6 Reasons Why Learning a Language Enhances Your Foreign Travel Experience


Last Updated: May 13th, 2020

Sunset in Paris

Guest Post by Hunter Van Ry

Traveling to a foreign country is an exciting experience. Visiting a new place that is so different than what you’re used to is unforgettable for most people. One thing that often comes with traveling to a foreign country is being faced with an entirely new language that you may not speak.

Most tourists neglect to learn the language of the country they are traveling to before their trip, opting instead to get by with phrase books or simply with English as a common language. Learning the language of the country you’re visiting, however, will certainly enhance your experience and ultimately make your vacation more enjoyable. Let’s take a look at six reasons why learning a foreign language will improve your foreign vacation:

1. It helps you appreciate the country you’re visiting

The culture of any given country is heavily rooted in its language. Because of this, a foreigner simply cannot understand certain aspects of the culture without having at least some knowledge of the language. When you visit somewhere new without knowing the language, you only get a surface-level understanding of the culture which can leave you unfulfilled and feeling like you never really visited the country at all. Having even a basic understanding of the language can give you a lot more insight into the country you’re visiting than what most tourists receive.

2. You can visit spots where other tourists don’t go

Every country has their hot tourist spots that everybody loves to visit. Although there is nothing wrong with visiting these places, it can certainly be compelling to visit places in the country that only the locals know about. The issue that arises, however, is that if the lesser-known spots don’t receive a lot of tourists then it is much less likely that there will be someone there who speaks English. In France, for example, the main tourist destinations all have staff who speak English, whereas the ones that don’t receive tourists typically don’t. So if you are looking to travel to France then learning to speak French is highly recommended. If you’re traveling to a foreign country for an extended period of time or just going back for a second visit, then taking the time to see the less-popular attractions may be something you would enjoy.

3. Locals will appreciate you more

We’ve already established that most tourists fail to learn any amount of a country’s language before visiting. Many locals expect this and will naturally assume that they can’t use their mother tongue to communicate with you. However, if you set yourself apart from the pack and give their language a try, you’re certain to receive a much warmer welcome than those who don’t. After all, learning someone else’s language is a big commitment and shows appreciation for the country and culture. By putting in the effort, you may just get special privileges among locals that others only wish they could receive.

4. You have the opportunity to meet new people

Most citizens of a given country do not work in the tourism industry or live in areas that receive a lot of international visitors. Because of this, they may or may not be proficient in English (or whatever your native language may be). This makes it hard to have any sort of meaningful conversation with people should you come across the opportunity. If you are proficient in the language of the country you’re traveling to, you open up the possibility of making new friends that you can not only communicate with, but who can also help you to explore the country.

5. You’ll be prepared to handle situations that other tourists can’t

Many countries that receive a fair number of tourists are prepared to help guests with the usual tourist-related activities such as sightseeing, checking into a hotel, or asking for directions. However, you may find yourself in a situation that falls outside the realm of what most tourists encounter such as a visit to the doctor or an unfortunate car accident. Should you be involved in such a situation, knowing even just a bit of the language can go a long way.

6. It can help prevent embarrassing situations

Because many embarrassing situations stem from miscommunication, it only makes sense that these sort of situations would arise much more often when different languages are involved. Learning even just the basics of a foreign language can help prevent awkward situations of receiving the wrong meal at a restaurant or having a store clerk get the wrong item for you. This can help your vacation be more relaxing and take away some of the social anxiety that people often experience from being outside of their own country.

Vacationing to a foreign country is something that everyone should do at some point in their life. Learning a foreign language before going can make an already exhilarating experience all the better. Put in just a little bit of time and you’ll be thankful you did.

Hunter Van Ry is the owner of Frenchplanations, a French-learning website dedicated to those looking to improve their French-language skills. After having spent significant time in both France and Canada, he devotes much of his time teaching others everything he knows about the French language.

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