One of the reasons why many westerners hesitate on traveling to Asia is because of language barriers. Indeed, Asia is a home for thousands of different tongues on top of hundreds of cultures. Communication may be a problem, relaying the message you want may be a daunting challenge and surviving may be questionable. Or, it may not be an existing problem at all.
According to English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Asian countries are not altogether illiterate in speaking and understanding the universal language. If so, there are countries which can even speak English as fluent as any native can. Surprise surprise! They also have educational system which teaches English language and international affairs where English language is being used to properly communicate. Business districts in many capitals like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Jakarta, Indonesia use English in a day to day basis. You may even be surprised to meet a young child who has not gone to school or mingled with foreigners but can speak and understand English. So for those who are just finding some dumb excuse to visiting Asia and its wonders, your complaints are invalid.
But if you must, you can learn simple tips to overcome language barriers.
1. Learn simple phrases beforehand
It does no harm to review new language as it does not mean that you will totally abandon your own mother tongue. Simple greetings like thank you, good morning or excuse me can be a good start. To get by, you can learn basic conversational phrases revolving around things like restrooms, food and directions. Simply perfecting “how do you say this” or “what this is” can be simple ways of learning bits of the language.
2. Pay attention to non-verbal languages
90% of human communication comes from non-verbal languages. Gestures are of a global scale and it can be understood by anyone regardless of culture or tradition. Smiles and nods can reach a long way to foreigners and locals alike while touching and eye contact can vary depending on customs. In Republic of Korea and Vietnam, it is rude to offer or receive with only one hand. Gifts should be given or accepted with both hands and a bow.
3. Bring a notebook
Although you have a sharp mind, you cannot always trust it. Jotting down the simple phrases you have learned can help you in dealing with the same situation later on. You can also use your smartphones to avoid hassle. Just make sure you hold your gadgets tight as there are a lot of fraudsters in Asian streets.