The sophistication and diversity of human language is nothing short of extraordinary. There is evidence to show that the language you use even affects the way you see the world, so it is no surprise that with very different languages come very different cultures.
Countries with pictographic letters like China or Japan have a unique and distinct perspective on art and religion, while those with Germanic roots differ greatly even from their Latinate neighbors.
To learn a second language is to open a whole new experience beyond tourist hot spots and signature landmarks. You will wonder at the opportunities that open up. After all, traveling to a place with a different language is like traveling to a different world. How, you ask?
Discover The Authentic Culture
If you take the time to do even a little language learning before you go, include some greetings and basic questions, the ability to ask for directions and understand the answers. You can even learn up some words surrounding your own preferences, such as the vocabularies for favorite restaurants or clubs, and you will open up a whole new world of possibilities.
You will see through the veil of the prepared routes and restaurants built for foreign travelers, and get to enjoy a place as the locals do. Take it a bit further, and you’ll be able to start understanding the conversations of those around you, and even read their poetry and history. This will give you an entirely new window into this world, seeing it from the native perspective for the first time.
With the ability to understand road signs and travel routes, the ability to ask for recommendations from locals, you will discover the real world that exists in the everyday, outside the confines of the crowded tourist hotspots. This will not only give you a better experience, it will very likely save you money.
Make A Global Network Of Friends
Learning the language enables you to start making friends. If you’re going to a place for several weeks or even months at a time, it is strongly recommended that you learn the language. This will give you the freedom to socialize while visiting bars and restaurants, and will give you confidence if you’re traveling alone.
Understanding what the people around you are saying will not only create more memorable experiences, but it will also keep you safer. The ability to communicate your needs to people in a state of emergency can be invaluable.
If you make even an effort to learn a language, the reaction from locals can be transformative. The apprehension you might have about learning a new language is exactly the same for the people you’re speaking to in their home country. By helping bridge the gap, they will love you for it.
Learning The Language Will Be Easier
The best way to learn a new language is through immersion. By hearing it and using it everyday, you will find yourself picking it up far more quickly. There is a point for everyone where they reach the ability to think in a new language – when this happens, they are able to improve exponentially in a short amount of time.
I remember the story of an exchange student visiting Germany over summer, whose host family spoke no English. Unless she spoke perfect German, they could not understand her. For weeks, this was frustrating, but she rapidly developed the ability to communicate. On the final night, the father of her host family said, “Your German has really improved!”
Leaning too hard on English as a universal second language will really hold you back. Learning a language with an intention to go to the place where that language is used will help you get better faster.
If you intend to get better, go to the rural, less traveled places. You’ll have unique experiences, and the people around you will be very willing to help you get it right.
It’s Easier Than You Might Think
First of all, it’s never too late. While it’s true that plasticity in the brain reduces over time, making it harder to learn new things, it’s still entirely achievable with a little patience.
What’s more, the learning resources have become far, far superior in the time since you were poring over textbooks at school and repeating things by rote.
Michel Thomas has an expansive series of European language CDs that take a conversational approach, allowing you to learn the language as you would be using it, and in a social context. This helps you with both listening and speaking, and allows you to pick up grammar points as a consequence of using them, not learning abstract rules in isolation.
Equally, apps like Babbel and Duolingo allow you to learn in bite-sized 10-minute lessons you can practice on your commute to and from work, or while on lunch break. They focus on real conversations and vocabulary that is the most useful and flexible.
Take A Learning Holiday
So, you love the idea but you’re intimidated in theory. Well, how about combining a residential Spanish language course with Salsa dancing and horse riding in Ibiza? Or a French language course with an haute cuisine cookery course in Nice, France?
That’s right, you can actually take language learning holidays. You’ll meet other people like you starting to learn for the first time, as well as natives who love to practice conversation with students. You’ll live residentially with the teachers who can share their cultural knowledge, and you don’t have to fit anything in around work.