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Universal Icons on T-Shirts: A Handy Translation Tool for Travelers

Universal Icons on T-Shirts: A Handy Translation Tool for Travelers
on April, 26 2016

DayTranslations-universal-iconsIt cannot be denied that despite the popularity of English as a first or second language around the world, there will always be places where tourists and newcomers won't be able to communicate.

A group of designers from Switzerland found a new way to solve the language barrier and avoid miscommunication. Their idea? Is a T-shirt that's printed with various icons recognized around the world to mean something in any language. The shirt is printed with 40 easily-recognized icons – basic concepts that can be interpreted clearly, without offending anyone, such as Wi-Fi, bus, hotel, day, night, bike, train, hospital, food, airplane, beer and more.

Addressing miscommunication and language barriers

It is common knowledge that most travelers will find it difficult to communicate with the locals in the country they are visiting, especially if it is a first-time visit.

Iconspeak, the Swiss group that came up with the idea, thought that this is an easy way to avoid embarrassing (sometimes funny) communication gaffes.

Simple and effective

Iconspeak says that they want to create a simple, practical, helpful, and amazing products that can be used by travelers anywhere they go. Just like their T-shirt, the wearer only needs to point at the right icon and allow it to "speak, and translate for you."


The group says that the idea for the T-shirt came from their own travel experiences. They recalled that when their motorcycle broke down in Vietnam, nobody in the village where they sought help, could understand them. It was only after they drew symbols and images that they were able to explain what they needed. They did get their motorbike repaired afterwards.

Sometimes, low-tech is more effective than using the latest gadgets. In most places, the local language is prevalent and there are only a few who speak some English.

English speakers can only be found at specific places, such as hotels, tourism bureaus, international restaurants and other areas that are frequented by tourists. So, a unique and simple idea such as this shirt, printed with icons that indicate what you need without uttering a word, is simply fantastic.

At times, the easiest way for locals to understand what you mean is to show them - and that is what this T-shirt is trying to achieve.

What do you think? Is this a revolutionary idea that could impact world communications for great? Tweet us at: @DayTranslations and use the Hashtag #DayNews.

Image credit: frbird / 123RF

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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