Posted by Sean Thompson

Language and Travel

It’s one thing to travel to a country, but it’s a whole other thing when you can communicate, however haltingly, in the country’s language. Meeting new people and talking with locals are two of the most important experiences you will take away from your travel experiences.

Today you can travel the world and get by just speaking English, making hand gestures, pointing at pictures or relying on a translator.

Learning a foreign language is a gateway to broader, richer, deeper experiences while travelling. It establishes rapport, shows a level of respect for the host country and can open you up to some surprising experiences. Locals will likely break out in big smiles and help you along as best they can. On a practical, functional level at least you’ll be able to find the bathroom and board the right train, boat or bus.

Don’t wait until you get to your travel destination to begin your language studies. The more you know before you go, the better. You can spend your time honing and practicing your language skills throughout your travel adventure. So get inspired, pick your destination, buy your ticket and get studying.

There are so many options available to study languages today. Search out the internet and you’ll be amazed at the choices, depending upon what suits your learning style and lifestyle best. No matter what you choose there has to be a conversational component. No amount of study is any good without practical application. You need to get with a small group, with at least one fluent member, and practice what you’re learning.

Don’t trust any learning system that promises fluency in a week or a month. Unless you have some experience with the language already these programs won’t make you magically fluent. When learning a language for travel purposes you don’t really need a huge vocabulary but you need enough to adapt to unpredictable situations.

When you arrive, equipped with your new baseline language skills, get away from those places where everyone speaks English. Head out to those small towns and rural areas where the locals socialize, eat and shop. You’ll likely find that they want to practice their language skills as well, so this can be a win-win for all.  Listen carefully. You’ll notice repeated patterns of speech and you’ll get the opportunity to repeat what you heard back. The locals will be pleased to see you trying hard to communicate with them.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. These are often very humorous and there is nothing like laughter to bring people together. Confidence and enthusiasm are understood in any language. Just be willing to try and learn more. Your travel experience will be so much richer.