The importance of learning a language before you travel

The more you know ahead of time, the easier your traveling will be

Taehui Park
Staff Writer

It happened when I was traveling in Europe.

I went on a journey by myself a few years ago. I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in France, having a high expectation of excursion in Paris and finally came out of the airport walking past the baggage claim. As soon as I walked out of the airport, I realized I made a mistake. I forgot my luggage. Leaving behind the thinking of “why am I so clumsy” at the moment, I found an airport staff who seemed to be in his late 40s. I asked, “Do you speak English?” He said, “No, English. This is France.”

I was really embarrassed. I tried to keep myself calm but I couldn’t think of any French word because I know nothing about French. Knowing the fact that the Eiffel Tower is in Paris wasn’t really helpful for this situation. I wanted to scream as hard as I could to tell him my luggage was still at the carousel.

In retrospect, I regret that I didn’t even try to learn basic French words before traveling. Because you’re traveling in a foreign country, you cannot expect everyone to know English. Learning a new language to use in your travel is very important. The following are a few reasons why.

1. Your travel will be more fun

If you ever traveled to a place where you have never been before, you probably have lost your way at least once. Even though we are living in a technologically advanced society, we cannot avoid the need for communication. If you’ve learned the jargon of where you are traveling, needless to say, your travel is way more convenient and you can also fully immerse yourself while you are on your voyage.

2. Meet new people

It depends on where you go, but there have been a few moments I wish I could speak a native language just so I could talk to other people in the area. I’m really interested in meeting new people and learning other cultures. But it is hard to communicate with people if you go to a country where not a lot of people speak English. It is also true that nonverbal communications – facial expressions, gestures, posture or tone of voice – can be useful to interact with others. But there is a certain point where you encounter the limits of these gestures, which don’t always have universal meanings. Learning a language makes your travel not only more fun but also exciting.

3. Educate yourself

According to linguisticsociety.org, there are 195 countries and 6,909 living languages in the world today. It’s good to be well aware of your culture, but it becomes more valuable when you are able to compare your culture with others because you can see the other aspects of your culture. Language is where it all begins.

English is a sufficient language to get around; however, I believe learning a language before you travel can bring you more interesting memories along with amazing benefits. I assume the reason why the French airport staff emphasized “This is France” was to sensitize me to the importance of having the common courtesy to prepare the basics of a foreign language.

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