Keeping Safe Abroad: Learn the Language

With English being a global language, spoken by 2 billion people, it is not surprising that the British have become complacent with their language capabilities. A sheer 61% of us can only hold a conversation in native English. But are there any benefits to learning a new language before you travel?

Tourists are often easily identifiable, are unfamiliar with their surroundings and usually carry money and valuables on them – making them an easy target for crime. Brits are often bad at attempting to speak in local languages whilst abroad; instead we think that shouting loudly in English and gesturing excessively will get across our language to the locals. Using this technique, however, will successfully stamp you as ‘vulnerable tourist’ for all that can see and hear.

Travelling can also be a daunting experience. By picking up the basics of the local language, your new environment will feel less intimidating and you will find it easier to meet many new people without the huge language barrier blocking your path.

But isn’t learning a new language too time consuming?

By prioritising and learning the right words in the right way, you can pick up the basics of any language fast – even if you only have a few weeks left before your trip. You do not need be a language buff or have learnt languages ever before in your life!


  • Make it personal
    • Specify what daily situations YOU will need or want the language in – e.g. self-introductions, buying food in a shop, opening a bank account.
    • Write out the words needed for these situations in English, and then translate them into your chosen language
  • Prioritise by cutting corners
    • You will most probably not have the time – or the desire – to sit and learn all the grammar rules of your new language.
    • Compile and learn a list of common set phrases that YOU will need, using a guidebook or free online resources
  • Immerse yourself
    • Practise on a native speaker
    • Try creating stories and visual images (mnemonics) to associate with your target words in order to engrain the new vocabulary in your memory
    • Watch TV shows spoken in your chosen language (with English subtitles), listen to radio stations and watch the national news of your host country.

Aeroplane Easyjet 3

By following these simple steps you can ensure that you are be able to function on a day to day basis in your chosen country, equipped with the skills to converse in formalities, go food shopping and open a bank account – or whatever it is that you require! You will also help avoid becoming a shining target for easy crime, and can ensure that you can communicate in emergencies or difficult situations. Most importantly, you will be able to meet a great deal more amazing people and appreciate the culture in ways you would have never experienced – spend a bit of time learning now, and reap the benefits!

The FCO Know Before You Go website ( is a useful resource for further travel advice.

Natalie Flanagan 

Featured Image by Jean-François Gornet, Embedded Images by Jason Puddephatt and José Manuel Ríos Valiente via Flickr 

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