2009 at 9:35 AM

Great program!

If we had to learn a new language every time we went somewhere we would never go anywhere. Just jump in and go. Learn the basics and enjoy the experience. Always wanted to do a month somewhere and stay with a host family for Spanish.


TJ April 10, 2009 at 1:08 PM

Great idea!!! I’m going to be bold however and venture into France with no language skills except Merci, escargot and nutella!! Let’s see how far I get…


brian April 10, 2009 at 2:30 PM

That is essentially what I did in Paris. It’s good to get and retain whatever French you can, but most Europeans, at least the younger ones, are all bilingual from what I observed.


Shreejana Hickman April 11, 2009 at 7:24 PM

It’s definitely important to learn some key phrases of the local language where you are visiting. When people see you are making an effort to at least learn, and speak their language, they appreciate that and are more willing to help you out.


brian April 13, 2009 at 11:40 AM

Completely agree! It takes a little work, but it can make your travel experience that much more fulfilling.


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