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Many of us love to travel, but most of us can't take the time to learn more than a few catchphrases before heading to a country where we don't speak the language.
But sometimes, you need to say more than just "hello" and "goodbye." Enter Iconspeak, a devilishly simple concept for helping overcome at least basic barriers to communication.
All it takes is an Iconspeak T-shirt, which is stylishly covered with basic pictographs illustrating everything from a train to a phone to a lock to a clock to a bathroom (naturally). All you have to do is point and with a little luck, the person will realize you're not indicating your awesome shirt qualities — but rather, asking a question.
The idea came to be when George Horn was traveling through Asia in 2013 on "cheap motorbikes" with his friend Florian Nast. Gesturing for what they wanted after a long day, in a town with "no infrastructure, zero tourism and just some locals," as he told TODAY.com in an email, "did not help" — and there was little or no signage they could use to indicate what they needed. Horn and Nast partnered with Stefan Streit and in late 2015 they started selling the shirts online.
In addition to T-shirts (long, short and sleeveless), there are tote bags and hats (though the latter items feature considerably fewer icons), which are all available at the Iconspeak website. Thus far, they've sold shirts from countries as diverse as Sweden, New Guinea and the U.S.
"I have used it in Norway," Horn wrote. "It works beautifully — the people you ask are surprisingly quick in getting what you want/mean since they are anyway thinking in a certain context (depending on who they are or where they are). [If] you point to the bus and the clock on the shirt and you do this at a bus stop — anybody will know that you want to know when the next bus leaves."
Check them out and soon, you may be speaking a whole new language.
Follow Randee Dawn on Twitter.