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The Travel Benefits To Learning Another Language

Image: Group of friends talking over coffee. (Photo via Getty Images Plus / iStock / fizkes)
Image: Group of friends talking over coffee. (Photo via Getty Images Plus / iStock / fizkes)

A detailed article on the benefits of multilingualism (or of knowing multiple languages) from the BBC estimates that around 60 percent of the world's population know at least two languages, while that percentage here in the U.S, according to the most recent census data, is an incredibly low 22 percent.

According to an article by Quartz, most European school systems teach children around two foreign languages, as well as their native language, before they reach ten years of age. Most Americans learn zero, or at the very least a smattering of Spanish in high school.

The problems of the American educational system aside, it's incredibly important to learn a different language, and it becomes even more crucial when you travel abroad.

Imagine you're traveling to Spain; it's your bucket list trip, the one you've been pinching pennies for almost a decade to achieve. You finally make it there and you've found this awesome local restaurant. You get ready to order, but...you can't read the menu! It's all in Spanish, and there aren't any pictures to help you!

What do you do now? I suppose you could use Google Translate, but do you want to be that person in a restaurant full of locals? What happens when the waiter arrives and Google Translate accidentally translates what you'd like to say into something a little less understandable, or even something rude or inappropriate?

That's why it's important to learn even just a little of the language that is spoken by most of the people you'll be encountering on your next international adventure. It's not enough to just shrug and expect that everyone already knows English, and while most people might understand what you're saying, they also might not be comfortable enough in their English-speaking ability to reply back.

Plus, think of all the fun experiences you could have if you knew the local language! Let's go back to Spain for another example. Barcelona is great, right? But you're ready for a day trip into the countryside.

Since you studied Spanish prior to arriving, you're able to communicate with the people you met in that charming little village, which doesn't usually get American tourists. Because of your skill with speaking Spanish, your new friend invited you to a home-cooked meal at her house and introduced you to her extended family, and now you've got lifelong friends and a reason to come back!

Most often, when I consider travel, it isn't in the interest to see tourist attractions, as fun as they might be. It's to catch a glimpse into other people's lives and cultures, to make connections that truly change my perspective and to break down the barriers I didn't realize I'd built up (and, of course, to take photos about it to brag to my friends and family).

Learning the local language is incredibly important, not just to foster connection but to offer greater safety and peace of mind while you travel. You'll never get truly lost when you can ask for directions in French or read a map in Korean.

So where do you start once you decide you want to learn a language to prepare for a future trip? It's harder than it might at first seem.

There are tons of resources for language learning out there, and you're going to struggle with the problem of quantity more so than anything else. A quick perusal of your phone's app store can leave you overwhelmed.

True language lovers can purchase Rosetta Stone, which has been on sale throughout the pandemic and offers all of the most popularly spoken languages. Other newer apps like Duolingo and Drops offer bite-sized vocabulary lessons for busy individuals but can be a bit sparse on the grammar side of things, which is useful in forming sentences on your own.

You can also find a plethora of grammar-heavy language books at your local library or wherever books are sold, but it's important to find the balance that's the most practical for you: find the routine or the methods that help you learn the practical stuff the fastest. My favorite tip? Watch shows in your target language to help you learn how to pronounce everything correctly: it's fun and educational!

Learning a language may be intimidating at first, but it's a lesson in perseverance: you'd be surprised where five minutes of practice a day will get you.

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Laurence Pinckney

Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

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Agent At Home

Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

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Agent Specialization: Group Travel

Laurence Pinckney

Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

About Me