So you’ve decided to travel with your family. That’s great! Being a responsible adult, you’re probably well prepared for the trip. You bought the flight tickets both forward and back, booked a place to stay, checked the most important landmarks to see and places to go to, what food to try and where to do it, which shops and restaurants have unreasonably high prices, what do people say about the quality of various services. You did your homework pretty well and deserve a medal! However, you’ve probably missed one of the most important points when travelling with family. It’s learning the local language.
Not fluent? Perfect!
Don’t worry, learning a language won’t take years! You don’t have to be fluent so relax. Fluency is for natives. As a tourist, you will do fine by just knowing the most frequent phrases. Even the simplest of words like “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye” will do wonders for you. Natives will treat your family differently if you show them your respect by taking interest in their culture. Even if this interest is as modest as a few local words. In fact, knowing some words impresses much more than knowing some basic facts about the country.
Learning the phrases that you think you’re going to use is also very useful. Getting the idea across is more important that doing it correctly. So no need to perfect your grammar. If you’re going to buy things, learn the numbers, the phrases used in trading and the names for things you’ll look for. Dictionary of food is always useful, whether you’re in a restaurant or a supermarket. Learn efficiently and it will take just a few days to prepare rather well. Your family will be grateful.
Why learn the local language if the natives speak English?
This is a question that comes to everybody’s mind. English is enough to get your message across pretty much anywhere. I don’t try to deny that. It’s just that if you want to get closer to natives you have to show that you’re interested in them. And there’s no better way to do it than by speaking the local language instead of English.
You’re much more likely to get better service in restaurants, receptions and various shops simply by knowing the local speech. If you’re having some kind of a problem, locals will really want to help you. If you respect them, they will want to show that the respect is mutual. A few well-placed phrases might even get you a discount in markets or smaller shops. In this sense, English puts certain barriers in countries where it’s a foreign language, even if it’s widely spoken. So travelling with family would be a richer and more pleasant experience if you learned the local tongue.
Same with the body language
“If the natives don’t speak English, I can always use body language!“, you might say. I agree with the fact that we can express a lot with our bodies. But slow your horses down! Body language doesn’t come even close to our verbal languages. We can hardly describe abstract ideas with our body. Sure, we can play charades. However, imagine a pickpocket stealing your wallet and you trying to explain it to an officer using your body. You’ll probably be sorry you trusted in body language so much. And what if one of your children gets an unexpected allergic reaction? In this case, time is money so you better be very good at playing charades. In other words, be responsible and learn the local language!
Travelling with family is much easier if you know the language
Another obvious benefit of local language knowledge when travelling with family is access to information. There are many countries where a lot of information is unavailable in other languages. So being able to read the local language will save you time, money and nerves. From the public transport schedules and routes to the traffic signs such as “detour:dead end straight ahead”. From the sign saying “do not feed the birds” or “personnel entrance only” to the legal information on carrying sharp objects in certain places. So learn to read the information that’ll help you make the right decision. It’s the best way to protect your family from trouble.
Be an example to your children
Learning the local language is the right thing to do. Especially when travelling with family. Your overall travel experience will improve significantly. You’ll get to places faster and easier. You’ll get better services. Locals will interact with you more personally than they normally would. So you’ll learn about the local culture from a much closer perspective. You will be safer that way and your family will get the best travel experience possible.
Besides, if you’re travelling with children, you will show a great example. Because by learning the local language you are showing much more, that is:
- Learning the local language means respect to the culture you’re visiting. And opens many doors at the same time.
- Communication with other people matters. And there’s no better communication with people than by approaching them with their own language.
- Travelling experience is best when you immerse yourself into the culture you’re visiting.
- Learning the local language is a sign of responsibility. Because you do the most important step in getting ready for the unexpected and making your journey safe.
So if you’re still eager to travel with your family do the right thing. Learn the basics of the local language today!