A few years ago, my friend and I were visiting Italy and we couldn’t find the restaurant we were looking for. According to Google Maps we’ve arrived but we didn’t see any signs of the cafe.
I tried asking for directions, but my broken Italian was a joke. Eventually, my friend got frustrated and yelled, “Why doesn’t anyone speak English!”
Girl, we’re in Italy… they speak Italian.
I can’t blame her too much for that. Experience has taught me that the tourism industry caters to the anglosphere – the parts of the world where the English language dominates. I’ve never stayed in a hotel that didn’t have an English-speaking staff member and most international airlines require their flight attendants to speak it fluently – even in countries with a different official language.
This is a double-edged sword. Exploring a new place is simple when speakers of your native tongue are easy to find. But that mindset has the potential to transform frequent travelers into what I like to call “language snobs” – tourists who expect everyone to communicate in their native language. The growing number of English speakers is no justification to be ignorant of your surroundings. If you have traveled out of the U.S., be mindful that your destination has a different culture, practices different customs and most likely, speaks a different language.
Embracing this concept has added great value to my travels. I feel connected to the natives when I’m able to say a few phrases in their tongue. And while I follow plenty of bloggers and vloggers who feel the same way, I’ve met plenty of people – even avid travelers – who don’t. But so much positivity could come from simply understanding someone.
Related: How to Learn A Language Faster
Language-learning software company, Rosetta Stone released a commercial with a great take-away message – “If everyone learned just one more language, the world would be a more tolerant place…”
If we all took the time to learn at least a few phrases in another language, our travels would be more fulfilling. Locals would be more appreciative of the effort shown by tourists and you can just imagine how many new friendships that could lead to.
Chances are, you won’t be fluent in a short time, but next time you travel, try picking up a few phrases to use and see where it takes you. I’m sure you won’t regret it.
Do you speak more than one language? Are you learning any right now? Comment below!