How to beat the work travel language barrier

August 05, 2021

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Business travel commonly involves a goal, a strict schedule, and a limited timeframe. That doesn’t leave much room for navigating language barrier problems. To help save time, we’ve put together some top tips for overcoming language barriers when you’re on the road for business.

Learn a few key phrases

English is one of the most commonly spoken languages worldwide. In total, 67 nations speak English as their first language and 27 have it as their official second language.

Depending on where your business travel is taking you, you might come up against a significant language barrier. In this case, it’s important to brush up on the basics.

Apps like Duolingo and Babbel are popular tools for learning the basics of a language relatively quickly — you could even check them out on the flight over. If you’re a traditionalist, you can also create some flashcards to take with you.

You shouldn’t expect to become fluent — there’s probably not enough time for that — just a core grasp of the basics is what’s needed. Being able to accurately pronounce the name of your hotel, for example, might do the trick. When locals see that you’re making an effort to speak their language, they’ll most likely be happy to meet you halfway.

Download offline maps

There’s nothing more stressful than getting off a flight and not having wireless reception. Not having any sense of where you’re going in a foreign location can leave you feeling incredibly vulnerable.

Luckily, tech has come to our rescue once again. Popular navigation apps like Google Maps have introduced a feature called “offline maps.” It allows you to download a map of an area while you have a connection and use it to navigate, even without Wi-Fi.

To use the offline maps feature on your next trip:

  1. Make sure you have the Google Maps app downloaded.
  2. Open the app and find the relative area where you’ll be travelling to.
  3. Navigate to the menu, and you’ll find an option to “download offline map”.

Depending on your internet connection, and the size of the area, the map might take a bit of time to download, but with it, you’ll be able to search within the map and navigate to where you need to go — all without Wi-Fi.

download the app

Learn the local do’s and don’ts

Locals will be more receptive if they see you’re making an effort to integrate. But learning some key phrases is only half the battle. It’s important to know what social cues you’re giving off.

If you tend to be very loud and dramatic, this may not be received well in a more reserved culture. A behaviour or gesture that is positive in your culture may be incredibly rude in the one you’re visiting.

Taking time to learn a bit about the culture in the country you’re travelling to can help you feel more comfortable in your new surroundings.

Download a translation app

Downloading a simple, free translation app like Google Translate can make a huge difference.

Google Translate gives you the option of typing words to translate, but it also has the capability to manage vocal translations.

If you’re travelling internationally, Google Translate is a must-have.

Take advantage of travel tech

When you’re travelling for work, it can be helpful to keep things as streamlined as possible.

Say you’re trying to get to an important meeting in an unfamiliar city. You could try your luck navigating the public transportation system. You could try communicating with a local cab service. Or, you could stick with what’s familiar… Bolt!

Bolt delivers fast, affordable rides at the tap of a button — no matter where you are. We operate in over 200 cities in more than 40 countries across the globe.

If you’re travelling for work, make sure you create yourself a Work Profile inside the Bolt app for hassle-free expense management.
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