Finally the time has come that I figured, learning another language will more more then a little useful. It will greatly enhance my travel experience especially in countries that do not have English high on their list of languages spoken fluently. I mean in most countries if you have to you can get by with no knowledge of the language, it will more many times more difficult then if you even have a basic understanding of the language.
Language can help you
You would be surprised at how even a little bit of knowledge of a language can help make things even slightly easier for you. A good example is the mandatory German classes that I took from grade 5 to grade 8. Yes it was three year at which I probably spent 1-2 hours a week learning the language, but still not an overly great amount of time. The problem with learning something like a language, is that you need to actually have an interest in learning it for their to be much progress.
As such with little interest there was only a fairly small amount that I could remember let alone make use of. This equated to numbers, greetings and thank-you, is what I was actually able to use. Surprisingly there was a bit more that I could actually understand hearing it. Some due to similarities to the English words, but mostly through guess work. As such I found it kind of entertaining to listen to the flight and gate numbers in German, and be able to recognize them. Having just this little background of a language can totally change your experience of a foreign country. From living in quite desperation trying to understand, to a more tolerable and enjoyable experience.
Language and Travel
If you are going to travel there is a good chance that you will need to get some basic knowledge of a language. The reason being that English according to the Wikipedia entry, is the official language of 53 countries, however there are 192 countries officially recognized by the United Nations. Plus there are also a handful of other countries that are not members to the United Nations. Basically what this means is that you potentially have a 1 in 4 chance of visiting a country which does not use English as their official language.
Now that is not the end of it either, even the countries that have English listed as a official language, may not use English as their primary language. For example India is included in the countries with English as an official language, however of their 1.02 Billion population only 125 million identify English as one of their up to three spoken languages(source wikipedia).
So you can see just how the challenge of traveling can start to mount without at least knowing a little of the language of another country. Unless you are happy staying with the countries that primarily speak English. However I know this is not what I want to be doing, I want to be out there and seeing the other countries. A different culture is quite interesting to me and something that I have now discovered is more interesting then years ago when I was completely disinterested in learning German.
My Choice of Lanugage
The simple answer here is that I have chosen to learn Spanish. As with everything though there is a little more depth to this choice.
One of the primary reasons that I choose Spanish was to do with, ease of access to others who speak the language. Surprisingly it is the most common language that was spoken by people I have met overseas, which means to some degree I have a ready group of people to practice with. Don’t worry I wont land it on you to soon 🙂 Which leads me to the second reason, it is the primary language spoken in a number of countries that I would like to visit. Places like Mexico and Spain, as well as a handful of countries in South America.
And for good measure one third and final reason to choose Spanish, just comes down to because it was the language that called to me the most. It may be an easier language to learn, but this is probably a good thing considering that I have not truly ever tried learning a language before.
While there are many different programs and systems out there for learning language, I am looking at a way that I can do it that will work best for me. To be honest I do not even know what this is yet. However here is my current best guess at how this is going to work out for me. I will actually be traveling in 3 weeks, for about 2 months, lucky for me in the travel time I will be spending some of that time with a number of different Spanish speakers that I know, or people that can speak Spanish anyway, and of course this will form part of my learning.
Step 1 – I bought the book and CD set Spanish for Dummies. Now I know this is really a fairly basic spattering of the stuff that is going to help tourists primarily. However my main interest in this program is just simply the repetition of speaking and pronunciation of many basic words. Even if I gain no understanding of the language itself from this I will be more comfortable and confident with the pronunciation, and you never know may gain some basic understanding.
Step 2 – Start participating in some Spanish conversations, even if it is just listening to begin with. This will help me work my understanding I gained in my first step into my mindset of the language. I may understand nothing, or may pick up on bits and pieces, but this I believe will help me to start connecting some words to how they are used.
Step 3 & 4 – Kind of by this point I want to be looking at two avenues, the first is watching movies, TV shows or other video or sound recordings in Spanish. However combined with this I would like to find a more advanced self study course, to help me gain a better understanding of the language. Along with possible rapid comprehension. This is something that only time will tell however may be helped somewhat with step 5.
Step 5 – Around August, I will be looking at immersing myself in Spain for 2 weeks, while this may seem like a small amount of time, I am going to do so with the wish to spend these two weeks, speaking nothing but Spanish. Except with Family, back home.
Where to then
I have no illusions that this process I have devised will not in anyway be perfect. In fact I expect that I will probably struggle to maintain it with the travel and other things on in my life at the moment. However what it comes down to is that if I aim at what I think I can achieve and dont get it I will be disappointed, but if I aim high and at least achieve something I will know I have done my best.
I will probbaly update again in about a week or so once I have got into the process a little and see just how I am doing, with step 1. I am in fact already 3 or 4 days in but still working on it, so I should be able to make some more comments in about a week.