language and travel

Jun 6th, 2002, 03:31 PM
  #1  
curious
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language and travel

All:

What impact do you feel actually knowing a language (as opposed to a few phrases and the like) has on your travels? I know there's the obivious conveniences, but do you feel there is something more important thatn that?

For me, there's the obvious, but I am increasingly seeing something more profound, in that I enjoy the complete immersion of being linguistically at home, can experience newspapers, books, culture, movies and interact with anyone who will interact with me. More prosaically, I spend less money, as it is easier to get bargains in food, lodging, transportation and shopping.

It's gotten to the point, where, now that I've "done" many of the major sites of Europe, I am thinking of limiting my future travels to a thorough and in-depth exploration of the places where I speak the language.

At any rate, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
 
Jun 6th, 2002, 03:45 PM
  #2  
tracy
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We have traveled lot in Europe and knowing only a little of the language has always been enough. Im sure speaking fluently has its advantages, however, how does it save you money?
I think it would more likely make it easier to meet and converse with whom you like more than anything.
PS Are you the waterski guy?
 
Jun 6th, 2002, 05:03 PM
  #3  
StCirq
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Tracy: It saves you money because you can say "Do you have something like this but at a lower price?" or "Would you be willing to part with that for 30 euros less than the marked price?" or "Is there a route I can take to avoid the toll roads that will still get me there by 5 tonight?" or "Do you have special discounts for seniors/students?" or "If I buy ten, is there a discount?" or "What's the best place to eat in town for under 25 euros a person?" or......................
 
Jun 6th, 2002, 06:04 PM
  #4  
Nutella
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It also saves you money because if yo speak the language, you're more likely to get invited out to dinner by the locals : )
 
Jun 6th, 2002, 06:23 PM
  #5  
tracy
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StCirq, You made a good point in that directions would be clearer if you knew the lingo. However, I guess I dont travel much to places where I "bargain" for my purchases.
 
Jun 6th, 2002, 06:42 PM
  #6  
StCirq
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Tracy: You're right that there aren't many places in Europe where you *bargain* for what you want to buy. But, for example, I go to antique and brocante fairs in France all the time, and there you can bargain and ask for better deals (and always get one). There are outdoor markets in Italy where you can bargain also. Perhaps it's not something that most travelers would be exposed to. Still, I think if you speak the language it does save you money, it protects you from being ripped off, it allows you to defend and protect yourself in ways that the offenders aren't expecting, and it just opens doors to a much deeper experience, including getting to know personally and in depth the people you encounter.

But it's not practical for most Americans who aren't linguists to do that, so as much as it may enhance the experience, I think most Americans will continue to flock to countries without bothering to learn the language ahead of time. Learning a language well enough to have it be a vacation-enhancing experience is probably a 5-year commitment to study at minimum. Who's going to do that for a 2-week vacation?

I was lucky.My dad was a romance language teacher and I got exposed to lots of languages at an early age, took to them like a duck takes to water, and continued to study throughout my adult life. I still freak out when going to a country where I don't speak the language and try to cram for a couple of months ahead of time, but I have had my failures in this regard, notably with Arabic (whoa!! could someone please explain this sentence structure!). I also tried to learn Turkish before a trip there many years ago and after a couple of weeks decided since so many Turks spoke German, that would be my language of choice. Smart idea - Turkish is practically impossible, and German worked fine, except they thought we were German, whcih introduced a whole new cultural element.

Bottom line: languages are tough, and they are not the first concern of most Americans traveling abroad. Yes, if you do speak the language well you are going to have a completely different sort of trip from the person who does not speak much or any. You are probably going to get much more out of the experience than the person who speaks none of the language, but the person who speaks none of the language is not even aware of that, so it really doesn't matter, does it?
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 06:25 AM
  #7  
curious
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Not the water ski guy (what's the reference?), just someone curious about other people's thoughts on this matter.

Definitely, what St. Cirq said about saving money is true. I also enjoy flea markets and the like, and it is easier to bargain. More than that, though, is stuff like: being able to eat anywyhere and get exactly what you want, plus being able to check the bill more carefully and raise any objections, easier shopping at supermarkets, staying at cheaper hotels without English-speaking staff, and, generally, not having to worry about language, allowing the fuller exploration of a country.

I agree that if you don't speak the language, you don't know that you are not having the same experience as someone who does. For me, it's getting to the point that, having travelled in both environments, I no longer enjoy travelling to places where I don't speak the language well. Maybe this is too limiting a position, but, fortunately, I can go a lot of places with what I do know.
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 10:04 AM
  #8  
Dick Yeager
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My wife and I just returned from three weeks in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.

After about three days in Germany at the beginning of the trip, we both swore we would learn some German before our next trip for the exact reasons you mention.

As a guest in their house, I think it is our responsibility to converse in their language, not their responsibility to converse in Engllish.

Dick
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 12:21 PM
  #9  
tt
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TTT
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 12:28 PM
  #10  
xxx
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As an Amercian spending MY tourist dollars in Europe, I have every right to expect them to talk my language. If they want the $ they need to learn the language.
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 01:03 PM
  #11  
Dick Yeager
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Dear xxx,

Your reply indicates you are the standard for "Ugly American". The Europeans are very familiar with you.

Please stay home, as many of us try to make a good impression on the Europeans.

Dick
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 01:29 PM
  #12  
notxx
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Dick, that xxx poster thinks he is being clever. Ignore him.

As for the topic, I don't know. Sadly, I am Enlgish-only, despite intermittent efforts over the years. Sure, a few words and phrases, but, other than the British Isles, I couldn't travel to Europe if I limited myself to linguistically-freindly areas.
 
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