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Work on your language skills is the most important piece of advice I have for pre-trip planning

Work on your language skills is the most important piece of advice I have for pre-trip planning

Old Jul 19th, 2006, 07:00 AM
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Work on your language skills is the most important piece of advice I have for pre-trip planning

We've taken probably a dozen European trips now, & I can't emphasize enough how important trying to learn some of the language is. If you took a language in high school & college but think you've forgotten everything, get some brush-up tapes; you'll be surprised how quickly it comes back. If you've never studied a language, buy a workbook & some tapes. I listen to the tapes (by the way, you can't just listen, you also have to respond) on the way to work. I also took a week & went to an adult Spanish camp that was great.

You will be so much more comfortable if you know at least a few basics of the language. And, you'll be surprised at how much actual communication can take place when you just know a few simple words & phrases. Otherwise, with no knowledge of the language, you will feel totally imncompetent & like a stupid child or else you will end up restricting yourself to those places that cater to English speaking tourists.
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 07:06 AM
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This is very good advice. We always make an effort to learn some of the language of the country or countries that we will be visiting. We buy audio cd's, software, and a phrasebook or two. I always try to learn the niceties (hello, good bye, thank you, excuse me, etc.), as well as a few other phrases.

Tracy
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 07:10 AM
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All very true what you say, Julies, speaking as someone who majored in European languages in college-particularly the "stupid child" bit-liked that analogy.
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 07:21 AM
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Really good advice! I've been in countries where I can get by in the local language, and in others where I can't, so I know what a difference it makes. Being able to order food, buy train tickets, sort out problems in a hotel, etc, is so much easier with a bit of the local language, and you'll get a much better response if people see that you're making an effort. I don't understand why people on this forum seem to spend hours looking at hotel or restaurant web sites, instead of gaining an understanding of the language that will enable you to deal with hotels and restaurants when you get there.
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 07:37 AM
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How right you are! I majored in languages and I work in the field (I speak English, French, Hungarian and German), but when we went to Spain and Portugal last year, it was completely new for me. We had spent 2 weeks in Spain by the time we arrived in Portugal, so I was OK with basic Spanish phrases, but realized we hadn't learned any Portuguese!

I really felt like that stupid kid when I couldn't say thank you after buying a bottle of water at the first service centre in Portugal. As soon as I got back in the car, I turned to the phrasebook section of our guide and memorized!

This year we're heading to Germany and Holland, so I'm going to make sure to memorize some Dutch before we arrive. It really is a confidence booster when you can communicate in a language you don't know!
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 07:57 AM
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I totally agree with you, julies. You really do get more out of a trip the more knowledge you have of the language. Not that anyone has to be fluent.

I'm going to Czech Repbulic in early September and have been furiously studying their language since winter. It's pretty difficult for a native English speaker, but I'm not giving up because even if I still sound like a stupid child, it will still be better than not having learned at all.

I also look on learning the country's language as being courteous and being a good guest.
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 09:05 AM
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I threw this out here because there are so many first time travellers to Europe who seek advice on what to see & do. I think many of them do not realize how disorienting it is to get off the plane & then realize that the signs are all in an unfamiliar language & doing such simple things as buying a package of gum involves interacting with someone who will not understand you.
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Old Jul 19th, 2006, 10:38 AM
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A few weeks before our family trip to Italy, I posted to the effect that someone should shoot me if I ever planned another trip where we left as soon as school was out. With finals, school concerts, dance recitals, etc., we were beyond busy. What DIDN'T happen because of all that busyness is that the kids didn't learn any Italian.

Before we went to Paris, we hired a French tutor....we learned very little French, but folks were so nice to the kids when they ordered their food in French, etc. This trip, the kids did not get nearly as many "positive strokes"; I attribute that to their not speaking any Italian (beyond please, thank you, etc.)
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