Have you contemplated language learning for travel – and then decided against it? Imagine this: it’s the year after the Covid-19 pandemic ended, and you’re all set and ready to take on your latest travel adventure. You’ve just gotten off your flight, in a country you’ve never visited before. Excited to immerse yourself in this new culture, you decide to roam the brick-laden streets in search for food. And when you get to a nice, cozy-looking establishment – you stop in your tracks. All of the menu items are in a language you’ve never seen before. Letters and numbers are puzzling, and you’re a bit overwhelmed at the sight. You don’t know how to order your food, and don’t know what to do if someone asks you what you want.
This is one of the reasons you need to learn a new language. Among others, it’s really important to be able to understand what local language reads, so that you can manage on your own, don’t get conned or have to ask for help.
Now imagine this: Same Covid-19 free year, new country. You get off the flight, and you’re able to look around at familiar signs, you are able to read them. Every time you approach a new face, you speak in their language and it brings a smile to their faces. Negotiating with the vegetable vendors is as easy as pie, and you know your way around those brick-laden streets now.
Doesn’t that sound way cooler? And much more convenient? Well, in this article, we’re going to go through the rest of the reasons why you need to consider learning the local language.
1. Cultural Insight – Learn One, Get One Free!
Language is an integral part of a country’s culture. We may not know the names of our great-great-great grandparents, but we do know the language they spoke. This language learning has passed onto us as well. Which in turn opens up a whole variety of conversations on what they did, how they spent their time, what topics they used this language to communicate – to name a few. Just like that, we get to know so much more about our country’s history, its culture, heritage and customs.
And it is exactly the same when learning a new language. Scrolling through resources on the language gives you facts about its origin, the way the locals teach it and even how it is learnt today. This brings up more curiosity on other culture and lifestyle-related topics, and gives rise to a greater level of cultural insight on your part.
You haven’t just learnt a new language – you’ve learnt about a whole new way of life. This way of life might pique your interest because it is so similar to yours, or maybe because it is entirely different. It will help you understand the local culture once you arrive, and help you take more from the experiences as you leave.
2. Competent Communication is Now on The Cards
Sometimes, it is just not possible to truly communicate what you mean – even if your conversation partner is speaking the same language as yours. So, imagine how hard it might be if both of you don’t speak the same language!
You might be able to get by with a few hand gestures and elongated syllables, but this will definitely not help your chances of conveying what you really mean. For example, you might be able to indicate that you want a sandwich, but how do you tell them you’re vegetarian? Getting stuck with something we don’t want causes us to be upset, which in turn affects how we see the place for the rest of the trip, and even after we’re back home. Language learning can help you use some key phrases that you’ve learnt, to effectively communicate your point across. Whether you want a veg sandwich, need to go to the toilet, or just want to swear at your cab driver, you’ve now got a myriad of words to rest your case!
3. Build Better Bonds
Often, we understand colloquial do’s and don’ts through the language learning process. For example, one might order a bowl of sticky rice whilst in Japan. You don’t know where to put your chopsticks, so you just stick it into the rice – not knowing that this is extremely taboo. For south-east Asian countries like Japan and Korea, a bowl of rice with two chopsticks vertically stuck into it are used in funerals.
While learning their language, you might be exposed to facts like this through the cultural immersion. Or, if you know the language before going, it is easier for the locals to communicate why they do certain things in a certain way. In either situation, you will be better equipped with knowledge that allow you to build bonds with locals. Since you have one common medium of communication, you can get to know the other person in detail, as well as their surroundings and the country. In turn, you can share things about yourself and your own country easier, too – you will not have to struggle with words, or get your meanings lost in translation. You can make new friends, and possibly even avoid making enemies!
4. Get Away from Tourist Stereotyping
Many locals (maybe even in your hometown) have a general idea of tourists from x place, or of ‘this type’. Often, these stereotypes are not positive – negative experiences tend to stick in the mind, and are over-generalized to a larger population. Even if the stereotype is largely positive, you want to make your mark – as more than just ‘a person from that country’.
And this is where language learning comes in. As a tourist, many locals do not expect you to know how to speak their language, and are surprised when you do. This is often a pleasant surprise, and sets you apart from the rest of the tourists they know. It gives you a chance to move away from being boxed into a certain type. It gives you originality, and adds to their perception of your personality – in a good way. This can often lead to a better overall experience, as people now look at you differently, and are more willing to communicate. You can now go to coffee shops or tourist hotspots, but expect a different experience that is closer to the local norm, as you are being treated as less of an outsider.
5. Alphabet Familiarity = Convenience
Speaking the language is one thing, but learning the script is entirely different. In some ways, this is an easier task – you do not need to learn intonations of words, for example. You will not need to communicate with correct pronunciation, or answer in short periods of time. But where does this part of language learning really help?
Knowing the alphabets and basic vocabulary of a language can help you read restaurant menus, for example. It can help you navigate your way from one end of the city to another – subway stations, bus stops, street names and minor landmarks can all be identified with ease. Some scripts are considered easier to learn than others – the Spanish letters may be learnt faster since they’re similar to English letters. Scripts for Japanese, however, have three different types of letters – including Chinese characters. These may be a bit of an overkill, especially if you are learning only for a 5-day trip. In this way, you can choose which language’s alphabet to learn based on its convenience, usefulness and purpose of learning. Note that there always lies some advantage in this knowledge, so if you learn a script, it will not go to waste.
And That’s Not All!
Overall, language learning guarantees a more enriched experience. It allows you to be more connected to the place you’re travelling to, and helps you see things in the way you want to. The added convenience makes it a great option. Although, time and effort will need to be spent: as is the case in any learning process. However, once you reach, and the local’s smiling faces greet you, it will seem like it’s all worth it.
Another aspect that would be completely worth your time are our visa processing facilities! Visa2Fly deals in visa, SIM card and travel insurance needs, to make sure that your trip is as smooth-sailing as possible. Contact us, so you can spend more time on language learning, and less effort on the visa process! If you’d like to read more cool blogs like these, make sure to check out our Travelling With Pets one as well!