Travelling Abroad? Why you should learn the local language


female travel

Travelling, especially as a family can be an exciting time, discovering new cultures, experiencing new places, trying out the local food and opening your mind to a different way of life. Travel, however, can at times also be fairly stressful so planning in advance I find is always key, knowing where you are staying and get acquainted with the map of the area can help you feel less disorientated but what I find the biggest help is having a basic grasp of the local language.

I remember once when I was a young girl travelling with my parents in Paris, one evening, them with a phrasebook in hand trying to negotiate buying some baguettes from a small bakery in the Montmartre district for a budget dinner on the go. I remember there being a lot of back and forth and misunderstanding but they persevered and in the end managed to communicate enough to be successful. My parents always instilled in me that we are guests in another country and should never expect them to speak our language but instead try and speak theirs no matter how basic our level is, it's a mark of respect and politeness and the response in my experience has always been warm and helpful.

If that's not enough to persuade you here are 3 reasons why you should learn the local language before travelling somewhere new

1. It makes your travels much easier

You don't need to be fluent by any stretch of the imagination but just knowing some of the basics when travelling in a non-english speaking country will go a far way and make your whole experience an easier one. There is nothing more daunting than travelling to a city and negotiating local transport when you have no idea of what anything says or ordering that much needed cup of coffee after a long day of exploring. Also having a grasp of basic numeracy in another language can help you from being taken advantage of when buying at the local market or store.


2. To fully immerse yourself in the country

The only way to really experience a place is to get to know its history and the people and being able to communicate even on a basic level with able you to immerse yourself in the local culture on a deeper level. It also opens you up to meeting more local people and seeing the city or town through their eyes and having more shared experiences. If you're serious about immersing yourself in the local way of life then do check out Couchsurfing, which I have used a few times, not only for a place to stay but just to meet up with locals in a city and go for coffee. When I was in Zagreb a local girl took me to see a black and white Croatian film at an Art house theatre and it was fantastic - I'd never had known about this if I hadn't connected via Couchsurfing.

3. Develop a new life-long skill

Learning a new language takes times and while the basics are a massive help you can return home with a new love for learning and developing your skills further and can build on what you already know and being able to speak another language can help with job opportunities as well. Learning a new language also helps to improve memory, the ability to problem solve and creativity and can be helpful to your general wellbeing as well as opening more of the world up to you.

I'm sure by this point I have convinced you of the many reasons why learning the local language when travelling is key, now what is the best way to learn before you go? Well, there are a few.


1. Use a language school or online course

Gone are the days when you have to go at a set time each week, nowadays you can do most things in a time that suits you, in your own home but many providers still provide that face to face interaction via Skype and offer just this which is amazing and means you still get all the benefits of one to one learning with a native speaker without having to leave the sofa! There are also some super easy to use apps and online language tools to help brush up your knowledge such as Duolingo, which is worth checking out.

2. Swap Language skills

There are plenty of people who want to improve their English skills, you may even know somewhere already, so meeting up on a weekly basis over coffee and doing a language swap is a great way to learn from a native speaker while also helping them improve their skills. These kinds of swaps are great as they can help build friendships and skills in a casual environment.

3. Watch Foreign films

When we are learning a new language we need to get ourselves acquainted with proper pronunciation and what better way than to enjoy a foreign film over the weekend? I love watching European movies, especially ones based in France or Italy. There is also plenty of resources and inspiration on YouTube that can help you get on your way and works well in addition to using a language course. 

When you are travelling in a foreign country you never have to feel embarrassed about trying to speak the local language especially as most locals are likely to be impressed that you're trying to communicate in the local dialect even if it's far from perfect. The great thing about learning a new language is you never know where it may take you or who you may meet during your journey so what not start today?

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  1. I completely agree, always best to try and learn the basics than expect everyone to be able to speak English.

    Jo x

    1. Yes, just know the basics can go a long way

      Laura x

  2. I do agree - 100% - but I'm hopeless at learning new languages. I can just about get by with my GCSE French from 29 years ago, but anything new and I seem to forget it immediately. My children are very good - and I do still try though

    1. haha I am also pretty hopeless too but I try to know the basics and carry a handbook with me for help too. Good to get the kids invovled

      Laura x

  3. I try and learn the basics, but I think you have to live somewhere a while to really pick it up


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