If you’re planning on visiting a new, foreign country, it is just the perfect reason for you to start learning its native language. Even if you only end up learning a few simple phrases, it will still allow you to communicate and get by without any troubles, whether you’re looking for directions, ordering at a restaurant or checking in at a hotel. The number of benefits of learning a language before you head off abroad is truly countless.
Whether you like it or not, unforeseen situations and emergencies can happen during your international escapades too (or perhaps, especially then). Consequently, being able to communicate in a native language, whether you’re at a hospital and need to inform doctors of 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, can very often get you out of trouble. Often, during my travels, especially to Asia, being able to communicate, ever so slightly, allowed me to avoid foods and spices which I am allergic to.
Connect with locals
Often, people whose first language is English, forget that not everyone else in the world is able to speak and understand it. The ability to communicate in a foreign language will allow you to meet and talk to people you could otherwise never be able to speak to. Even if you do not speak the language fluently, your efforts will be appreciated and so locals will be more approachable in general. My recent travels to Thailand can be a truly great example of this. Although I am only able to put together a few simple phrases in Thai, 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!
In today’s globalising world, a number of locally based UK SMEs decide to approach new, foreign markets and expand their customer base. Indeed, this, due to growth and developments in technology is now easier than ever, especially with the help of a company offering translation services. A translation agency will not only translate your material, but will also localise your content and ensure that it is culturally appropriate for the market you wish to address. Nevertheless, if you are a business owner yourself, before deciding to approach such translation agency, knowing a native language 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 how people react to certain behaviours, stimulus or patterns might help you in approaching your chosen market.
Of course, it is possible to see a country without speaking its language. To do so, all you need to do is simply follow the well-known tourist routes with other tourists alongside you – perhaps, all taking the same picture in the exact same pose and enjoy your travels. Nonetheless, if you’re after something a little bit more tailored to you, speaking the language may allow you to find and discover places which are perhaps only known by the locals. Remember, not everyone speaks English! A couple of weeks ago, during my visit to Krakow, Poland, I was able to communicate with a local shop owner, who advised me to visit a small restaurant with live jazz music, located just outside the city centre. Imagine how shocked I was to find that such an amazing place wasn’t to be found in any of the books/blogs I have ever read about Krakow! Indeed, it seemed that I was the only tourist there – and I loved every second!
Understand the culture
By learning a foreign language, you will also, quite naturally, learn about the country’s customs, traditions and perhaps history. You’ll understand how people express their emotions or how they address each other in different situations and so consequently you’ll be able to understand the country’s culture on a much deeper level than a monolingual tourist.
Test your language
Every person approaches language learning from their preferred angle – some choose books, others group classes or video tutorials. There are many, many different ways in which you can learn a foreign language.
Despite this, there really isn’t a better way of testing your acquired language skills than talking to its native speaker. Small things which we may not even consider important whilst learning the language, such as different accents or dialects, can influence our ability to communicate. Visiting a foreign country is truly the perfect opportunity which will allow you to take your language skills for a test run in ‘the real world’.
In short, being able to speak even a few simple phrases in a language of a country you are planning on visiting can be a truly great advantage. From getting you out of trouble to doing business or understanding the culture better – the list can go on. Even if a specific language isn’t on your ‘to learn’ list, it’s been my experience that just a few simple phrases can make a huge difference. And, who knowns, perhaps the country you’re planning to visit will fascinate you to such an extent that learning its native language fully will be the next, natural step?