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Language and travel

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The role that language plays in our journeys...
10 years ago, October 25th 2009 No: 1 Msg: #90668  
What languages have you picked up on your travels? Did you learn any before going away? Do you tailor your itinerary to suit the languages you speak? What are your favourite languages/dialects/accents? Are there any that you don't like? What has knowing another language allowed you to do that other tourists wouldn't be able to? Any mishaps along the way? Reply to this

10 years ago, October 25th 2009 No: 2 Msg: #90669  
B Posts: 212
I never picked up any! Unless you can count picking up an ozzie accent scarily quickly 😉. I felt very overwhelmed in Asia and daunted by the language and I think this had a lot to do with the fact that the writing is not the Roman alphabet - psychologically this created a huge barrier for me, even though I didn't need to write anything, not sure if others have felt this? When I travelled in Vietnam I was much more inspired to try and learn the language purely because they use the roman alphabet there (even though I wasn't very successful as it's all on intonation which I failed spectatularly at). And in India the language changes every time you move state and even within states, different languages are used so I would just about pick up one or two words, and then move somewhere else and it was a whole other language again. I did find however that people would be really pleased when I asked them how to say something in their language - they're so used to communicating in English for us tourists, I think they appreciated that I was trying to make the effort even if I couldn't succeed. I feel quite disappointed and a bit ashamed of myself though that I spent so much time in India and still only came away with a few basic words.
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10 years ago, October 25th 2009 No: 3 Msg: #90675  
Debbie, don't be ashamed, I've read your India blogs and you definitely made an effort to fit it to and learn about the culture.

Alphabets are only a psychological barrier. People wonder how I cope with the Russian (Cyrillic) one when in reality you can master it in a week. It's the grammar (cases and exceptions to their conjugation) that is stressful.

J. Reply to this

10 years ago, October 26th 2009 No: 4 Msg: #90753  
B Posts: 212
thanks jonathan 😊 I still find it very impressive that you can master a language with a different alphabet. This is an interesting thread, makes you think about how important language is and the impact it has on confidence and freedom. Reply to this

10 years ago, October 26th 2009 No: 5 Msg: #90754  
I went to some Spanish evening classes in Dublin, Ireland, while I was working there. Those were useful for travel in Spain and in S. America. I also took more Spanish lessons while in Guatamala.

I also know some German. I took some lessons in Ireland, and have picked up some more while living in Germany.

I dont tailor my travel itinerary to suit the languages, but I do tailor the itinerary for where I work to them.

I dont have a favourite language. I think of them are purely functional. Speaking Spanish allows me to have conversations with people in S. America that I would not otherwise have been able to have. Also, it made life easier where asking for information was concerned. Speaking Germany has not made much difference. Most people here can speak at last as much English as I can speak German. Many switch to English immediately, as soon as they hear my foreign accent.

I tried learning Dutch for a while, but stopped, because I kept confusing it with German.

Mel Reply to this

10 years ago, October 26th 2009 No: 6 Msg: #90755  
Just reading what Debbie said above: Although I myself have made an effort to learn a couple of languages, I dont seem to be able to give myself compliments and feel proud of myself for it. It seems to me that I should be way more fluent with German after being here for 8 years and that my Spanish should also be a lot better. My boyfriend says I am better with German than I think I am. He said, I compare myself with the language experts I was surrounded by including him, that were in the last company I worked for. I sometimes feel quite embarassed though, when a discussion takes off in Germany and I cant keep up, or when I have to ask people to repeat themselves so I can understand. And then there are the people who immediately brush off all my ability to speak German, when they hear that I am not fluent. Sometimes I am actually speaking German and somebody will respond to whatever I said with ''You dont speak German'' and then they switch to English.
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10 years ago, October 26th 2009 No: 7 Msg: #90756  
I read a comment in my latest Lonely Planet purchase where the author lectured people to learn the languages of the countries they are visiting, to make the locals feel respected. I found that quite annoying, because if it is taking me years to learn a second and third language, how are people supposed to learn the language of every country they visit, just to make the locals feel respected. And, do they really feel respected because of it anyway?? But, then I though that author is likley the type who learns a few pages and phrases from a Pharse Book and then claims to know the language.
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10 years ago, October 27th 2009 No: 8 Msg: #90919  
While I'm not traveling I try to learn 1 / 2 languages that will be useful to me on my next trip, whichever will be most useful ie. for countries where less people speak English or where I plan on going somewhere really remote and interesting and where speaking the language will allow me to communicate directly with local people without the need for a guide. I speak reasonably fluent French and Spanish, not so reasonable Russian and even less reasonable Indonesian and Bislama (language of Vanuatu). I can also have very basic conversations on certain subjects in Tagalog (language of the Philippines). Currently trying to get to grips with a bit of Hindi before going to India and Nepal next summer. Reply to this

