The One Thing That So Many Backpackers Are Missing Out On.

Backpackers

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.

The Solution

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Learning Grammar through Conversation – forget about classrooms and actually learn grammar in an engaging and fun way.
  3. Thinking in the Foreign Language –  Get access to a step by step guide on how to   successfully implement this underrated learning tool.

If you’re interested in hearing more, please subscribe to the blog and leave your opinions in the comments section!

All the Best

Eddie

 

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Four classic excuses that Native English speakers make when it comes to learning a language

Given the choice, I don’t think that there are many people who wouldn’t like to have the ability to speak another language, whether it’s for professional purposes, travel or personal enjoyment. Despite this, there are so few native English speakers who actually make the effort to do so. Why is this? Below are the top four excuses English natives use:

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1. Everyone speaks English, therefore I don’t really need to learn a language.

There’s no doubt that English is the most important language in the world and those of us who have it as our mother tongue should consider ourselves lucky. Estimates suggest that in between 1 and 1.5 billion people speak English as a first or second language and are at least able to hold a basic conversation. As 1/7th of the population speak the language you can see why English native speakers don’t feel the need. However, what about the other 6 billion people who don’t speak English? What happens if you want to communicate with them?  By limiting yourself to English, you are missing out on thousands of opportunities to meet people and create meaningful connections.  A good example of this is Brazil; estimates show that only 5% of people speak English, meaning that you are unable to communicate with 190 million people in the country!

2. I don’t have time or money to learn a language

This is a classic excuse that is used over and over again by people to prevent themselves from doing the things that they really want to do, and not just with language learning. But the impression that in order to get fluent in a foreign language you need to spend hours a day studying and practising is wrong. By just spending 10-15 minutes a day on consistent basis (this is key) you can speak a language well. Let’s say you learn just 5 words a day,  you’ll have a vocabulary of around 2000 words in just over a year, easily enough to have a decent conversation! In terms of money, how much does it cost to learn 5 new words and a grammar rule a day? Absolutely nothing. Don’t have time to look for new words? Use the Immerse app and choose from hundreds of articles!

3Languages just aren’t for me

This one makes no sense. So many people claim that just because they feel that they don’t have a “thing” for languages there’s no point in even trying to learn. Or they remember how unproductive and dull French Lessons were back in Secondary school and decide that the “language learning” environment isn’t for them. Yes there are some people who find it easier than others, but there’s three things in common that people who develop a skill have (language learners or not) – A can-do attitude, determination and a bit of discipline.

4. There’s no one to practice with so what’s the point.

This was one thing that initially held me back. I thought that there was no point putting in the effort to learn French as I had no-one to practice with. However, after spending a week in Belgium and realising how bad my French actually was and how much of a difference speaking the language well actually would have made, I tried to figure out ways to find people to talk with. Unfortunately, due to living in a small English village with no native French speakers (unsurprisingly) there was only one other solution, forcing myself to think in French. Thinking is truly the most underrated way to learn a language and despite being hard at first, you can gain a high level of a language very quickly. By being able to practice vocabulary and grammatical patterns anywhere and anytime you will be 10 times more prepared when you get the chance to practice your skills abroad!

The hard truth. Five reasons you aren’t yet fluent in the language you are learning.

I can’t even begin to count the amount of Gringos that I’ve met all over Latin America who come here with the goal of “getting fluent” in Spanish or Portuguese only to find themselves leaving with regrets and limited language abilities despite having spent an extended period of time in here. So why is this happening?

Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. You surround yourself with Gringos

So many people complain that they can’t get their Spanish/Portuguese fluent because they don’t have anyone to practice with. No wonder this is the case when you surround yourself with fellow Brits and Aussies in a hostel playing beer pong and sipping on Caipirinhas. Don’t get me wrong, hostels are great fun, but spice things up a bit by Couchsurfing with locals, getting in touch with friends of friends and venturing to places off the gringo trail. This way, you’ll immerse yourself in the local culture and give yourself opportunities to practice the language.

A great personal example of this would be in Rosario, Argentina, where after getting in touch with a friend of a friend (a guy I had never spoken to before) I managed to spend the night at a private birthday party in a top end bar/nightclub at a table with around 30 different Argentinians. Talk about a great opportunity to practice my Spanish!

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Despite being good fun, don’t be suprised if your Spanish still sucks when you’re staying in South American Hostels like this
  1. You refuse to leave your Comfort Zone

This one is a killer, and affects everyone including myself. We, as humans, do anything we can to protect our egos and avoid looking like a fool. However, the harsh reality is that you aren’t going to improve your language skills without going through the horrible beginner’s stage of sounding like an imbecile and making plenty of mistakes. Drop the ego, and embrace it, that way you have nothing to lose. These mental barriers severely hindered my German speaking. Despite having studied the language for a few years I avoided every opportunity of speaking with native speakers to ensure I wouldn’t sound like a fool. However, just a few weeks ago, I got my act together and seized on the opportunity to practice my German with a native speaker for a few days. The result; I learned more German in 4 days than I had in the past 12 months combined.

  1. Not learning the Grammar

No-one likes learning Grammar, but unfortunately learning the structure of the language early on can take a huge amount of time off the learning process. So stop spending all your time on Duolingo and invest in a good grammar book. For both Spanish and Portuguese I would highly recommend the Hugo “in three months” books and Michel Thomas’ Courses which are fantastic at drilling in the grammar and it is surprisingly addictive. By spending less than an hour a day you can master complicated grammar structures in just a few months.

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No money? You’re in luck, you can get this book for pennies on Amazon
  1. Inconsistency

As with all things in life, practice makes perfect, and this especially applies to learning languages. It’s all well and good spending a full day speaking Spanish, but if this is just once a month this isn’t going to get you far. Consistency is key, so putting yourself in a situation where you’re forced to speak on a daily basis is going to put you two steps ahead.

But I have no-one to practice with I hear you cry? Get into the habit of forcing yourself to think in the foreign language, even if you’re knowledge is limited.  Finally, spend 5-10 minutes a day reading new material and learning new words. My personal recommendation is the immerse app (http://www.immerse-app.com/en/), a language learning app full of a wide range of reading materials for people at different skill levels. This means that you don’t even have to look for reading material anymore and can just open to the app to find anything from politics articles to surf magazines right In front of you. Now where’s your excuse to not gaining fluency?

  1. Placing too much importance on Classes.

So many people believe that in order to gain fluency in a language you have to study it at university or invest lots of money in language classes. This is far from being true, and I actually find that this can be counter-productive. The often dull environment of a classroom isn’t made for everyone (especially myself) and can demotivate you and can even put you off learning a language all together. Stop believing in this myth and accept the fact that you can gain fluency by yourself with a few good resources and determination. On the other hand, one on one conversation classes can be a huge bonus, but this doesn’t have to be with someone from a high end institution.

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Language learning doesn’t have to be like this!