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Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:19 am
by Coltrane75
Hi all,

My fiancée and I are considering locations for our honeymoon; our top three are New Zealand, South Africa and Chile.

I'm American, based in the states, and I haven't done much traveling to countries where I don't know the language outside of Western Europe where many people speak English.

How should I go about researching travel to Chile? I'm not sure what I should do or how to research it; e.g. travel group vs self planned. Neither of us speak Spanish and I don't want to end up lost at sea.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:23 am
by fortfun
Use the tripadvisor Chile travel forum. It seems just about everyone speaks some English wherever tourist travel. I wouldn't worry about it too much.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g ... Chile.html

New Zealand and Australia are great but a bit expensive compared to some destinations.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:32 am
by rich126
Rick Steves' forum is a good one.
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-forum

I'm not a huge follower of Rick but the people on the forums have a lot of useful information.

Language is always a fear of new travelers. Usually it isn't a big thing but I haven't done much traveling outside of Western Europe. Any kind of decent sized tourist place is usually familiar with English, if not due to Americans, Canadians, etc. then due to other people whose first language isn't spoken at the location but their second language is often English (Japanese, Russians, etc.).

Obviously the more remote locations you go, the more of a problem it can be.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:47 am
by Alf 101
One other idea, since the trip is some time in the future, is make a little effort to learn some of the language before you travel. I'm not suggesting a level of effort that makes you fluent, but knowing enough to say thank you, find a bathroom, ask for directions, and book a hotel room and bus ride would be good. In many places of the world you find people who speak English, but making an effort to at least speak a little of the host language can be a well received gesture. Spanish -- compared to tonal languages (e.g., Mandarin, Vietnamese), this should be relatively easy for a native English speaker.

Your phone can also be very helpful. Download Google Translate -- or similar app -- and buy a SIM card with pre-paid data at the airport. This app definitely is better for some languages than others, but especially for Spanish, it should definitely help get you by.

As stated above, it depends much on the nature of the trip -- how much you plan on leaving the beaten track, versus sticking to a more common tourist itinerary. If you go on a tour, or stay in the cities and near the main attractions, you should be fine with English.

With any of those three options, language won't be a problem. Over time, and with future travel, you may start to see this more as part of the challenge and fun.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:55 am
by FederalFIRE
I would expect you should be fine in Chile if you're staying reasonably on the beaten path. You've been given some good resources above. I would also suggest checking out Lonely Planet, which has great guides that usually get a bit farther afield than Rick Steeves: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/chile

There are, of course, places in the world you can travel where very little English is spoken, but those are getting fewer and farther between nowadays. I travel internationally for work regularly and have not yet run into a situation where I can't get by with English, though some places are a bit easier than others.

Enjoy the experience, the culture, and keep an open mind to learn new perspectives and ideas while you're exploring!

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:33 am
by DrGoogle2017
I have booking apps on multiple languages for a reason. They may have the same stuff in multiple languages. That’s way I’m more familiar with some basic terms. Not completely clueless.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:46 am
by gtd98765
I have spent decades travelling to places where I did not speak the language. Anywhere tourists go, someone is likely to speak some English. And if not, most people will try to be as helpful as they can. Example: in Puerto Rico recently, I wound up in a cab with a driver who spoke only Spanish; he started Google Translate on his cell phone, which translated acceptably if not perfectly in both directions; problem solved.

In Chile I have only been to Santiago, but I'll bet you have a great time if you go there.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:49 am
by Shallowpockets
There is an app for that, language. Use as needed. Simple. I travel a lot and learning languages is not necessary. Use the app to learn basic greetings and courtesy. Someday you may go to SE Asia or Eastern or North Europe. Are you going to learn Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Laotion? Are you going to learn Chech, Polish, Latvian, Romanian?
Are you going to learn Italian, French, and German? How about Swedish, Finnish, and Norwegian.
You get the point. The more you travel the less you can do all that?
The world's language is English.
True stories. In Poland i met Dutch guy and his Polish girlfriend, they converse in English.
Danang, Vietnam train Station. I am approached by a couple from Malaysia for directions. We speak in English.
Flip side was being in Scotland and a table near us in a restaurant is French people. They speak no English and are having a very hard time wih ordering food.
Enjoy your vacation and don't worry. That is what the app is for.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:50 am
by ohai
You will be able to survive with English in any of those places, or most places known to US visitors. In most countries, you might not be able to go off the tourist track, but you won't ever be stranded or face real difficulty. In fact, I've spent months preparing survival language skills for some vacations, only to have people just talk to me in English... The only place I've went where there was almost zero use of English is China, but I think even that is changing.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:56 am
by jhfenton
Alf 101 wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:47 am
One other idea, since the trip is some time in the future, is make a little effort to learn some of the language before you travel.
+1 I know that many people have a fear of foreign languages, probably from the terrible way they were traditionally taught in school. But learning a language should be fun, not scary, especially for a language as accessible to English speakers as Spanish. Unless it's an unplanned last-minute trip, I would never take an overseas trip without making an effort to learn pronunciation, greetings, survival phrases, basic sentence structure, and a few hundred common words. It's not like you need to know both forms of the Spanish past subjunctive, you really only need the present tense, who, what, where, when, why, directions, a dozen verbs, numbers, and some common nouns.

