Today’s post is a guest post from Louise Taylor from the Tomedes translation blog telling about how learning just a bit of the local language can make a big difference to your experience when travelling.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or a complete novice, visiting a new country always brings with it a mixture of excitement, adventure and a little trepidation. Reading up on the local culture and places of interest is one way to prepare for your new adventure and make sure you get the most out of it. However, one element that many travellers overlook is the power of language. This is a shame, as a few words can go a long way when you’re a stranger in a foreign land.
We’re not talking about learning an entire language. Aside from those working in the professional translation sector, such linguistic expertise is not usually part of travellers’ preparations. However, picking up even a smattering of the local language can make a big difference to your overall travelling experience.
One of the great things about hitting the ground running in terms of local language is the added sense of confidence that it can give you. Knowing enough to say “hello,” “thank you,” “please,” “goodbye” and “I’m so sorry, but I don’t speak (name of language in question)” should take fewer than five minutes to learn, but means that you can at least begin and end interactions in a polite and pleasant manner while overseas. These simple phrases and a smile can get you a long way, particularly if the majority of your fellow travellers don’t usually bother with such pleasantries!
Most locals appreciate any effort to speak their language by travellers, so if you want to get the best out of your travelling experience, it’s time to work on some key phrases. Whether you look these up online or use a professional translation service for advice (which is by far the better option in terms of linguistic accuracy!), some of the best areas to focus on are food, drink and directions.
Whether you plan to eat on a shoestring or dine in the country’s top restaurants, knowing how to identify your favourite foods and drinks on a menu, and to order them with confidence, is a great feeling. Knowing the words for any foods that you really dislike is also handy if you want to avoid a miserable dining experience!
Learning how to ask for directions is also handy, particularly if you plan to explore off the beaten track. Of course, you’ll need to learn a few simple responses as well, so that you can follow what the helpful local you’re chatting to says in response to your request! From secluded beaches to hidden waterfalls, a country’s true beauty spots are often tucked away behind the main tourist areas, so learning enough of the local language to orientate yourself on the ground can open up a country in a way that most travellers will never experience.
Listening to the local language before you travel is a great way to begin attuning your brain for such conversations. Whether you watch videos online or pay for a session or two with an online language tutor, being able to tune your ears in to the flow of the language is just as important as learning a few phrases. After all, being able to order a steak is great, but if you can’t tell the difference between the waiter saying “What would you like to eat?” and “I’m sorry but we’re a vegetarian restaurant,” it’s not going to get you very far.
Language is an intrinsic part of every country’s culture. As such, not only will learning some of the local language before you travel provide you with practical advantages, it will also help you to build up more of a feel for that country – and what true traveller wants to miss out on doing that?
Louise Taylor is the content manager for Tomedes translation services. She is also in charge of the Tomedes translation blog.