« QUIZ: Which Famous Animal Character Are You? | Main | The Stunning Genetic Defect »
Monday
Mar072016

It's A Language Bridge Not A Language Barrier

Learning the language has to be the marmite of the travelling experience. Some hate it, some love it. On the one hand it can be an added stress to the organising of a trip, on the other it’s a way of getting stuck into a country.

Whatever your language skills however, going somewhere that you don’t speak the language is exactly why you should go

It is a daunting thing, going somewhere where you can’t converse easily. But is it big enough to prevent you from going? Absolutely not. It is absolutely part of the experience and maybe the reason you should go. You don’t have to become a native linguist or be fluent enough to have political debates, but even by just attempting it means you will pick up the language to some degree.

flickr | Eustaquio SantimanoThe big reason for choosing places where you don’t know the language is that, mostly, the culture will be completely different to what you know already. Even places like France or Spain which speak different languages, are somewhat familiar thanks to media and the close proximity in which we live. America and Canada are obviously very similar. Thailand though? Or Japan? Or South America? They’re worlds away from what you know, all the more reason to visit them is.

What better marker is there for defining a culture than its language? It’s the doorway to a country’s cuisine, history, music, art, clothing, industries, landscape, sports, you name it. The very essence of a place is wrapped up in its language and is the means to understanding where you are. Learning things like what that dish you had last night was called, the name of the region you are in, asking how people are or understanding local history are all simple things to learn in a language but absolutely immersive in the travel experience.

flickr | MorganLearning the language as you go is the best way to feel like a true traveller and great for the wanderlust spirit. It’s about discovering something and somewhere new and embracing everything that has in store for you. The very nature of it being not your first language is that it’s different and isn’t the point of travelling to see and experience different and new things?

Likewise, not understanding what you see or hear is a good thing too. If you don’t get the full story right away, it means you talk more, ask more people and are engaging more with what’s around you. You pay more attention, learn more things and in turn become more and more eager to experience as much as possible of this new and wonderful place. You visit a country for the reason of experiencing that country and that is best done through its language.

flickr | Roberto TrombettaThere’s nothing wrong with visiting America, it obviously has many upsides. But if you want a true lost and found experience then throw a dart at a map and worry about the language barrier when you get there. Pack an English to Nepalese dictionary, don’t get a translator. Order your dinner yourself and pronounce it completely wrong, rather than rely on that member of your group who’s fluent. Ask for directions and save google maps for a backup option. Get lost and listen to passers-by instead of booking a tour guide. Figure out your own transport and travel routes instead of those provided by travel agents.

Learning as you go and figuring out the language as and when you need it is the best way to get stuck in. It’s a language bridge, not a language barrier.

Make no mistake, it’ll be a difficult. Having little understanding of the language and getting caught up in the local culture regardless is definitely a challenge. But, aren’t the most rewarding things usually a challenge?

Check out Frontier's language courses here

By Guy Bezant - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

See more from our volunteers #Frontiervolunteer