Whether you head to Berlin, Paris, Athens, or Moscow, odds are that the locals will ask you “Do you speak our language?” every so often. Understand that they are not being discriminatory or unwilling to speak English – they simply may not know how to. Even if you translate travel documents before going abroad, you may run into unfortunate communication issues.
Instead of expecting that the people in Egypt, Finland, Brazil, or China speak English, why not learn the local language? As a traveler, you can benefit a lot from learning the local languages of the places you plan to visit. Here are only a few good reasons why travelers such as yourself should learn languages before heading on their next trip.
1. Become More than a Curious Tourist
Traveling to a different country for vacation or to visit a public sight or a monument is all well and good – but why stop there? By learning a new language before heading out, you will effectively become more than a tourist. You will become intimately interested in that country’s history, culture, and way of living. By understanding what people around are talking about, you can also pitch in with your comments and insight. This will elevate you in their eyes and pique their interest in you, opening new conversations and topics to follow up on.
2. Start Learning at Home – Keep Learning On The Road
Learning a new language doesn’t stop when you go on your big trip. You can keep learning as you move around the country and practice your skills with the locals. Many people will recognize your efforts to learn and lend a hand out of curiosity for your language learning. Start learning a language a few months before you go abroad and pack your books and worksheets with you if you can. Alternatively, smartphone apps such as FluentU, Duolingo, and Babbel are there to fill the void. Don’t stop learning just because you started your big trip – keep pushing your limits.
3. Get by More Easily than you Would Otherwise
Once your plane lands or your bus stops in a new country, you will be left to your wits. Your first instinct will be to visit your place of accommodation and drop off excess baggage – but then what? By knowing how to speak the local language, you will be able to ask people for directions and participate in local discussions more easily. For example, if you are injured or lose your phone, you will easily be able to put two and two together and communicate your problems. You never know what situations you may find yourself in on the ground, and knowing how to speak is a great way to overcome them.
4. Familiarize yourself with the Culture Beforehand
No matter which language you pick up to learn, you will slowly learn more about that country’s culture as you learn. Language textbooks and worksheets are filled with insight into the country’s lifestyle and habits which can be useful for travelers. A German textbook will inform you on the local food, ways to order items in a restaurant, or how to approach people on the street. You can use the best German translation services before heading out to write and translate quick references and phrases for you to use locally. As with many other languages, you can use German in different countries, such as Germany, Austria, and Belgium – use that opportunity to hop around easily.
5. Fill the Time Before Going on the Big Trip
When you book your tickets and accommodation, you will still have a few weeks or months until you go abroad. That time can be spent productively by learning a new language to better communicate with the locals. Learning Spanish before visiting Spain in person will get you even more excited about your upcoming trip. While learning, you will discover more things to do once you land and plan your trip in more detail. By the time you’re done with a few dozen lessons, the time will come for you to pack your bags and set out on your life-changing trip.
6. Experience Hidden Local Sights and Places
By knowing how to speak the local language, you will be able to diverge from traditional tourist attractions and public sights into hidden gems territory. Every town, city, or natural habitat you visit will have plenty of hidden nooks and sights for you to experience off the beaten path. However, without knowing how to ask about them, you will be left in the dark about the most precious things to experience abroad. This alone will be enough for many to pick up learning a new language before their next big trip.
7. Make Friends Abroad More Easily
Wherever you go, you will likely want to make a few friends and acquaintances. Even if you travel in a group, you can still make friends with the locals. This is very hard to do if you only speak English however. By learning a new language ahead of time, your chances of meeting like-minded individuals or even a significant other abroad grow exponentially. Moreover, people who notice you speak the language will be more prone to start up conversations with you in bars, restaurants, and other public places.
8. Stay Safe While Traveling
One of the most important reasons you should pick up a new language before heading abroad is to stay safe while doing so. You never know when you might stay out late, get hurt outside, or need some extra cash for a taxi. Knowing how to express your difficulties to a local will make overcoming these hurdles much easier. You will be able to call the police, an ambulance, or call other public services personally and stay safer abroad as a result. Even if public services in major cities might know English, critical safety situations will require you to act quickly and decisively.
Using Languages to your Advantage on your Adventure (Conclusion)
Learning new languages before a big trip is both enriching and useful for your personal development. You may not even know the benefits of learning Korean, Hindi, or Hungarian until you get there. Jobs will line up for you and you will have a much easier time making friends and meaningful connections abroad.
All you have to do is pick up your favorite language learning app, visit a local language school, or find language courses online to follow. Start learning today and reap the rewards of your efforts as early as tomorrow.