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Old 06-03-2010, 04:44 PM
 
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Everybody knows how important it is to learn more than one language. Has your knowledge of any language ever helped you significantly during a trip? Also, has the lack of knowledge made your trip more difficult?
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Old 06-03-2010, 05:02 PM
 
Location: NYC area
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I took a trip through rural Portugal a few years ago. I don't speak Portuguese and most people in the countryside don't speak English. However, paradoxically, French was widely spoken, so my knowledge of it came in handy. In the Czech Republic, most commercial establishments have English-speaking staff, and most government officials, even low-level ones, speak Russian. In general, anywhere you go, the more languages you speak, the more likely you are to find someone who speaks at least one of them. Plus, when you go to museums, you can always tag along with tour groups, and French groups seem to have the best guides.
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Old 06-03-2010, 05:03 PM
 
Location: Albuquerque, NM
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Yes. The young ladies like it when you can flirt with them in Swedish
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Old 06-03-2010, 06:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miaiam View Post
Everybody knows how important it is to learn more than one language. Has your knowledge of any language ever helped you significantly during a trip? Also, has the lack of knowledge made your trip more difficult?
I wish I could speak better Spanish - it would make travel to Mexico and the DR a bit easier.

I am fluent in French, oddly enough, it didn't make the French any nicer to me when I visited France recently but it certainly made travel there much easier - no problem with menus, hotels, roadsigns, etc when you know the lingo and no need to be constantly flicking through a Fodor's!
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Old 06-03-2010, 06:17 PM
 
Location: San Diego
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Definitely makes traveling easier! While many places have English speaking people, locals appreciate when you speak their language.
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Old 06-03-2010, 11:39 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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Knowing German helped in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Knowing Chinese helped in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan. It also helped to be able to recognize most of the names of places in Japan.
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Old 06-04-2010, 07:31 AM
 
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I speak Mandarin Chinese (not fluent but pretty high level conversational) and travel often.

I've found that in almost everywhere I travel there are small Chinese run grocery stores, so I've used that for getting directions etc. when I don't speak the local language. This has helped everywhere from getting exact medicine at Chinese-run pharmacy in Laos to finding metro stops in Eastern Europe and bus schedules in Central America.

Funny = if the older Chinese person at the cash register doesn't speak Mandarin, 90% of the time they'll yell for a teenage kid who can.
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Old 06-04-2010, 08:37 AM
 
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I don't think it's a definitive plus. One reason being that people that think they have knowledge of a language, really only have basic knowledge which is useless in practical applications.

What is amazing is the number of people, in even remote developing countries, that speak English. In Western Europe at least - no problem finding people that speak English, although I mad minor issues in some parts of Italy and Portugal. In Eastern Europe, South America, and much of Asia - yeah, you will have problems outside the tourist sites. But even then, you can get by.

In some countries like The Netherlands and Switzerland, it seems like the whole country speaks fluent English.

It's also related to age - an older person make not speak English. No problem, find a young person, they will speak English.

Speaking a foreign language is not always a plus - for one reason, you may think you are fluent in a language, yeah you think proudly of your two years of french classes, but when you start talking to a fast talking native SUPRISE, you won't understand a word. Some countries may be flattered if you speak, or at least try to speak, their language however. But some (France, it seems) may be insulted and pretend they don't understand you. Don't try to use Spanish in Portugal. It's a similiar language, but, again, they will be insulted.
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Old 06-04-2010, 08:57 AM
 
Location: San Diego
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Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post

Speaking a foreign language is not always a plus - for one reason, you may think you are fluent in a language, yeah you think proudly of your two years of french classes, but when you start talking to a fast talking native SUPRISE, you won't understand a word. Some countries may be flattered if you speak, or at least try to speak, their language however. But some (France, it seems) may be insulted and pretend they don't understand you. Don't try to use Spanish in Portugal. It's a similiar language, but, again, they will be insulted.
My friend was born and recently moved back to Portugal to be closer to his family. He speaks both Portuguese and Spanish, and he said most people there do as well. I'm talking to him on FB chat and asked him if he'd be offended if someone started speaking Spanish to him, and he said absolutely not, at least they're trying. While they're not the same language, you'll find that most in Portugal (just like in Brazil) speak both fluently. Europeans don't get insulted over silly little things like people attempting to speak their language, that's crazy!

And most Americans learn a foreign language in a classroom, nothing wrong with that. Of course they might not be able to understand a fast-speaking native (heck, I cannot and never will get this whole Southern accent thing and it's in the US), but that doesn't mean they shouldn't practice. English is my second language, learned in a classroom setting. Should I stop speaking it because I learned it in a non-conventional way (not from my parents)? In fact, to this day, I do not speak English to my sister and parents. Everyone learns languages at a different pace. But to say that unless you're completely fluent in one or you shouldn't attempt to speak it is crazy!
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Old 06-04-2010, 09:05 AM
 
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I don't follow your logic Dd714.

If someone took two years of French so can only speak at a fairly rudimentary level, how in earth is this not a plus? It's not a plus if they want to go have a discussion on advanced economic theory but what is 90% of what a traveler needs from their language skills?

- where is the bathroom
- how much does that cost
- what time does the bus come
- is the cathedral far
etc.

That person with two years of French who's forgotten most of it will still be at a huge advantage over someone traveling who doesn't speak a lick of it.

I can't fathom an angle where it wouldn't be a plus.
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