The Beauty Of Learning The Local Language When Traveling

Girls Who Travel | The Beauty Of Learning The Local Language When Traveling

Travel enhances our lives on numerous levels – culturally, psychologically, and spiritually. It has been known to transform how we think, often challenging our preconceived notions of the world. Undoubtedly, venturing to new places exposes us to a plethora of possibilities. And one of the most exciting things in the realm of those possibilities is learning another language!

The Beauty Of Learning The Local language When Traveling

Girls Who Travel | The Beauty Of Learning The Local Language When Traveling

Thinking philosophically, ask yourself “what am I doing when I speak with another soul?”

Surely, depending on what you’re wanting to achieve, you might have a dozen or so answers to that question. But, really, it comes down to a basic human need – connection. As simple as that.

Whether you’re having a heart-to-heart with your best friend, on the phone making dinner plans with your spouse, or playfully engaging with your dog, it’s all about bonding with another living being. So when we think of travel, that concept of ‘connecting’ becomes crucial, and being able to communicate with others in their local language is priceless.

Imagine you’ve got that famous landmark in mind, the one you’ve waited years to visit. Well, getting there (or once you’ve arrived) will require you to speak with someone. And that’s where you’ll find many doors opening for you, literally and figuratively.

More Than Manners

Girls Who Travel | The Beauty Of Learning The Local Language When Traveling

We all know how important it is to be respectful when we head to another country. A big part of that lies in the ‘engagement factor.’ And by that we’re specifically referring to interacting with locals. Of course, no one’s expecting you to lead a political debate on climate change in another language (besides, talking politics while traveling is typically considered ‘taboo’). The point is to be able to have even a short conversation in that other language – heck, if you only learn greetings and how to say ‘thank you,’ you’re taking steps in the right direction.

But wait, there’s more to the picture of having a few phrases under your belt. As this article in TripZilla reminds us, in addition to the respect reason, learning the language of a particular place has numerous benefits.

  1. An easier way to travel – “[when] locals feel inclined to help you, the more convenient your trip will be”
  2. Better connection – allows you to “establish rapport with locals”
  3. Makes you calmer – being even slightly conversant puts you at ease
  4. Cultural immersion – knowing the language links you to the local culture
  5. Practicality – continued use of the language on other occasions (long after travel)

As the article further elaborates, “Most seasoned travelers would agree that learning the local language of a destination often makes for a better experience. And yes, more often than not, locals are quite welcoming and accommodating to visitors who don’t speak their native tongue. But wouldn’t it be better when you don’t have to worry so much about miscommunication, especially in a place where English is not widely spoken?”

A Matter of Science

Girls Who Travel | The Beauty Of Learning The Local Language When Traveling

Outside of travel, another important aspect of language learning merits mention – the brain. As the body’s third-largest organ (skin ranks #1, liver #2), the brain is a complex component responsible for regulating the processes of our anatomy. Keeping it well-nourished is integral to living a healthy existence.

One way of feeding our brains is related to neuroplasticity. Writer and biochemist, Hidaya Ailouche explains in this News-Medical & Life Sciences article:

Language acquisition has been shown to impact neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to undergo structural changes in response to stimulus, behavioral experience, or cognitive demands. The link between neuroplasticity and language acquisition has been documented in the literature; evidence suggests that as a product of learning a language and utilizing several languages, changes in brain anatomy are induced. These changes include the pattern of functional neurons and can occur rapidly and at any age.”

With learning as one of the brain’s cognitive functions, we find additional advantages in expanding the language base:

  • increased vocabulary (varied forms of expression)
  • enhanced memory
  • confidence booster (think: conversation starter)

The food we put in our brains is just as significant as what goes into our stomachs. And whether traveling to another country or staying in one’s hometown, a healthy diet is comprised of more than just edible items.

Global Citizenship

By linking the science of learning another language to our travels, we find the relationship to what makes us global citizens. Just as speaking another tongue creates changes in our brain, so too does it allow us to build bridges with each other.

We are all part of this magnificent world. It matters not on what continent one lives or what language one speaks. What holds greater significance is how we utilize our words, specifically, the acquisition of words in another language, to connect with the world around us. That is the true benefit of speaking in the local vernacular while traveling: using communication to remind us of our shared humanity.

Lola Rosario Aponte

Lola is a poet, travel blogger, translator, and cultural storyteller. Completing her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training in 2016 helped her begin the healing process of a painful divorce. Fiercely proud of her Indigenous and African roots, much of Lola's work celebrates vibrant female voices. Outside of global trekking and crafting stories, she counts tango as another passion. In late 2021, Lola returned home to her precious Borikén where she is working (with her friend and business partner, Yuma) to bring collective healing through yoga, meditation, and the Afro-Boricua bomba folk tradition.

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