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Monday, March 5, 2012

Learning the language of travel

There’s no better way to learn a foreign language than travelling to another country and immersing yourself in it for as long as you can.
I once spent a month in Brazil exploring different corners of that amazing country and by the end had surprised myself at the decent level of survival Portuguese that I had learned.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised because the amount of English spoken there is minimal and the places I was visiting had so few tourists that I almost never ran into any English-speaking travellers. I had two choices – I could sit alone with my thoughts or instead interact with Brazilians who are a welcoming people who make you feel at ease.
I’d have conversations with them with the help of my handy Portuguese-English dictionary and before you know it, I had developed an actual vocabulary.  Knowing some French helped since Portuguese is a romance language, but reading it is a lot different from speaking it.
Sadly, that trip was long ago and any fluency that I once had is long gone which only proves the old saw that you have to use it or lose it.
My language immersion was an accidental byproduct of that trip, but plenty of people travel for the specific goal of acquiring a language and often attend classes while they are in a foreign country., a website that specializes in educational travel, recently released a list of the 10 most popular languages people want to learn, according to searches on their site. They are:
  1. Spanish
  2. French
  3. Arabic
  4. Korean
  5. Farsi
  6. Tagalog
  7. Swahili
  8. Japanese
  9. Chinese
  10. Hebrew
For the purpose of travelling, I think that Spanish and French are among the most valuable since they are widely used in different countries. You can get by with Spanish just about everywhere in Central and South America, although not Brazil. French is still understood in a lot of former colonies in all sorts of remote corners of the world.
Does not speaking the language of the country you are want to visit ever make you think twice about visiting? Not being understood seems to be the biggest fear of travellers.

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