Why You Should Learn the Local Lingo When Travelling

Jess McGlynnJune 26, 2017

Having recently just returned from a trip to Italy, I was surprised at myself when we landed in Pisa and I realised I had forgotten to even look up a few of the basic phrases we might need.  Cue a quick hop onto Google and some screenshots of the most commonly used phrases!

Actually, in the end, we were pretty lucky as our Airbnb host took the time to go through some words we might need and how to pronounce them properly but it’s actually the first time we have visited a country without knowing at least some basic words.  It comes back to something which my mum drilled into us at an early age, to at least attempt to speak the local language, even if you make a mess of it and end up speaking English in the end anyway!

It doesn’t actually surprise me that this isn’t a very common attitude though.  Recent research by Holiday Autos suggests that around 27% of Brits make no effort to learn the local lingo when travelling, assuming that everyone speaks English and of those who do make the effort, on average, they only learn six or so words.  

I find this completely fascinating because to me, there is nothing which makes me feel more on the back foot than the thought that I might not be able to communicate when abroad.  I dislike the assumption that ‘everyone’ speaks English, as this simply isn’t true.  It might be the case if you are going to a resort but if you’ve ever stayed somewhere remote or off the beaten track then you will quickly discover that simply being able to say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ just isn’t going to cut it!

So after reading this research, I was pondering over reasons why I think it’s a good idea to make some attempt to learn the local lingo when travelling:-

1. It can save you time and stress
Knowing a few key words and phrases before you travel can help you to save time and money.  This can be anything from asking for basic directions to understanding menu options in a local restaurant.  You won’t have to worry about whether anyone speaks English wherever you go either meaning you can be more confident, and have a more enjoyable trip from the get-go.

2. It can save you money
Depending on how much of the local language you speak, you can find the best deals at restaurants or with travel arrangements, you can negotiate for a bargain at the market, you could spot if you are being sold a dodgy deal based on the fact that you are a tourist…the list is pretty endless.

3. It can give you independence
This is a real must for anyone who doesn’t want to rely on only going to resorts or sticking with tour guides.  If you want the opportunity to blend in with the locals and head off the beaten track then you will need a basic understanding of the local language.  Heading away from the main tourist spots can be a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the culture of a country which is ultimately very rewarding.

4. People will warm to you
I have made enough bumbling attempts to communicate in a foreign language to be able to tell you, hand on heart, that locals almost always warm to someone who attempts to speak their language.  I am confident that they can spot I am British a mile off and 9 times out of 10 will simply reply to me in English but starting out in the local language opens another kind of dialogue and one which often sees people offering recommendations and advice on the best places to go, longer lasting conversations and an all-round sense of having made an effort.

So next time you are planning a trip abroad, consider learning a few key phrases at the same time.  It will only help to make your holiday that much more rewarding.

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