Over these years of travel I have developed some repetitive day dreams. When I was in Italy walking the old brick laid streets, I was day dreaming I was conversing in Italian. In Costa Rica, I fantasized about being able to say more than the one or two sentences in Spanish that I knew. And most people if English is not their native language, they hope to learn it better. Travel to foreign lands is enticing enough, but being able to speak the local language, that is really cool.
An up and coming trend is to take a language vacation. Not only can you then travel to new lands, but you can pick up on the local language. Everywhere I have traveled to date, locals appreciate, no matter how bad it might be, when visitors try to speak the local language.
I believe traveling to a country where you don’t speak the local language is one of the most humbling things a person can do. I will always remember standing in a bakery, (somewhere, I don’t remember which country now), but I know there was a green bakery item I wanted. I stood on the other side of the counter to order, opened my mouth to speak and just became frozen. I didn’t know how to say the word “green.” I thought to myself, ‘Come on, kids are three years old when they learn how to say the word ‘green.’ I just remember my face turning red and flubbing around and pointing to every item in the store as the server patiently waited until the conclusion was reached I wanted the green item.
But I always remember the kindness and patience the person gave to me to ensure I got the item I desired. And I will always remember how frustrated, vulnerable and ‘stupid’ I felt for not knowing how to ask for anything I wanted. That experience certainly gives me more empathy when I see people around me whom don’t speak the local language. It’s hard, it’s so hard to learn new words. If you are looking to visit a new country, speak the language and be immersed in the local culture, one organization that can help you do this is Sprachdirekt . They offer language courses in various spots around the world. So if you are looking to learn Italian, Spanish, English or French, check them out.
Looking back over our travels, here are few snap shots from different countries that Sprachdirekt operates in and reasons why it is always a good reason to learn some local dialect:
You want to hike an inactive volcano in the Costa Rican jungles. Good idea to be able to ask for a water break.
You would like to understand what this sign says.
You want to take local transportation via the bus and need to make sure you are going in the right direction.
You decide to hike for two days into a remote research station to camp and hopefully see tapirs. The night before you are supposed to hike out, it rains and the rivers flood. You then have to cross a river that just got a whole lot higher and has been known to have bull sharks and crocodiles swimming in it. If needed, always a good idea to know how to ask for help in the local language.
If you are looking to become an English speaker, go to the land of hobbits and walk in the footsteps of Frodo. New Zealand is lush, green, gorgeous, safe and welcoming to visitors.
I mean, look at these mountains. What a place to learn a language.
We spent about a month in Argentina and loved it! Buenos Aires has so much life, culture, spunk and good coffee – I would go back in an instant.
After you get a grounding with your Spanish, you can then take off to amazing places like Perito Moreno Glacier.
Or have the confidence to rent a car to take you away more spectacular places. This shot is from the Valdes Peninsula which is one of the coolest nature reserves we have ever been too. At the initial start of renting a car (in a different language) I was intimidated. I was scared of all the worst case ‘what if’ scenarios. We rented cars on several different occasions and each time the people were kind and patient to make sure we understood the rules. They waited while we used our dictionaries to translate words we didn’t know and it was an uplifting experience and interactions with our fellow human beings.
Other times it’s good to know the language when you find yourself waiting for a ride. If locals are picking you up, chances are you might not get someone who knows your language as well. So set yourself up for success and know the lingo. (Interesting side note to this picture, the people that picked us up shared their yerbe mate with us and we got to drink it out of a cow horn!)
Cast your eyes on beautiful Cape Town in South Africa. If you have never been, the city is awesome. This is another place we would go back to live at in the blink of an eye.
Near the city for easy day trips is the Cape of Good Hope full of interesting history, stunning cliffs and wildlife.
As we traveled all around the country, we got to gaze into the eyes of so many animals. We found South Africa to be a very easy country to travel around.
Many times when Chris and I tell people of our travels their response is, “Oh I could never do that.” To which we respond, “Well, yes, actually you probably could.” Set yourself up for success. Our first trip abroad was to Europe and we started off in London, an easy country where they spoke English, our native language. Start out your initial travels with countries that excite you. If you are still feeling intimidated, perhaps signing up for a language course may be the perfect way to ease yourself into traveling into an unfamiliar land. No matter what you do, your trip should excite you and it’s ok it scares you a little bit. It is by pushing ourselves through our fears that we are able to attain growth.
There is nothing quite like being in a new country and learning the words to say, ‘thank you, please, bathroom and water.’ Through this simple, yet challenging goal, that is where the magic of travel happens. You will meet people who are different than you and for one reason or another, you will have to communicate with them. You may never see again, but time and again, I have found people to take time out of their day to help me understand what is going on have a good time in their home country. Then when you go back home and see someone struggling to read or comprehend your language, hopefully you can remember just how hard it was for you and help them to understand better too. It is through our languages and kind gestures that the world goes round.