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Did you learn the language before your trip?

Did you learn the language before your trip?

Old Nov 28th, 2003, 12:23 PM
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Did you learn the language before your trip?

I am curious how many travelers learned the langauage of the country they were traveling to before their trips. I would like to try to have some basics so that I could get more of a feel for the people, but also have limited time before the trip and during the work week for studying. Did knowing the language help enhance your experience?
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 12:45 PM
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Of course, it is much easier to know the language of the country that you are going to visit. If this is impossible, then is nice to know at least the basic of that language.. If this is too hard, have a dictionary ready , be polite and put on a great smile.
I am European born, therefore I had the fortune to know 3 other languages.
Good luck..
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 12:45 PM
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<<Did knowing the language help enhance your experience?>>

A huge, overwhelming YES.
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 12:46 PM
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Yes. I took a class and practiced with collegues and anyone else who spoke the language. I also carried a good phrasebook. Often the locals used slang words, so I would ask friends what those words meant as I went along so I could better understand the conversations going on around me or when someone asked me a question. I found it invaluable to be able to read my own menus, signs, price tags (study the currency as this will help knowing how much things are in dollars) and make basic greetings with confidence. I still study with good workbooks to keep refreshed, and also have a computer program you talk with. Bring a good workbook for the airplane ride since your time is limited. Good Luck and have fun !
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 12:54 PM
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Yes, absolutely.

I was lucky enough to have studied quite a few languages for quite a few years before I started traveling in Europe, but I can certainly attest to the fact that travel is different when one doesn't speak the language.

On those occasions when I've traveled in countries where I spoke little or none of the local language (or did not speak a second language that was also a second language for the residents of that country), I definitely felt I was missing out on things. Until I can sit in a café and eavesdrop on others' conversations, or understand the banter between market stall vendors, or pick up a local newspaper and find out what's going on, I have a sense of outsiderness that changes the kind of trip I am having. I feel far more confident when I speak the language, even moderately, and am much more likely to express my curiosity, engage people in conversations, ask questions, etc., all of which enhance my travels.

That said, I have traveled to places where I spoke virtually none of the language and been awestruck, even if I was dumbstruck, too.
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 01:30 PM
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I've never actually "learned the language," as much as I'd like to. However, I've always made a point to know at least the basic phrases to get by. I think it's a courtesy, if nothing else.
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 03:21 PM
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Like Statia I always learn at least a few polite words and phrases as a courtesy to the country I am visiting. I have never learned enough to carry on a conversation (unless pantomimes count).

I recently returned from Croatia and as they speak a Slavic language it was a bit of a challenge for me. I went to the web site www.visit-croatia.co.uk to print out a booklet of words and phrases and also listened to their audio file for the correct pronunciation.

The first morning at breakfast I said a cheery, "Dobro jutro" to the manager. He replied with a dobro jutro and some other words that I hadn't learned. I had to admit that my Croatian was limited so he smiled and said he had asked me how I was "this" morning. I know that he was pleased that I tried and I could tell that others were appreciative of my efforts.

Pheasant, if your time is limited, you can always cram on the trip over!

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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 05:24 PM
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I always study the the basics of any country I visit. Not only is it fun to dazzle the locals with my comand of the language, (okay, confuse the locals)I think that people are much more willing to help you find your way if you have the respect to know a little of their language.
I've lived in California all my life, so I know enough spanish to hold a simple conversation. But we really had fun before we went to Italy with an Italian language book that came with flash cards and stickers. The stickers were quite a conversation piece before our trip. Unfortunately, on the Italy trip we went on a tour so I didn't get much of an opportunity to practice. One of the reasons I won't go on another tour until I'm at least ninety.
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 05:48 PM
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Good for you, Mcgeezer! One of the greatest travel experiences is seeing how the fruits of all that language study pan out - it can be downright frustrating not to have the chance to try it out!

Of course, it can be downright frustrating actually trying it out, too, but that's another story.
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 05:54 PM
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I took two semesters of Spanish at a community college before going to Spain last year and it was the best thing I could have done. I didn't have to ask for one thing en ingles the entire trip. It felt great!
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 07:03 PM
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I also make sure to learn at least the basics, though sometimes I attempt some lessons at grammar. In all cases, I bring along a small phrasebook to help me get by.
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 07:37 PM
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See this thread: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...=2&tid=1011767
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 07:55 PM
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cmt
I took your advice and read the previous thread in it someone posted,
"If all else fails, whip out the green photos of Ben Franklin & Co. and you will be surprised how quickly the communication gap is narrowed."

I have found personally that I don't need to whip out money to narrow communication gap".
When I start speaking, slowly and with hand gestures in a different langauge my listener, upon noticing how much I love people and love to talk will say,
"Wouldn't this be much easier in English?"

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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 08:40 PM
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I remember that atypical cynical comment as one of the few sour notes in that thread. Many of the anecdotes were really interesting.
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Old Nov 28th, 2003, 08:50 PM
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We have a virtual library of language books and tapes. the most difficult, to me, was Portuguese, because it was easy to read and difficult to pronounce. Norwegian was also a bit difficult in pronunciation for me. But having a strong background in French, Spanish and German, it made certain languages, like Italian, fairly easy. A big smile, being humble, and using hand signals is also a big plus.
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Old Nov 29th, 2003, 01:01 AM
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I studied Latin, French and Spanish in school. Although I always received top marks, I could not speak French or Spanish to save my life. I learned Italian after I moved in with an Italian boyfriend who by the way did not speak English beyond, "I love you - kiss me forever". Hey, it worked for me.
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Old Nov 29th, 2003, 03:12 AM
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I bow to all of you who speak more than one foreign language, as I have enough trouble speaking English good.

My problem has always been that just as I have begun to understand the language of one country, it is time to move on. Thus, I am always one country behind.
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Old Nov 29th, 2003, 03:23 AM
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There's no doubt that speaking the local language is an advantage.

Having said that, since I am originally from Montreal I know some French.

Other than that, while it would be nice to know some Italian (we've been to Italy at least 5 times) I always make sure I can say 'Hello', 'Goodbye', 'Thank You', and 'Your Welcome' in the local language.

Once you get the smile of their face you should do fine after that.

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Old Nov 29th, 2003, 07:29 AM
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Coming from a small rural town, with a very small library, I have requested a Berlitz Italian CD set and am on the waiting list. I took French in high school (many years ago, now) and have Spanish tapes that we used when traveling to Mexico. I am hoping that some of the pronunciation comes to me as I can let the fear of embarassment stop me from trying sometimes.
McGeezer- what was the name of the flash card and tape that you used? It sound simple and handy for certain situations.
I plan to give it my best shot as I do not want to feel like an unfriendly American.
Thanks all.
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Old Nov 29th, 2003, 01:47 PM
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Ira: When you (and a few million others who don't get the adverb vs. adjective thing these days) speak English well, then you can concentrate on a new language! Ha-Ha-Ha.

In all seriousness, though, I'm sure you have some knowledge of the languages to travel as sucessfully as you do...even if it's from direct cultural osmosis.

I studied French for 7 years before finally getting to France. I thought I was sooo prepared, having been in advance placement and independent study courses...Alas, having studied Racine, Moliere, Corneille etc. the last years, it didn't dawn on me that maybe I TALKED that way too, and that the average Frenchperson didn't! I was sooo crestfallen and confused, and they had trouble containing their amusement. Granted, I could order my food and get directions, but learning the current lingo was a much longer process...definitely made for an interesting time!
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