It was different before the Internet and ubiquitous language learning resources, but it is easy now to learn the basics in just about any language (at least for the most common European languages).

I've also found that if you make even a little effort to speak the language, most people are incredibly gracious and helpful.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:58 pm
by cherijoh
Coltrane75 wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:19 am
Hi all,

My fiancée and I are considering locations for our honeymoon; our top three are New Zealand, South Africa and Chile.

I'm American, based in the states, and I haven't done much traveling to countries where I don't know the language outside of Western Europe where many people speak English.

How should I go about researching travel to Chile? I'm not sure what I should do or how to research it; e.g. travel group vs self planned. Neither of us speak Spanish and I don't want to end up lost at sea.
I'm not sure a group tour would be conducive with a honeymoon, although we had a pair of honeymooners from Singapore on a tour I took in Italy. Just make sure there is ample time on your own built into the schedule.

A group of friends arranged a custom tour to Costa Rica with a US tour company. They provided a driver/guide for the duration of the tour. He did all the translation necessary - which actually wasn't much. But we were definitely happy not to be in charge of driving - the roads in Costa Rica are atrocious!! Something like that might be an option for you in Chile. If you stay in major tourist areas you may also be able to hire a local English speaking guide for the day who will drive you around.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:25 pm
by GerryL
Here's a tip regarding planning a trip to a locale where you don't know the language: Well before travel day, start listening to a local radio station. You can use the website radio.garden which lets you find stations by clicking on a map of the world. You can just let the station play in the background as you putz around the house. Ambient noise. Whether you understand a lot, a little or nothing, it gets you used to the sounds of the country.
I prefer news stations. I've been listening to a French news station regularly for several years. It has really helped me recover my lost French skills. I am now adding a station in Spain in the afternoon since I will be traveling there for a few days later this year. I don't speak Spanish.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:19 pm
by autolycus
Others have chimed in about Chile and language issues. I agree that you'll almost certainly be fine if you're in the touristy places or cities. Hotel staff will speak enough English to handle foreign guests. Restaurant staffs *might* not do as well, but it's pretty easy to study common menu words and bring a phrasebook. Also do a little bit of research on the most typical dishes, making sure to read and listen to their local names. That way you are less likely to be overwhelmed in a restaurant in case they can't handle English as well.

But, I really wanted to say: New Zealand is very, very nice. If you're outdoorsy at all, there is more to do than you could imagine. Even if you just like seeing nice scenery from a car, it's a great place to visit. I highly recommend https://www.finetoursnewzealand.co.nz/ They do "self-guided" tours. They basically work with you to set up the itinerary and they book the rental car, hotels, ferries, and even activities like horse-back rides, kayak tours, etc. Their site has a variety of sample itineraries that are a good starting point even if you decide to book everything on your own. I will warn: outside of a few cites, most of their hotels are motels like what were common in the US decades ago. There are some very nice motels though. So don't be turned off by the stigma of what most motels are like in the US. If you do New Zealand and think you'll be on the South Island, my wife and I *really* enjoyed kayaking and hiking in Abel Tasman, which a lot of people miss. Milford Sound, Queenstown, etc. were all great too, but you'll see recommendations to hit those nearly everywhere. Abel Tasman is a bit more of a hidden gem, if you don't mind being active.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:30 pm
by adamthesmythe
Let's be clear here. English speakers have it very very easy. Much of the world knows a little English and a good bit of it knows a lot.

It IS important to learn enough to read signs, schedules, and maybe a bit for menus. AND to learn some of the local customs. (In Europe you can sit in a restaurant all day without getting a bill unless you ask for it. etc. etc.)

By the way, language in New Zealand and Australia is closer to the US than England. In England they have different words for some things, NZ and AU are closer to Amurrican.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:31 pm
by welsie
My wife and I went to South Africa and Botswana a few years ago. South Africa is great and I highly recommend it. Cape Town is a really neat city!

If you enjoy camping and are interested in a safari, we found a mobile soft-tent safari to be a very cost effective, interesting way to travel in Botswana.

We used this company:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_ ... trict.html

While $900/night is not free, even 3-4 nights camping up in Botswana is more than enough to get a sense of it, and a really unique experience. If you bookend your travel in South Africa you can see different parts of the country and some "civilization" before/after camping.

Re: Vacation Planning w/o Foreign Language Knowledge

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:31 pm
by KyleAAA
I've been to Chile and while I spoke enough Spanish to get by, English was wide-spread as well. You will be fine, especially in places tourists tend to go. My experience was that the Chilean dialect was very difficult for me to understand compared to what I had learned in school and other spanish-speaking countries.