Have you ever found yourself traveling to a foreign country and being hard-pressed to communicate with the locals?
It can get frustrating, especially if you want to order food or explore the country, but nobody there speaks English and you don’t have even a basic knowledge of the local language. So what can you do?
Instead of getting overwhelmed, why not take on the challenge of learning the language?
There are some major advantages to learning a foreign language, especially as a traveler:
It opens doors to new friendships
You don’t even need to be fluent. All you need is a basic knowledge of the language and it’s an instant ticket to invitations to social gatherings like parties / festivals, a sporting event at their favorite stadium, or drinks at the local bar.
Learning a new language gives you the ability to communicate with anybody else who speaks that language, and they’re often people that you otherwise would never have had the opportunity to talk to.
Life gets easier speaking locally
If you already know the basic words and phrases when traveling to another country, it saves you time and energy.
Some of the things you might like to know before leaving include phrases for asking for directions, ordering food, negotiating prices, or basic conversation topics.
If you can avoid the hassle (and possible embarrassment) from using charades or an inaccurate machine translator to communicate, everybody wins.
You understand the culture better
When you learn a different language, you also get an insight into that language’s culture, especially if you are taking lessons. You learn about the history, the local cuisine, and even the local etiquette. It gives you a greater appreciation of the country, allowing you to get closer to the people’s way of life and travel more authentically.
Just as importantly, you learn about their customs and traditions so you avoid the embarrassment of not knowing or even crossing the line regarding what is acceptable in their culture.
You’re not just getting by
Because you have an awareness of where you are, you’re not out of your depth.
You’ve already armed yourself with basic knowledge about the country you’re visiting. So, it becomes easier for you to converse, communicate your thoughts, and sometimes even understand what others are conveying.
Not only that, being aware of what others around you are talking about can also keep you safe!
It helps your brain
When you learn a new language, you help your brain become sharper and healthier.
It develops your brain’s neuroplasticity and allows it to become more efficient as you switch from one language to another. Much like working out the muscles in your arms, the brain is a muscle that responds well to stimulation.
You become a better communicator
It helps you improve your listening skills.
You become more sensitive to the nuances of grammar and sentence construction as you get a better understanding of somebody’s native language. As you learn the language, you don’t just blurt things out randomly; rather, you give thought to how you are communicating to others.
Breaking down that language barrier allows you to build your connection to more people, especially in group settings.
You help preserve languages
According to the UN, there are over 6000 languages all over the world that will no longer be in use by the end of the century. This is a chilling thought, and we will play a part in the extinction of these languages if we allow it to happen.
When you take the time to learn a lesser-known language, you help it survive and thrive, because you get to share that knowledge with other people who don’t know it yet.
Language goes hand-in-hand with a society’s culture; it’s a part of who they are.
It changes your perspective
In some ways, the structure and rules of a language reflect how those that speak it think.
When you learn a different language, it can open up your perception by giving you two languages (and thus two different worldviews) to work with. It’s hard to explain in layman’s terms, but this article explains the effect well.
It looks good on your resume
If you travel not just for pleasure but also for work, knowing a second or third language is a plus because employers look favorably on people who are well-versed in other languages.
Employers consider this an asset because it builds a bridge to a broader spectrum of people. It also shows your desire to learn and how motivated you are to make yourself competitive in the market.
You become more confident
As you become more adept at conversing in a different language, you also become more confident.
It’s easier to go out and explore the place that you are visiting because you won’t get lost easily or hung up on interacting with the locals. You won’t need to have an interpreter with you or even look for a local who understands English.
You are able to broaden your horizon and meet different people or go to different places all because you have equipped yourself as you travel. Just ask Benny!
Yes, learning another language can be a tall order, but there are a myriad of ways to ease into the process and develop your proficiency in no time.
Remember not to be a perfectionist; just aim to get a little bit better each day and people will respect and appreciate your efforts.
Now start learning and putting yourself out there!
Also published on Medium.