As the peak of the summer holiday season approaches and that long awaited break in a foreign country moves ever closer, many of us will have already been asked, “Do you speak the language?” Sadly, for the vast majority, the answer will have been “no.”
So, why do so many of us avoid learning the language of our vacation destinations? Do we really have such a level of confidence – some might say borderline arrogance – that no matter where we go in the world, surely there’ll be at least one person who can help us communicate with the natives?
Learning a foreign language for leisure can be an exhilarating experience and it’s sure to give you so much more than the ability to simply ask for something. Depending on the destination and length of stay, each individual can decide just how much of the language they want to learn and how much they want to immerse themselves in the local culture. Here are a few reasons why you should consider learning a new language before embarking on your next trip:
1. Enrich your experience
When communicating with someone in their native language, even the use of very simple words and phrases will almost certainly guarantee a warm reception. The old saying of ‘a little goes a long way’ is certainly true when it comes to speaking in a foreign tongue and by making even the tiniest amount of effort, locals will be more receptive to your wants and needs and many new doors can open up for you as a result.
2. The absolute basics
No one expects a novice to be completely fluent when they’re just starting out on their new language journey. But, at the very least, we’d suggest getting to know some basic words and phrases. Being able to confidently greet people by saying “hello”, “goodbye”, “how are you?” and “very well” will be greatly appreciated by practically everyone you meet; as will polite expressions such as “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”.
Knowing how to say “where”, “here” and “there” can also be extremely useful – even if you don’t know how to say the name of your destination – just by saying “there please” and pointing out your destination to a taxi driver on a photograph or map can make a huge difference to whether you’re understood or not.
3. Health & welfare
If you suffer from food allergies or simply don’t like a particular food or ingredient, it’s useful to know how to ask your waiter “Does this dish contain _______?” That way, you can make sure that you can order and enjoy your meals without fear of eating something you shouldn’t. Similarly, if you’ve had a reaction to a food or are allergic to a particular medicine, it’s useful to be able to tell a doctor about this if you ever find yourself in the hospital or doctor’s office.
4. Integrate with the locals and make friends
Taking the time to learn a language could give you more confidence to stray off the beaten track and venture to lesser known places that aren’t teeming with swarms of tourists. Outside of the dense tourist areas you’re likely to find better quality, less expensive food and drink as well as places that are bursting with local customs and culture. Speaking the language can also provide you with a way to interact with people you’d never have otherwise had the opportunity to speak to. Some of these interactions might be nothing more than polite conversation, but others can turn into long lasting friendships and memorable experiences that you’ll appreciate long after you’ve returned home.