10 years ago, October 27th 2009 No: 9 Msg: #90920  
Ed, how's your Ukrainian coming along? :-)

J. Reply to this

10 years ago, October 27th 2009 No: 10 Msg: #90921  
well I speak pretty bad Russian which is pretty much what Ukrainian is, right?! So I should get along just fine...
Just kidding, I'm sure there's more to it than that, but that's what a lot of Muscovites say! Reply to this

10 years ago, October 30th 2009 No: 11 Msg: #91509  
If you travel to a destination where the language spoken is also your first language, you have already eliminated one potential travel problem, the inability to communicate. I have enjoyed traveling to many destinations, both where I spoke the language and where I didn't. I have enjoyed all my travel experiences, but there are more complications where the language is foreign and you cannot easily communicate. Reply to this

10 years ago, October 31st 2009 No: 12 Msg: #91554  
B Posts: 847
Back when I was still in university, we had to take Spanish lessons. It is no longer required now , but I'm truly glad I had those lessons. I still do not speak Spanish as fluently as some Filipinos (we were under the Spaniards for nearly 400 years) but most Filipinos feel at home in Spanish-speaking countries. Maybe because the language is not completely alien to us. And this facility does make things easier for us while traveling since we can express ourselves somehow, even if we strain to understand them. Reply to this

10 years ago, November 2nd 2009 No: 13 Msg: #91663  
Learned some expressions in Panggalatok, that's what the native dialect in Pangasinan, last place I've been. They're funny sounding and a bit hard to pronounce:

1. dakol - big
2. napintas mo- like it
3. awanin/awanti - none/nothing
4. jakowatin - i don't know

with the spelling, I'm not sure if I made it right
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10 years ago, November 6th 2009 No: 14 Msg: #92414  
Has anyone ended up speaking a foreign language with a specific accent besides your own (Mexican Spanish, Australian English, Marseilles French, etc.)? Reply to this

10 years ago, November 6th 2009 No: 15 Msg: #92424  
I just about manage the language itself. Trying to speak with the local accent would be way out of my dept. My boyfriend has the language talent to do things like that, though. Reply to this

10 years ago, November 7th 2009 No: 16 Msg: #92606  
B Posts: 119

well I speak pretty bad Russian which is pretty much what Ukrainian is, right?! So I should get along just fine...
Just kidding, I'm sure there's more to it than that, but that's what a lot of Muscovites say!



whenever I'm in another Slavic speaking country I always speak what I call "slavic dohadština" (dohad is Czech for "guesswork") which is basically Czech with an accent, some letters replaced by others, and a few words from some other language thrown in if possible, e.g. in Slovakia, beyond the slovak I know, speaking Czech with my tongue tied to my palate and throwing in a few Polish words. Obviously people are bewildered by what language I'm actually trying to speak but they tend to understand at least 50%! (MISSING)There are plenty of words which are the same in all slavic languages, so it works to an extent.

In this part of the world, if you don't want to try speaking (or guessing at) the native tongue then the rule of English with young people and German with elders usually works fine.

Alphabets are only a psychological barrier. People wonder how I cope with the Russian (Cyrillic) one when in reality you can master it in a week. It's the grammar (cases and exceptions to their conjugation) that is stressful.



I think I must be the only English person in existance who thinks blocks for grammar, skloňování and conjugating verbs are also a psychological barrier! Anything structure related can be learned somehow, gaining fluency in it is something else. I find this with alphabets, I know all the cyrillic letters but if I tried to read something written in them I would be very slow. Reply to this

10 years ago, November 9th 2009 No: 17 Msg: #92721  
It will be the an extra knowledge for you... If you have that will to learn when you're traveling, that may help you a lot. When I'm traveling, I used to pick what's the basic words to tell a person that's speaking that language. Reply to this

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