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It’s something we take for granted far too often – traveling to a foreign land and expecting our English will be understood. And while most of the time it’s easy enough to get by, knowing what, how, and when to say a phrase in a foreign language can sometimes prove necessary when you find yourself in an emergency situation which may not be possible to resolve in English.
“We were enjoying a pleasant holiday in Eilat when my son was climbing off a bunk bed when he fell and fractured his wrist. We ended up taking him to the Emergency Room, though no one could speak English to let us know what was happening. It was not a very happy affair.” – Erin Bender of her family’s recent trip through Israel.
Unfortunately, travelers do suffer injury or illness on occasions, and it’s in these situations where it is important to be able to communicate the need for medical assistance before a condition becomes unbearable.
Smartphone translation apps make traveling easier than in the past, though when I travel I will also carry a small notebook in which I use to list my phrases. And always remember to write them out phonetically. For instance writing ‘спасибо’ in Russian is absolutely no help if you cannot read Cryillic. Instead write ‘spa-see-ba’ (hello). Those feeling particularly adventurous should consider writing out sentences in full.
Hopefully you won’t have to use these, though it’s always better to travel prepared. The following are important health and medical phrases you should know in every language…well, the language of the destination you’re traveling through at least! Translate them before you go and write them down to keep with you on your trip.
Difficult Situations & Emergencies
- I need a doctor/dentist/police officer
- Help! / Can you help me?
- Please come with me – it is an emergency/very urgent.
- Is there pharmacy nearby?
- Can I use your phone?
- Call the police/ambulance!
- Leave me alone!
- Know how to describe your location: street names, the name of the district/neighboruhood, the address of your hotel, etc
- If you’ll be carrying a cell phone with you on your travels, learn the local emergency number so that you can get assistance immediately.
While you may be able to point and mime to get your point across, this can really only get you so far when it comes to your health.
It’s a good idea to make a note of the important parts of your body which will allow you to communicate with a doctor as to which part of you is hurt. This will allow you to better describe your symptoms.
Also be prepared with the translations for any allergies you may have, or medical conditions you have suffered from in the past.
You’re not always going to have your guide book or translation app with you, so all travelers should learn how to ask locals if they are able to speak English. Even if the person or medical staff can’t speak English, asking in their native language is more likely to lead to someone who does.
Learn the following phrases to help you overcome language barriers and difficulties.
- Do you speak…?
- I (don’t) understand.
- I speak a little…
- I (don’t) speak…
- Could you please speak a little slower?
- Could you write that down?
- Could you repeat that?
- How do you say…?
- What does… mean?
There are a sleuth of smartphone translation apps like Google Translate, iTranslate, or WayGo, all of which make language barriers a breeze, though for a translation tool which is specifically dedicated to your health, the GeoBlue app is by far the best; a tool which comes as a massive perk for those with GeoBlue travel medical and health insurance.
As a policy holder, your computer or mobile device becomes a powerful translation tool. Their database consists of over 5,000 commonly used medical terms and 4,000 medical health phrases in dozens of languages. It’s easy to find the term or phrase you need, and once you do, audio files allow you to play a precise translation in the world’s most widely spoken languages.
You can rely on GeoBlue to help you translate brand names or find generic, and get accurate dosing information in the world’s top destinations.
So don’t think of their app as just one more thing to carry with you, but something to carry you past medical misunderstandings. And that’s why we love GeoBlue; it provides the best tools available to navigate the complexities of healthcare and arrive at the best decisions for personal care…even if you don’t understand Icelandic!
If you’re not already set with health insurance for your international trip, read our recent post on the worst and most embarrassing traveler injuries abroad and you soon will be! We obviously recommend GeoBlue insurance through Individual Health – they offer the most complete set of benefits and services in the industry and essentially provide a worldwide, all-access pass to an exclusive level of care.
For more information, or to set up a free quote, contact Timothy Jennings at Individual Health and mention we sent you!
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Photo Credits CC: Featured photo by DVIDSHUB. In order of appearence thereafter: Travel With Bender, DVIDSHUB, USAG- Humphreys, DFID – UK Department for International Development, DFID – UK Department for International Development, US Army Africa, DVIDSHUB, USAG- Humphreys.