Many of us love to travel and explore new placems right? Well, how many of us actually take it up a notch and learn the local language at the same time? Sure, you may have a phrase book to hand for those “thank yous” and “excuse mes” but what about actively participating and learning more about the new culture you’re in as well as talking with the locals?
Most English speakers can get the hang of saying “Bon appétit!” in French but might somewhat be a bit confused by the Icelandic “Verði þér að góðu”.
Unfortunately, many people don’t really approach language learning with a lot of enthusiasm. After all, ‘everyone understand some English’ and ‘Google Translate’ has also been invented for this very purpose surely? Well, not quite. What many people may not know is that by sticking to English and bad translations, they will actually be missing out on a lot of great opportunities and new experiences. For those who want to get out of the ‘ordinary tourist’ phase when abroad, nothing will beat knowing some of the local language, speaking with the locals and getting to know and immerse themselves in the culture. It may sound like a feat but it’s actually quite easy (and fun!) to do, so here are some reasons to finally pursue this goal.
Why learning languages while traveling isn’t hard
A lot of people get put off learning languages because they think it’s too hard, they have bad memory or they just really struggled with this subject at school. Ok, some languages are quite tricky to learn, that’s true. For example, most English speakers can get the hang of saying “Bon appétit!” in French but might somewhat be a bit confused by the Icelandic “Verði þér að góðu”, which means “You’re welcome”.
People are always very impressed when travelers can speak some of the local language, and especially so if it’s more than the usual basic phrases.
However, why not try and learn a language that is closer to your native tongue? For example, a German could learn Dutch quite quickly and easily due to the many similarities in the languages. Similarly, Spanish would also be do-able for Americans thanks to the exposure of the language on TV and around them. So, if you’re a little weary of learning a new language, why not start with one that’s not too different from your own and you will get to grips a lot quicker with learning the vocabulary, grammar etc. Also, once you already know one, it gets a lot easier learning other, different ones. So why not take the first step today?
Learning a language breathes culture
So, of course, checking out the museums and the city landscape is a sure good way to get to know more about the culture and the history of the place but you can also get by a lot further once you can speak the language. Cultural activities are a great way to not only practice your language skills but to go deeper into the place you’re visiting. If you combine language learning with travelling, you can take some courses which offer cultural activities alongside like learning how to make local dishes like paella in Barcelona or learning Flamenco dancing in Valencia.
Using your language skills to connect with locals
When you are able to communicate in the local language with people, not only do you a) feel slightly invincible but also b) you get a lot more out of your interactions. People are always very impressed when travelers can speak some of the local language, and especially so if it’s more than the usual basic phrases. You will also find that people will be a lot more open, a lot more happy to help you and may even let you in to their life and share some great insider tips!
So, for those who still ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ about taking up a new language – don’t delay any longer! Not only will you get a lot out of it for traveling purposes but you will see how much it can change you and enhance your experiences even further!
Hello! As someone who always tries to learn at least a few basic words in the countries to which I travel, and who also travels with people who don’t always make the same effort, it hasn’t been entirely true in my experience that people will be more impressed / friendly / open etc if you can speak a little of the language. In certain places like Thailand it’s been my experience that you get the same treatment regardless of whether you’re speaking English or Thai. Speaking Thai is only useful to the extent that sometimes you meet people who don’t… Read more »
Hi there Michelle,
You definitely have a point here. Some much-traveled destinations such as Thailand have their few words / sentences that everybody knows, uses and frankly abuses and ridicules. If less-traveled countries I think this definitely can be an advantage, even if it is to be able to order in the local language 🙂 For example I learned some basic Spanish in Nicaragua and since I was practicing it every day traveling around South America I really got the idea a new world opened up for me. I think it’s making the effort that counts 🙂
Good post! Picking up languages is one thing I enjoy most about travelling. My woeful pronunciation at times has also given me some entertaining memories;) I especially agree with the point about how attempting a language can make locals more welcoming towards you.