Preparing for Travels — Learning the Language

When going abroad to a new country, it is always advisable to learn the local language. Not only will it make traveling easier, but it will help you better understand the locals. Also, I feel like the locals will appreciate you and better help you if you make an effort to speak their language.

Before traveling to China for work, we took a course on Mandarin Chinese. It was about four to six weeks long and covered basic phrases. I do think it helped, and the Chinese people we talked to were impressed that we had learned some of their language. It was also nice to say “hello” and “thank you” to my Chinese students when I was working in America. I still remember a few phrases. For instance, “thank you” is “xie xie” which is pronounced roughly, “she-a she.” “Hello” is “ni hao” like “nee how.”

Awhile ago, my sister posted on Facebook that she had completed a 100 day streak of using the Duolingo app to learn Spanish! I was impressed, so I asked her questions about the app. Learning that it was free, I downloaded it myself, and I currently have a 139 day streak of using the app to learn Spanish! I had learned Spanish growing up in school, but I wanted to refresh my memory and try to learn more. I am hoping that if I ever travel to a Spanish speaking country, I will be able to talk to waiters, hotel clerks, taxi drivers, etc. in their language without a problem!

Growing up, I remember our third grade teacher tried to teach us Spanish for a few weeks. I absolutely hated it! I could not understand what was going on, and I did not understand why we needed to learn a new language. I must not have understood that not everyone in the world spoke English. I must have missed that part of the lesson!

I then learned Spanish for a year or two in middle school. We had a choice: French or Spanish. I figured it would be more useful to learn Spanish since at that time, a lot of Spanish speaking people had been immigrating to the United States. I also had thought that there were more Spanish speaking people in the world than French speakers, which could or could not be true. A quick Google search shows that I was right. There are more Spanish speakers than French speakers, but French is spoken in more countries than Spanish. I then took Spanish for three or four years in high school.

When I got to college, I took a placement exam for Spanish. I was not sure if I wanted to continue learning Spanish, especially at a higher level, as I have always felt that I struggle with learning new languages. I saw that my college offered Latin; Latin provides the base for most words, and it would be helpful to know Latin if I were to ever compete on Jeopardy! Haha! I took two semesters of Latin to fulfill my college’s foreign language requirement.

In my senior year, I took the first two beginning semester courses of Spanish. I could start at the 101 level since I had already fulfilled my foreign language requirement. Sure, I got good grades in Spanish, but I improved my understanding of Spanish grammar and my conversational skills. Since college, I did not keep up with my learning of Spanish. The Duolingo app has been helpful! I already know most of the words, but there is some new vocabulary and grammar rules that I am picking up. I hope that by keeping up with the app, I will be more comfortable in the language whenever I do travel to a Spanish speaking country.

My husband has been using the app too, but he is learning Japanese. It is our dream to travel to Japan together someday. Whenever we do, he will be the one communicating and helping us navigate the country! At least we already like sushi, and the word “sushi” is pronounced “sushi” in Japan! Haha!

If you are interested in learning a new language either for fun or to help you prepare for a trip, I definitely recommend using Duolingo! It is an easy to use app for your phone, maybe even for iPads too, and it provides listening, writing, and speaking exercises. There are many languages to choose from, even the fictional language of Klingon used in the Star Trek universe!

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