First of all, I'm not going to apologise for my mini hiatus, I've just been crazy busy and a little unwell recently. Which also meant I couldn't go to Madrid/Salamanca, my first trip abroad of the year. BOOOOOO :( I may have to cancel my trip to Dublin in a couple of weeks too, which would really suck, but if I don't I'll be sure to keep you all updated, don't you worry!
This week I fancy talking about language. I don't know if I've made obsession with language clear on here yet, so I think it's about time I shared. Something that I am accumulating a large collection of is phrase books. I buy one everywhere I go and then try out at least a few basic phrases with the locals. I think it's something I've picked up from my parents, as when we were younger they'd always try and learn a bit of the destination language before we'd head off abroad. I recommend Lonely Planet ones, they always have dead helpful 'how to pronounce things' bits and have all the silly chat up lines in too, for bants with your friends ;)
Click here for some killer foreign pick up lines.
I suppose I do this for two main reasons; politeness and curiosity. Maybe politeness isn't quite the right word but you get the general idea. Basically, I think that if you are visiting/working in/moving to another country you should at least give the local language a go. I understand that some people just aren't language learners and can't make it stick, but it's not difficult to stumble through a few basics - the worst they will do is laugh at you and reply in English or help you through as best they can (this happens to me a lot). I mean, in the UK, we're just so LAZY when it comes to foreign languages. That age old excuse 'It's fine, everyone speaks English' is becoming rather tiresome. Especially because, well, it's not true. Around 1 billion people speak English, which yes is a lot, however that leaves 6 BILLION who don't, who you can never talk to if you don't make the effort. Now that's a fair number. Plus you'd be surprised at how flattered/surprised/grateful people can be if you give their language a go, especially if it's not a particularly well known one.
Curiosity probably doesn't apply to everyone, but to a language geek like myself travel provides a massive opportunity for me to explore other languages and types of languages and generally just geek-out. I've learned way more about other languages from travelling and meeting native speakers than I ever have in a classroom. It just seems a golden opportunity to ask questions and learn from an expert source, who in turn probably wants to learn from you too. It's not only a source of simple conversation, but something that everyone can connect with. From travelling I've gained a fascination for Scandinavian and Slavic languages, especially Danish (honestly, I just think it's beautiful) after spending a fair amount of time walking through the Peruvian Jungle trying to master the soft 'd' sound and repeating 'skide, skede, skøde' over and over again - I won't translate it on here as it's a little rude, but feel free to do so yourself and know it sounds hilarious to a Dane. These are languages I'd never even have considered interesting had I not given them a try. It was also nice to be able to make a Danish lady, who came into the shop I work in a few weeks ago, leave with a smile on here face, as I had taken the time to learn 'Hi, my name is Emily, how are you?' in her language. It's the kind of compliment we Brits will never understand as we're so used to hearing foreigners speak English.
Learning Danish walking to Machu Picchu (day 3). Just look at how much fun we're having.
I guess my point is that whilst adventuring around the world and discovering new and exciting cultures, the opportunity to explore language shouldn't be wasted. After all, it is one of the most important parts of culture. There are many cultural differences in language itself, from humour to ways of relating to one another, which are evident even from British to American to Australian English. It's an easy way to spark a conversation and make someone laugh, especially if you're rubbish. So no excuses. Give it a go. I dare you ;)