This is Stephen aka the wandering linguist. I’m honored to have been invited by the founders of Missionwanderlust, Caitlin Knightly and Kassim Richards, to share with you what will hopefully be some inspiring epicness. I’m a homeless, hungry South African living in Paris (by homeless I mean I move a lot! And for being hungry well that’s the adventure part)
I’m currently on a language learning mission to become fluent in four languages and hopefully, once achieved, I will keep going for more. Born and raised in South Africa, I lived in Miami for several years (where I met my two awesome above mentioned sidekicks), attained Spanish fluency by living in the Andes mountains in Ecuador for two years and now Je parle avec le French in Paris, where I have been for the past 7 months. I’m also an aspiring vlogger, photographer, and basically working on kicking my creativity, waking the beast while inspiring you guys to travel, learn another language and get lost in the awesomeness of it all.
Post 1 February 19, 2016
My first post involves a girl from Saudi Arabia, who was my inspiration to write this post and TLC. Now until my blog posts start bringing in millions of readers, I find myself working at a hotel in the heart of Paris (great for my French), anyways this is where we met. We started chatting about different countries and cultures and she explained that she lives in London and is in Paris for the weekend. She expressed that she does not like France because not many people speak English and she went on to say how rude the French are because of it. Now I’m sure many of you know that the French are often labeled as being cold towards foreigners who don’t speak French and I think that they have every right to be. I asked her if I had to walk into a store in London or Saudi Arabia and expect everyone to speak French, would I not be looked at strangely and be asked the question where are we? We cannot expect the locals to speak our language if it is not one of their official languages. I said that it’s great that the French are proud of their language and I think they should protect it in any way possible. She looked at me with a rather negative gaze and then proceeded to dive into her cell phone. That was the end of our conversation, but it was great because it gave me the idea to write this message and highlight an important topic of what we shall call ‘travel language courtesy’ or TLC.
You see when we plan a trip, a lot of time goes into booking the flight, researching hotels and preparing our equipment, but we often neglect perhaps the most important part, language preparation. Just assuming everyone speaks your language is a very narrow minded mistake that I think we have all been guilty of at least once during our travels. If you are going to visit a country where you do not speak the language, I highly recommend that you download a language podcast or an app or even purchase a book at least 3 weeks before your trip and spend at least 15 minutes a day on the basics of the language. Work on pronunciation as well. I guarantee you that this small investment will make your journey so much more epic. Many times when you converse with someone in their language, they will reply in English, don’t feel offended, let it ride, It’s possible they are studying the language and they would also like to practice. You see the more we travel, the more we start to realize that speaking the language of the country we are visiting is in fact embracing the culture to the utmost degree. Communication is the essence of love and without it we cannot truly connect as human beings. Technology has made this so much easier by providing us with hundreds of thousands of different tools to get us off the ground and conversing in a foreign language. Whether it’s a book, a CD or an app, there is just no excuse for not being able to communicate with the locals in the country you are visiting. As we speak, I’m following an app in Italian by Lingopedia in order to prepare me for an upcoming trip to Rome next week. It gives you well-rounded lessons in many different environments and so far it is going really well. The last time I was in Italy I ran into a nasty train conductor who decided to check tickets on the only day I decided not to buy one. At the time my TLC was around a negative 50 and so it was a mess trying to explain why I was basically stealing a ride. Needless to say it was horrible and since then my TLC has greatly improved. I can feel my confidence increasing for this next trip and I know I will be ready to communicate with the locals as soon as I arrive. It’s also always good to have a dictionary on hand, and if it’s an app make sure to download it in case there is no wifi.
In my future blogs I will be delving more into the benefits of language learning and I will also be giving tips on how you can prepare, language wise, for your upcoming trip. I will also be sharing more stories about how knowing the basics of a language have helped me and made my experiences so much more enjoyable, as well as stories where not knowing the language proved to be rather uncomfortable and at times dangerous. So next time before you plan a trip don’t forget your TLC! All it takes is a little motivation, 15 minutes a day and an effective language-learning tool. Before you know it you will be negotiating a deal with the locals or explaining to a rude custom official why you overstayed your visa, whatever it may be, the fact that you have somewhat of a base, could be the difference between an epic journey or just a sightseeing escapade. All that counts is that you put the effort and enjoy the smiles that come with the ride. That’s it for now, until later. Cheers and peace out.