For many, learning a new language is a scary and perhaps a useless concept. Indeed, why would anyone even want to learn a foreign language in the first place when everyone in the world speaks English anyway? However, as easy as it sounds, this simply isn’t true.
In today’s globalising world languages are a key element in our everyday lives. There is a number of different reasons why learning a foreign language can be extremely beneficial. From personal reasons such as communicating with friends and family or understanding music and art to business reasons such as being able to conduct an official meeting. The list just goes on.
Nevertheless, one of the most important reasons to learn a new language for any travel bugs like myself is to be able to use them while travelling abroad. Visiting a new, foreign country can be an extremely fascinating experience and what better way to immerse yourself fully than go abroad with language skills in hand?
As I don’t personally think that English is sufficient enough to get around regardless of where you are traveling to, I always do my best to learn at least few phrases and vital words before visiting a foreign country. Although this may be true for some destinations, even then you won’t be able to experience your adventure fully.
Here are 5 good reasons why you should learn to speak a language before going abroad!
To meet new people
People who speak English natively, often forget that not everyone in the world is able to speak and understand it equally well. The ability to speak a foreign language will allow you to meet and talk to people you could otherwise never be able to speak with. Even if you are not able to speak the language fluently, the locals will appreciate your efforts and therefore be more approachable in general. My recent visit to Thailand only proved the point to be correct. Although I am only able to put together a few simple phrases in Thai, of course with my terrible accent, it seemed to be enough in order to work to my advantage! I could easily find my way around hectic streets of Bangkok and negotiate discounts which otherwise are not available to English-only speaking tourists! Score!
Safety & Emergency
Whether we like to think about it or not, unexpected and unforeseen situations and emergencies can happen when you’re having fun during your international escapades too (or perhaps, especially then). Being able to communicate abroad can often be extremely beneficial; whether you’re at a hospital or medical centre and need to inform someone about your allergies or any medicine you are currently taking, explain a situation to a police officer or simply ask someone for directions when you’re lost – being able to speak native language of the country you are visiting can often get you out of trouble.
Understand the culture
Charlemagne in his famous quote once said that ‘to possess another language is to possess another soul.’ For a travel and language lover like myself, this phrase is truly powerful. Being able to understand a language, how sentences are constructed and how people interact with each other can really help you in fully understanding a country’s culture, history and the way people live in much more depth.
Due to globalisation and internationalisation, a growing number of UK based companies decides to explore foreign markets and expand their customer base. Indeed, the growth and recent developments in technology allow business owners to approach foreign markets much easier than only just 10 or 15 years ago, especially with the help of professional translation agencies. A company specialising in translation services will be able to not only accurately translate your material, but also localise it to ensure that it is suitable for the target market. If you are a business owner yourself, before approaching such translation agency however, knowing a native language of the country you want to address and target will help you to approach the potential customers and business partners much easier while you travel. With language comes the knowledge of culture and customs, consequently the understanding of how people react to certain behaviours, stimulus or patterns which might help you in approaching your chosen market. Business is about people and when expanding internationally, this is especially true!
Of course, following the same cliché routes and paths everyone else follows can, sometimes, allow you to see some incredible things and take great pictures. Nevertheless, if you’re a true explorer at heart and such travels don’t really float your boat, being able to speak a native language of the country you are visiting will help you to discover places only known by the locals, such as great local restaurants, markets or old, forgotten hiking trails.
As you can see, being able to speak a foreign language, or even a few simple phrases in a foreign language, can be tremendously beneficial during your travels. From getting you out of trouble, helping you in emergencies or even doing business – the list goes on.
Even if a certain language wasn’t previously on your ‘to learn’ list, it’s been my personal experience that even a few simple phrases can make a huge difference, and who knowns, perhaps the country you’re planning to visit next will captivate you so much that learning its native language fluently will be the next, natural step?