Most people who travel instinctively know that they would have a better experience if they could speak the language. But do you know what benefits you actually get from flexing your language skills? Though the extent of each will be different for depending on your level of proficiency, these are the top five reasons why you should try to speak the language when you travel:
1. So you can plan ahead
Say you want to book a ticket on a train, or for a show, or for a tour. You may be able to find the website of your venue online, but—oops!—you can’t read it. Or, maybe only parts of the website are in English, and when you go to purchase your ticket you get a bunch of options that you don’t know what mean. Don’t end up buying out the box seats when you only wanted one seat in the balcony. Having enough language to be able to understand (perhaps even with a dictionary!) websites can help you plan ahead for your trip to keep everything on schedule and get the most out of your time.
2. So you can eat what you (really) want
Menus in other languages can be scary, especially if you are someone with dietary sensitivities. Many English-speaking travelers end up opting for restaurants that have an English menu in order to make sure they know what they’re asking for, but these restaurants tend to be in the tourist district, pricier, and sometimes not so authentic. Knowing the language not only reduces these limitations but also opens the door for you to knowingly choose something you’ve never tried before. Who knows, it may be your new favorite!
3. So you can get lost
It’s hard to explore with confidence when you have the fear that you might not find your way back to your hotel in the back of your mind . Still, some of the best moments and greatest memories with travel come from getting off the beaten path. Even just knowing some key phrases can help get you out of the tourist district and into local neighborhoods or smaller towns where, of course, everything is more authentic to the culture.
4. So you can make a friend
While traveling, we often get put next to people we don’t know–in trains, on busses, in hostels, at restaurants and bars. Being able to speak with them gives us opportunities to find where our cultural paths diverge, and where they meet again.
5. So you can spend less money
Speaking the language can actually save you quite a bit of money. For starters, you can clearly understand signage that may have important information on it. In Europe, for example, it’s not uncommon to have different prices for the same items if ordered at the bar versus at a table. This is typically clearly marked on the menu—though, of course, it’s often not in English. You can also sometimes find better deals on websites that may not be in English. Perhaps most famously, if you can speak with your cab driver only in his/her language, you may see that the price doesn’t jump as high. Speaking the language makes you look like the more-informed traveler, and one that can’t be taken advantage of.
THE GOOD NEWS
You don’t have to be fluent in order to get some of these benefits! Learning just a few key words and phrases can help immensely when traveling abroad. Here is my list of words and phrases that are an absolute must for me to learn when I travel:
Excuse me / sorry. (It can get you out of sticky situations; plus, it’s just manners!)
Where is… ? (Can be used for bathrooms, with the names of landmarks, to find streets, etc.)
How much does this cost?
So what are you waiting for? Get jump started on your next trip and study up today!
What are your stories of and tips for speaking a new language in a different country?