A collaboration post with Day Translations – all thoughts are my own.
Learning a local language when you’re traveling is one fun way to learn a new language. I think, sometimes, we take for granted the importance of learning the local language because we don’t have to. We’re already sitting at the top of the ivory tower with the peasants coming to us to offer their tithes. English is the desired language to be taught around the world and that makes us, in a way, ignorant.
My first experience of learning a foreign language was great. My parents tend to leave me alone at home to work. So I spend my childhood time with films and books – the reason why I still enjoy reading and watching in my spare time. I learned English from the subtitle when watching Asian series – definitely not from a grammar book.
Here’s the cool thing. I didn’t just start to understand English little by little; I started to become interested in English when all my friends were interested in physics or mathematics. Even though I was taught English in middle school, it wasn’t enough, they only taught theory without much practice speaking or listening. So I took an English course after school – I learned many things outside of school because of it; speaking and learning, of course.
Because of my studies, I started to understand how to simplify my speech for communicating with native English speakers. I even started to see how the nuances of language affect culture and people.
The list of benefits of being bilingual that I discovered goes on, but storytime is over. Consider that tale context for the basis of this article. But also consider its context for the ‘Why?’.
If none of us ever made the effort to learn another’s language, we’d just stay in our bubbles. Communication is the top reason why learning a foreign language is important. The world needs more communication.
If you are a study abroad student or working abroad, then learning the local language spoken at your dream destination can benefit you in a lot of ways.
Some of the top study abroad countries are France, Spain, and Germany where they have their own native languages like French, Spanish, and German. Exploring a new culture means learning a new language as well. But why not spend a couple of minutes a day learning just the basics of the native language being spoken in the country where you are going to study/work?
How can you learn the local language?
If you aren’t already enrolled in school, you might wonder how you can learn the local language of the country you’re visiting.
- Go to a language school. Many people travel to a foreign country primarily to attend a language school! Search for programs in the area you’re visiting. When you aren’t working or traveling, attend some group classes at the nearest language school.
- Find a language partner. Conversing with a native speaker one-on-one does wonders a textbook just can’t. Try a website such as italki, which sets you up with language exchange partners via video chat or have an experienced teacher help you.
- Watch TV and videos. Hearing native speakers talk helps you grasp pronunciation. I spend my days watching and listening western movies. Nowadays I got addicted with BBC’s Sherlock series and it’s nice to listen to British English pronunciation.
Why you should learn the local language
You don’t have to learn the whole language in a month. You could just learn some of the basics to understand the country and to navigate yourself within the local areas around your destination. I haven’t been to Japan, but I learned how to greet people, how to ask people about places, etc because I know it’ll come in handy when I travel there, someday.
When you are in need of interpreting services to speak to the locals, over the phone, or an in-person interpreter, I recommend using Day Translations professional services. I’ve been working with them for a month and a half now, and they specialize in more than 40+ languages!
The great thing is that their linguistic expertise and expanding global presence allow them to meet your translation needs anywhere in the world. Their network of over 10,000 professional translators lives throughout the world. What I love is their specialists in every industry (healthcare, travel, legal, etc) can help you 24/7. Plus, they surely can deliver your request to any location worldwide in less than 24 hours.
Learning the local language will make life easier
Live in a country where few natives speak English will be a hard life. Once you learn the local language, you’ll be able to navigate daily activities in that country. There are numerous ways life will become easier.
- Restaurants. When you know the local language, you can order specific foods you know you like or want to try. For example, if you visit Bali and learn about the word ‘lawar bali‘ you will know that it’s a versatile Balinese dish usually consisting of chopped meat and vegetables and added with pig blood for color and flavor in most variations of this dish. After knowing this, you will know whether you like the food or not.
- Transportation. Getting on and off at the right bus stop is difficult enough in English. It’s way harder in a language you don’t understand! The same goes for taking trains or taxis. And basically any time you need to move from point A to point B. If you’re in a big city, you might hear some English translations of train stops. But the farther away you get from the capital, the less likely you are to hear any familiar words.
- Signs. If every sign you see is just random squiggles, there are bound to be problems. Which way is the subway? Where’s the bathroom? What’s the name of this road? Signs are everywhere, and they’re often important. It would be a great help once you learn the local language!
- Avoid miscommunication. Most visitors who don’t speak the language struggle to communicate even the simplest things to locals. If I want to withdraw money at the bank or buy gifts, then I know I need to learn some basic local language to avoid miscommunication.
Locals love to hear you speak the language
Learning the local language is the ultimate way to show you care about the local people and culture. You care about another’s way of life, you show that you are a compassionate, thoughtful person. This display of empathy will open all kinds of doors.
You’re more likely to have support when you need it. When people see you’re genuinely trying to speak their language, they’re more than happy to help you find your way when you’re lost, order the food you want, or meet new friends.
Locals generally love helping out foreigners on their language journeys. It’s a fun way to bond and build rapport. Even if your accent is weak or you’re still a total beginner, the natives will appreciate your effort. I love it when foreigners try to speak Indonesian or Balinese – I respect them so much because it shows how much they love the country and its culture. For me, they’re not just another tourist obsessed with taking the perfect Instagram photo.
Meet new people
The world is filled with amazing and unique people. But not all of these people speak English. If you have the language skills necessary for daily communication, you’ll open up your ability to talk to thousands of new people!
Make small talk with the store clerk. Chat with your taxi driver. Get to know the woman who sits next to you on a long bus ride.
Once you learn the local language, the people you meet every day have the potential to become your new business partner, best friend, or soul mate. That’s pretty thrilling!
And you don’t need to be fluent to get started.
I worked for a company owned by a Polish and a Russian for two years. I met a British couple, a Chinese couple, Korean men, Japanese women, an American couple, and many more foreigners after graduating from college. They all, of course, spoke English with different accents. My English wasn’t very good at that time but I challenged myself to listen and converse in English in any situation.
And the conversations are just the beginning.
By speaking others’ languages, you learn more than words and phrases. You learn to know and accept people who are different from you.
Language is the best way to experience the culture
When you learn stories behind the language, you learn what a country’s priorities are. That’s when you start to understand a culture. You can read, hear and think about a culture, but the best way to experience a culture deeply is to speak its native language.
Other than English, have you tried speaking the local language in a country you’ve been visited before?
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