Having lived in Mexico, Brazil and Chile and travelling extensively through Latin America I can say going out and travelling is one of the best things that anyone can do. Thousands of backpackers make the choice of spending extended periods of time in different countries for a cultural experience, but are making one mistake – not learning the local language. Of course, if you´re only going to be in a country for a week or so, the effort may not be worthwhile, but if you are planning on spending extended periods of time travelling around a country, learning the language (even if its just basic conversational level) makes a huge difference. Here’s why:
1.Safety and Danger
So many complain about how you shouldn’t go to “dangerous” countries and after hearing certain horror stories myself i can understand why. I often wonder to myself why after nearly two years in Latin America, i have never had any problems myself (Let’s hope it stays that way.) And then it hit me, it was because i have gained a deep understanding of the cultures by learning the language. I’m not saying that by learning the language you are invincible to all kinds of danger, but it sure does help. Think about it, who seems like the easier target to scam artists and would-be criminals? the gringo who speaks to the locals as if were they were from his hometown or or the guy who has gained a knowledge of the dos and don’ts of a country by making an effort to understand its culture and language?
Secondly, knowing the language helps you avoid any potential sticky situations in the first place, such as making sure that taxi drivers are taking you to the right place, getting on the right bus, and asking for directions to ensure that you’re not walking into a dodgy part of town.
2. Less Stress and Frustration
By actually being able to communicate with the locals you are actually going to be able to get things done and not have to waste huge amounts of effort on menial tasks such as buying a bus ticket or asking directions to the beach. This will help minimise any unnecessary stress and stop you from worrying about these little things.
Moreover, so many native English speakers get frustrated with locals when they don’t speak English despite often being thousands of miles from the USA or UK. This also applies to lots of people who have learnt English as a second language, often possessing the mindset that “if i have made the effort to learn English, so should everyone else.” Yes, English is the most useful and important language in the world, but the reality is that limiting yourself to it is going to prevent you from having the best time possible abroad.
3. Independence of travel
Let me ask you a question. Are you creating the experiences that YOU want when travelling? Or are you finding yourself frustrated as you’re bumping into so many people back from your home country?
You also wonder how the hell you end up seeing the same people in different hostels despite them being in a city thousands of miles away. However, when you think about this, it makes complete sense as if you don’t speak the local language, meaning that theses tourism hubs are often the only option if you actually want to communicate with people and have a good time.
Learning the language really makes a huge difference if you’re interesting in getting off the beaten track and seeing the real side of the country instead of being limited to the tourist hubs. By doing this, you are able to create unforgettable, authentic and unique experiences that people stuck in the tourist hubs often struggle to make.
4. Connecting with Locals
I can’t believe how many people go on about how well cultured and travelled they are after spending an extended period time in a country when they didn’t make the effort to learn the local language. How can you expect to gain an deep understanding of a country and its culture if you voluntarily limit yourself to speaking English? Sure you’re gonna make the most of the sights and the sunny weather but is being trapped in a tourism bubble really the experience that you are looking for? So many people get on a flight to another country with the goal of soaking up a different culture and way of life, but end up failing to achieve this goal. The good news is that the solution to this is simple – learning the language.
Many people ask me how learning a language is simple when so many people make it out to be a skill that takes years or that only a selected few can master. However, I disagree with this statement and believe that learning a language can be made a reality using the three principles below:
- Interacting with native speakers on a frequent basis – Get rid of any mental barriers and get out your comfort zone so you can learn the language in the most efficient and least time-consuming way.
- Learning Grammar through Conversation – forget about classrooms and actually learn grammar in an engaging and fun way.
- Thinking in the Foreign Language – Get access to a step by step guide on how to successfully implement this underrated learning tool.
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All the Best