Today’s guest post is from Aaron Myers, of The Everyday Language Learner’s Guide to Getting Started. Keith and I are going to Nicaragua in January, and I am currently starting Aaron’s guide to learn Spanish before the trip. He has some great insight and tips into learning language, which can be an immense benefit to enjoying your travels!
If you are reading this blog, you too have a love for travel, for getting off the beaten path and out into the hidden corners of our world. New cultures excite you and the thought of the adventure that awaits behind the round trip ticket gets your blood running. Passport in hand you fly off to wonderful new lands, taste exquisite new flavors of never before tried foods, take in exotic aromas and see sights that routinely take your breath away. You return home with a laptop full of amazing pictures and stories from the country you traversed. It couldn’t get any better than this!
Or could it?
For far too many travelers, the widespread use of the English language around the world has cut them off from the one thing that could take their travel experience to even greater levels of personal joy, growth and satisfaction. They say that the heart of a nation is not found in her natural wonders, but rather, in her people. It is in learning the language then that the opportunity to meet these people is found.
Some might argue that putting in the effort to learn the language for a two week trip abroad is not worth the effort. The reality is however, that it is always worth the effort. You may not be fluent in the language, but even a beginning level of understanding will go far to dramatically increase the overall quality of your travel experience.
If you make the effort to learn the language, your confidence will inevitably increase allowing you to take excursions and side trips further afield that you may not be comfortable taking without a grasp of the language. This in turn increases your access to the hidden gems that every country hides in the further corners of her cities and states. Knowing the language also tends to decrease the amount of time spent trying to figure out what is going on, how to get to certain places and can significantly decrease travel costs. You’ll make a more difficult target for the “tourist price” if you can turn to a local at the market and ask how much they paid for the desired product.
But all of these compelling reasons aside, the number one reason to learn the language is so that you can meet and know the people – and that they might know you. Learning their heart language will do more than any other thing to create life giving, joy filled relationships on the journey. Personal connection is the heartbeat of what it means to be human and this is one heartbeat you do not want to miss.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in learning any language is getting started. It seems a huge undertaking. But I would encourage you to step back a moment. Don’t be intimidated. Start by beginning to fill your personal space – your ipod, your car, your bookshelf and DVD collection – with the language. Do what is fun and interesting first and your desire to master the language will grow.
Sign up for the Ten Week Journey, a weekly email series that walks you into the life of the language learner one convenient step at a time. You can find the journey at The Everyday Language Learner, the place where I write about language learning for regular people like you and me. It’s filled with tips and ideas, activities and motivational writing that will help you move forward on the language learning journey.
Learning the language is the single most important step you can take to increase the quality of your travel experience. Without the language you bring home pictures on your laptop and stories of what the people were like. With the language you bring back portraits painted on your heart and friendships that will last a lifetime.
Everyone can learn another language. Get started today.
Aaron Myers is the author of The Everyday Language Learner’s Guide to Getting Started, a comprehensive guide that will lead you into the language learning journey.