Friday, June 12, 2015

5 ways learning a language has enhanced my travels

As much as I may have already banged on numerous times about HOW BLOODY FANTASTIC LEARNING A LANGUAGE, I feel I have not covered it enough on the blog.

And whilst I was mid-way through doing my usual procrastination, thinking about blogging, I had that light bulb moment everyone has and realised I should change that.

So I've only gone and decided to do a weekly linguistic feature because as much as I could talk until the cows come home about how great languages are, I have barely scratched the surface with it right here on the blog.

So this week I thought I would start off easy and talk about my experience of learning a language abroad and how I've used languages to get even more out of my travels.

Travelling in its own right is of course an incredible experience. But combine it with learning a language, getting a deeper insight into a country's culture, bonding with the locals etc. etc. and you've hit the jackpot.

I cannot stress enough how useful learning a foreign language is, especially if you're planning to travel in the near (or even faraway) future.

So here it is, here's the many ways how learning a language has enhanced my travels.

1. It's made travelling so, so, so much easier

OK, sure you may find yourself making a fool of yourself on many the odd occasion but knowing you can ask for directions, order food, get advice or simply read signs will make your life on the road a walk in the park in comparison to having to lug the phrase book out or find someone who can speak English.

2. I've saved money thanks to my language skills

Numbers will be easier to understand, you'll have an idea as to whether that's expensive or not (or you can ask around and find out) and the best bit of all - you can haggle, barter and negotiate to your heart's content. Surely you want to have as much money as possible to enjoy all the finer things in life on the road rather than waste them on taxi rides which cost double the amount they should?

3. I've bonded with the locals

I don't know why but I hate saying 'locals', it's one of those of travel clichés which drive me mad. But it's that the best way to describe my point. Anyhoo, my languages have helped me have chats with people I otherwise wouldn't have. And as we all know grannies and grandads are the best fountains of knowledge (and banter) I have ever come across and you get to learn so much about where you're going.

Plus if you've got a granny on your side, hell hath no fury like an abuelita scorned so she's got your back.

4. I'm more aware of my surroundings and 'street-smart'

Another travel cliché I hate but having knowledge of the local language has helped me be more aware of what's going on around me and in some cases prevented me from getting into some sketchy situations. What's even better is thanks to my decidedly gringa looks, people assume I can't speak Spanish and I can act blissfully ignorant whilst know exactly what's going on.

Having language skills can be your secret and a very powerful one at that.

5. I've learned more about the country's culture and it's added to my travel experience

That's not saying that without learning the language, you have no comprehension of the culture whatsoever.

But what I am saying, from my personal experience, is that once you try to get into their language's mindset, you start to understand a little bit why certain things are the way they are. Especially once you start learning the slang and idioms, you have a little window in their culture which you wouldn't have otherwise. Plus, you understand music lyrics, can read their newspapers and watch their TV (hello telenovelas, if you're a big fan of trash TV like) and it just adds to your travel experience.

Obviously there are many, many more than 5 ways that learning a language has enhanced how I travel, however I didn't want to waffle on too long and I think these are enough to convince you to dust off the ol' Rosetta Stone (other language learning resources are available) and brush up your French, Spanish, Mandarin or whatever language it may be.

Plus, your travelling buddies will absolutely love having a translator in the group so it's one way to make new friends on the road too (obviously your dazzling personality and charisma will shine through too).

How has learning a language enhanced your travels? Which language would you like to learn?

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