By Christina VanGinkel
If you are traveling to any country whose language is different from what you are use to, it would be prudent for you to learn at least a few of the basic words. Which basic words and phrases you will want to learn, will depend on what you are planning to do while traveling. For example, if you are going to be doing a lot of shopping in Paris, learning how to ask for something as simple as a bag, or how to ask if a store carries XYZ, would not only be practical, but it will surely make your shopping time both more productive and stress free. On the other hand, if you are headed to Italy for some sightseeing, think of how much easier it will be if you are capable of asking, in Italian, when the museum opens, or if someone would be willing to take you and your companion’s picture. We never realize how un-universal our language is, until we land in a country where the language of choice is very different from the one we take for granted.
Take a Class
You could take a class offered at a college or adult learning center to learn the language of your choice, and if you know far enough in advance where you will be traveling, this can be an excellent choice. A class guided by a teacher will allow you to get immediate feedback from someone that is fluent in the language, and if you have the chance to speak the language yourself, and hear someone who knows it speak it, you will have the opportunity to gain confidence in your speaking of it.
Audio and Book Language Travel Guides
If a class is out of the question, there being none in the language you need to learn being offered, or not enough time to take a course, as you are leaving in just a few weeks time, there are many programs and books available to help you with basic words and phrases like those needed to get you through the day to day dealings of a vacation. Checking out a few of them before you even book your flight can be one of your wisest travel preparations you will ever make. Fodor’s offers travel guides in several languages, including French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. The guides come in a range of styles, including book form and audio. I am a fan of the audio guides offered by Fodor’s because I feel that hearing the words and phrases, along with the included listener’s guide, which gives you a visual backup of the lessons, is about as good as it gets.
Besides learning the language of the country you will be visiting, you could rely on a translator. There are many electronic versions available in a pricing range that will not leave you feeling like you have no money left to enjoy yourself on the trip. While none of them will allow you to carry on a conversation fluently, they will be able to help you ask for basic needs. Most even, come with complete phrases. Better yet, many of them cover much more than one or two languages, so if you travel frequently, you will not have to buy a new one each time you head to a country with a different language. The TR-2900 Global 29 Pocket Language Translator by LINGO, has built in features that help with currency conversions, 58,000 phrases, 580,000 word translations in twenty nine languages including English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese, Finnish, Estonian, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovakian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Turkish, Greek, phonetic Hebrew, phonetic Arabic, phonetic Chinese, phonetic Japanese, phonetic Korean, phonetic Thai, and Indonesian. Not to be done there, it also comes with clothing and shoe size conversions for those who consider shopping a major part of their vacation!
If you are planning to travel, take the time to explore some of these options to make your trip more enjoyable simply by allowing you to more freely converse with the people you will encounter while traveling. From hotel clerks, to other tourists, knowing the language can open up completely new doorways to the enjoyment you will reap from your travels.