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You can go about with phrase books and dictionaries, but you're left with a
pronunciation problem. However, if you take a dictionary with pictures in it,
then it's genuinely international, and everyone can point at what they mean.

Be realistic about what you know. The words aren't much, but if you try to
follow people's gestures and so on, you'll be able to pick up their general
meaning. Only 20% of communication is verbal, after all.
Of course it's hard to catch what people say - they're native speakers and
you're a novice, a learner. But don't be shy - get them to slow down for you
and get them to say it again if you miss it, particularly things that are clearly
important.

Actually, people tend to talk about how well someone speaks a language,
but the real problem is understanding a language, and books like
dictionaries or phrasebooks aren't any use when it comes to that. They just
mean you can look up what 'steak and chips' means in a restaurant.

Don't be afraid to be physical - use your body to demonstrate things you


want to say, and to overcome your lack of grammar. Pointing backwards is
an easy way to indicate the past, for example, and a sad face is a pretty
universal thing.

A little effort beforehand can go a long way. Rather than carting a grammar
book and a dictionary around with you, and slowing everything down when
you want to say something, write out the sentences you think you'll need
and make sure you learn those by heart.

Just as words and grammar vary round the world, so do the other aspects of
language, like body language - it's not necessarily as international as you
might expect ... and you need to watch out so you don't cause offence with
what you think is a friendly gesture, in fact, being obscene.

The visual is always going to be clearer than the purely oral. Always carry a
notebook with you, and you can jot down, or even draw what you want to
say - and also get the people you're trying to understand to do the same,
too.

People travelling tend to get caught up in their own sense of inability,


assuming it's only they who have problems understanding. Don't forget not
to talk too quickly yourself - nobody can understand your native tongue if
you chatter away too fast.

If you've been exchanging emails with someone, you've been accustomed to


being able to take your time in understanding. It can be a lot harder when
you meet in person and have to deal with speaking. But at least then you
can see what's going on, so go straight for meetings, and don't try
discussing anything on the phone - it's just too hard.
language needs
gestures
mean

necessidades lingusticas
gestos
significar