Learn a New Language for Traveling

  • Learning a Language

I love learning new languages for traveling and I love the idea that I can communicate in a foreign tongue. But sometimes the ideal of learning a language is not exactly how it plays out once I actually do it. The dream is shattered because I realize that it takes years to be fluent in a language (unless you are some super linguist who masters languages within 6 months), and that locals don’t always respond how I think they will.

Learn a New Language?

It’s very true that many countries speak perfect English and it’s not necessary to speak a foreign tongue. Unfortunately they can speak English better than you can speak their language and they probably won’t have the patience for you to slowly practice (I’ve experienced this). Or sometimes you know the basic base language but you can’t understand the local dialect. All could be a reality and discourages English speakers from even trying to learn a new language.

But sometimes learning a new language while traveling can help you. In countries where English is hardly spoken it can be very uplifting even if you know basic phrases. Trust me, even knowing the basics can help you enormously with the locals because it proves you have patience and respect to learning their language. So yes sometimes you do need to learn a new language or at least part of it.

In France, while I studied abroad, I felt it was necessary to learn French and to attempt to speak it everyday. The French really see French as a part of their identity and very few have English mastered. So even when you speak a little French, it gives you a major boost in the natives eyes. They won’t think of you as that English speaker who comes to foreign land expecting everyone to speak English.

Shawn Jumping Eiffel Tower

Jumping in front of the Eiffel Tower! Tu parles français?

I feel it’s never okay to have that point of view. Simply don’t assume. While in China I had wished I learned some Chinese as it was very difficult to get around.

It can be hard to learn a new language…

And sometimes it’s hard to learn new languages because locals won’t let you speak their language. Many times I would say something in a foreign language and get a response in English. Always getting interrupted when I speak and the natives don’t have the patience to practice. It can be frustrating for an English speaker wanting to learn a new language when a native doesn’t give you the time of day because they speak better English than you speak their language. In countries that speak English as a second language it may not be that necessary to learn! You could learn a couple of phrases out of respect but there is no need to master the language unless you would like to for your sake.

Because it’s fun…

So learn a language for fun! Unfortunately English is so widely spoken that some English speakers don’t feel the need to learn. For me I like that people are still widely interested in learning a new language just for fun. Some languages are archaic even but that shouldn’t stop people from learning. You could try to master a regional language used by the minority population. The point? Well because you think it’s pretty or you have the want. It’s for the fun of it!

Learn a new language for traveling? Consider the benefits of learning a new language. The freedom is to speak in another tongue and a look into another culture. Realize that even if you already know a foreign language it may not be useful as the general population already knows English. That’s ok! Make an effort to practice and hopefully you find natives willing to speak with you. Research the country before you travel to see if English is widely spoken or if  need to pick up at least some basic phrases. Knowing this could save you from having a horrible time. Happy traveling and happy language learning!

So what’s hard?

It all depends. Romance languages for English speakers are typically easier to pick up and are widely used. Also the Romance countries don’t speak that much English so they could help you a lot.

  • French
  • Spanish
  • Italian

Languages like…

  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Vietnamese
  • Arabic
  • Swahili
  • Russian
  • Greek

are tougher languages to learn for an average English speaker and it would be a good idea to learn some basic phrases before traveling.

Other languages like..

  • Swedish
  • Dutch
  • Finnish
  • German
  • Norwegian
  • Nepalese
  • Hindi
  • Indonesian
  • Thai

are great languages to learn but you don’t need to be fluent since most of these languages’ native speakers also know English.

Before traveling do research on the country you are going to and see how widely the language you want to learn is spoken and if English is widely spoken. Make a decision  to learn a new language and go from there.




images by: ethan

By | 2014-11-11T11:30:06+00:00 September 10th, 2013|