The Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language for Travel
The Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language for Travel

The Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language for Travel

Despite having a Mexican mother, my journey to speaking Spanish only began in 2015 at the age of 20. Read on to find out why I learned the language, how it’s helped me on my travels and why you should consider the benefits of learning a foreign language for travel.

If what you’re after is tips to learn a foreign language for traveling, then head to this post.

Table of contents

Why I learned Spanish

At the end of October 2015, I’d just finished my first solo backpacking trip. I was five weeks in Mexico and one in Guatemala. This first solo trip was everything I’d wanted it to be, full of adventure and meeting new people.

However, come its end I was feeling a little frustrated. As each week of the trip had gone by, I realised more and more how badly I wanted to be able to speak Spanish. And in all honesty, I was feeling slightly let down by my parents for not raising me bilingual.

I started to think about how I could learn the language, especially as, by now, I already knew that I was going to travel more of Latin America.

However, this was put on the back burner as I returned home to the UK for a couple of weeks before heading to France to work a winter in the Alps. I enjoyed the mountain life and was snowboarding every day. But as the season neared its end, I started to put my Spanish learning plan in place. 

I decided that I’d head back to Central America and pick up where I’d left off in Guatemala, but this time make learning to speak Spanish a goal. I wanted to be able to speak fluently and truly connect with the Latino side of my heritage.

Fast forward a year and I could say that I spoke Spanish. It was by no means perfect (It never will be) but I had a solid level of what I like to call ‘general fluency’. I could hold everyday conversations well and had little trouble working in hospitality.

Throughout this year my travel plans changed a lot. I ended up spending much more time in Guatemala than I thought I would and I also had to go back to the UK unexpectedly for a few months. However, the one thing that didn’t change was my commitment to learning Spanish. And whether in Wales or Central America, I continued learning.

The benefits of learning a foreign language for travel

I returned to Central America after the unexpected stint in Wales. This time I could speak Spanish and I reaped the rewards. So, what are the benefits of learning a foreign language for travel?

You connect with people who don’t speak English

Only speaking English means you can only truly connect with other English speakers on your trip. Of course, that’s not a bad thing. But have at least a second language under your belt, and you widen the pool of people you can create friendships with — especially if you learn a language that’s spoken by many people.

It’s just useful…

If you’re somewhere where nobody speaks English, but you speak the local language, then you’re about to avoid a whole lot of hassle. There’ll be no trying to get your message across with hand gestures or trying to find free WIFI to use a translator app.

And even if people in the area do speak English, you’re likely to get what you’re after faster if you’re communicating in the local lingo.

It’s really fun

The stages of going from complete beginner to holding a decent conversation come with frustration and bouts of imposter syndrome here and there. Despite this, the resounding feeling of the process is one of fun. This alone makes learning a language an excellent thing to do when traveling.

It’s really exciting to be able to say things in the language that you previously couldn’t. And if you’re anything like me when it comes to languages, the more vocabulary you learn, the more you’ll want to learn.

My Spanish will never be as good as my native English. But I enjoy learning it so much that I’m determined to get it to a similar level.

You gain respect

In my experience, the locals tend to admire it if you speak their language. They tend to see you as more than just a visitor and as someone who is genuinely interested in their culture.

This creates a great vibe between you and the people you meet. I’ve had some great experiences in Latin America where a compliment from a local on my Spanish led to a good conversation with them.

Other travellers who only speak English usually find it impressive too. Now I’m not one who particularly enjoys taking centre stage, but getting good attention because of your language skills does feel nice. More than anything, it’s feels like a pat on the back for all the blood, sweat and tears you’ve put in to learning the language.

You feel more confident

Traveling in a country where you speak the language also feels great for reasons beside the praise that you receive. You also feel much more self-assured and in control of your trip, especially in situations where foreigners can get ripped off, like taking public transport, for example.

It’s also a good feeling knowing that if for any reason you need to ask for help, you don’t have to hope that whoever you ask speaks English.

You get more opportunities

One of the best benefits of learning a foreign language for travel is that it provides you with more opportunities in general. From being able to barter for lower prices with the locals to having more chance of finding the hidden gems to visit via word of mouth, having a second language simply opens more doors for you on your travels.

More travel content on A World Over

These have been my main benefits of learning a foreign language for travel. If you’re thinking about learning a language for your trip, then make sure to check out my guide on how to learn a foreign language for travel.

For more travel tips and inspiration, check the A World Over blog, where you’ll find all of my content.

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