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The importance of language skills when travelling

Travelling opens up the doors for new opportunities, raises our awareness of other cultures, and can be great for making new friends and building relationships.

However, if you struggle to communicate abroad, you might find the above easier said than done.

Whether it’s the native language of the country that you’re visiting or a global language like English, being able to communicate in different tongues can help you in more ways than one. 

It will enhance your experience

Whether you’re traveling alone or with other people, the connections you make with locals and other travellers can enhance your trip.

This isn’t possible if you can’t communicate with them, though. From meeting new friends to gaining a few bits of travel advice, knowing how to speak different languages can help you have a better overall trip. 

It can help you get around much easier. Maps are great, but we’ve all been a bit confused before. That’s before we even mention international trains and underground systems.

Knowing the language of the place you’re visiting means you can ask for directions, book hotels and restaurants, and even order food without stress. This makes it easy to immerse yourself in the country. 

If you’re not confident in communicating in the native language, you should at least consider brushing up on your skills in one of the world’s most common languages.

So, why not take English classes beforehand? With over 1.1 million speakers, English tops the charts as a global language that many countries at least understand. Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish are close behind too. 

It allows you to understand cultures

By engaging with people in the country you’re visiting, you can learn from them and fully immerse yourself into the culture – which is one of the most common reasons that people choose to travel in the first place. 

Being aware of different cultures also means you’re less likely to make cultural mistakes. For example, how you greet people around the world can vary hugely.

In the US, men tend to shake hands when they meet. It’s unusual for them to hug and kiss on the cheek. However, in France or Italy, the latter is more common.

In Britain, a kiss on the cheek is usually used by those people who know each other well. If not, a handshake or simple ‘hello’ is preferred.

In contrast, in Belgium, people hug and kiss on the cheek when they’re meeting – no matter their age or how well they know each other. People from China keep things more conservative though, and simply bow, smile or say ‘hello’. 

The best way to learn and pick up on other cultures is through language. You’ll also know what’s deemed as respectful and appropriate, whatever culture or community you find yourself in. 

It can save you money and time

If you’re struggling to communicate with someone, it can be really frustrating to have simple interactions such as booking a hotel room or explaining your dietary needs.

You may even have to find someone to interpret or enlist the help of an official interpreter over the phone. This can all cost time, and money – both of which, when you’re travelling, is of the essence. 

Even better is that by knowing a few local words and phrases, you may be more inclined to negotiate the prices of goods and services. Think about the local market – you could barter to get yourself a good deal and avoid tourist surcharges.

In a hotel or hostel, you could use your language skills to bring down the cost of your stay, get breakfast included, or maybe even a free upgrade.

Without knowing the language, or at least a few words, however, you have very little chance of being successful here.

It opens up opportunities 

If you can communicate with more people, you may find out about upcoming events, things to do and places to go off the beaten track.

After all, the locals always know the best spots. However, it’s not just leisure opportunities that international language skills are good for. 

Depending on how long you’re travelling, you may need to find a job – and language skills will help you stand out from the competition.

You’ll be able to impress your potential employer by showing you can communicate with lots of different customers and even integrate with your colleagues – all thanks to your knowledge of different languages and cultures. 

These are just a few ways that learning languages can help you if you decide to travel. As well as helping you to connect with people all around the world, knowing at least one of the global languages can improve your experience, boost relationships and open up doors – wherever you are.