Friday 4 Nov, 2016

How to Help Prepare Your Students (and Yourself) for Language Barriers Abroad

Kay is a Middle School Spanish World Cultures Teacher. She first traveled with EF to Costa Rica in 2009 and has been leading student groups every summer since. Kay believes that students should experience travel to help broaden their perspectives and allow them to see firsthand how tolerant, global and open-minded we should all strive to become.

Let’s face it, the chances that everyone in your group will know how to speak the target language of the countries you visit on tour are slim to none. In many cases, it is quite possible that even as a Group Leader you yourself won’t be familiar with the language, especially if you are traveling to multiple countries on your tour. Luckily, if you’re traveling with EF this is OK. With a full-time Tour Director by your side, you can rest assured that you will have someone to help you along the way and teach you some of the basics. That being said, teaching your students a few key words and phrases beforehand can be a great way to help make your first few days abroad a little less overwhelming and a little more exciting! Plus, this is a great reason to get your group together ahead of time to start the pre-tour bonding. Below are some of basic phrases I always teach my students before heading out for our adventure.

“Hello” and “Goodbye”
A smile and a polite “Hello” can go a long way in another country. Even if you don’t know how to continue a conversation in the local language these two words will help make sure you always start and end on the right foot when trying to converse with locals.


Count to 10
Knowing basic numbers can help your students navigate multiple situations abroad. From telling time, to keeping an ear out for flight numbers, being able to master basic counting will give your students the confidence boost needed to explore like a local.

“Yes” and “No”
Don’t assume your students know how to say “Yes” and “No” in the target language of your destination country. These two little words are essential in almost every situation you may find yourself in!

“Where is…”
One of the best things about traveling abroad is the opportunity to explore and finally see the places you have dreamt about. Making sure you know how to ask people for directions is a must-know skill so that you can hit all the places on your checklist!


“Please” and “Thank you”
Combine these phrases with others and teach them how to say “No thank you” and “Yes please” and your students will quickly become pros at navigating local markets or grabbing a quick bite to eat for lunch.

Preparing your students ahead of time to function in unfamiliar situations, will provide them with the confidence needed to embrace new experiences. Even if your group isn’t fluent in the target language, locals will recognize and appreciate your efforts and may even reach out to offer additional tips!

Insider tip: Make a little pocket card with these basic numbers and phrases so your students can to reference it while traveling.

Ready to give it a try? Browse tours here.