Visiting Foreign Countries: Should I learn the language?

Hello everyone!

My first year of teaching online will soon be over! As of 2016, I will be starting my second year of teaching online and my 5th year of teaching English overall. I'm so excited!


During my first year of teaching online, something has caught my attention. My students often ask me why I learn so many languages. As you may not know, I have studied languages for 13 years. I've studied Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, French and Italian, with hopes of studying Arabic, Russian, German and Portuguese one day. I've become fluent in a few of the mentioned languages, but after a severe car accident, I've lost my fluency and I have to build it back up again.


When my students ask me why I study so much, I tell them the following two reasons:

1. I want to work for the United Nations one day as a translator/interpreter.
2. I want to be able to speak with foreigners in their native language.


Many of my students encourage me to study hard when they hear that I want to work for the UN one day. However, when discussing the idea of speaking the languages of the countries that I visit, many students don't feel the need to study so hard. Instead, they inform me that I should be able to survive in other countries with English alone.


So, my question is:

<em>If a foreigner visited your country for any amount of time, would you want them to speak the language of your country? Why or why not?</em>

Dec 27, 2015 2:00 PM
Comments · 8

"If you want to speak to people's minds speak with your own language but If you want to speak to people's hearts speak with their language" :)

December 27, 2015

I feel that it is very advantageous to know at least one foreign language, if not more than that.  I hope to one day be as successful as you have been, but for now I am working on my first two foreign languages.  Although I do put so much value into knowing foreign languages, if someone from another country came here for a period of time, I don't think they should have to learn the language if they don't want to.  I know many people who feel exactly the opposite of this, but I don't have a superiority complex when it comes to knowing English.  I do believe, however, that if you truly want to understand the culture of a foreign country, knowing the language is crucial to that understanding.

December 28, 2015

Learning a language is always fun and has use. In some places, speaking the local language can make life easier or encourage local encounters. If you intend on living somewhere for a longer time, it always makes sense to learn some of the language, I think.

Whether you ''need'' to, depends on the country you want to visit and on the purpose. For general travel I'd say it's usually more important to learn about local culture than to learn the language. For general travel in Europe (where I've travelled very extensively) I can confidently say you'll easily get by with English alone and you'll encounter plenty of people who speak English fluently.

I've travelled to about 60 countries in the world. I always make sure I have some basic knowledge of local culture (so I can be polite) and I always learn a few basic greetings and sentences. I try to pick up more words on the go. I usually carry a (digital) phrasebook, which has been handy a few times, but I think I would have survived just fine without it.

I've noticed that if I know some words and sentences, and if I know how to behave and dress politely, local people are usually quite willing to find ways to assist me, even if they don't speak English. Of course you could have more indept conversations if you would know their language.

In short: if you enjoy learning any language, go for it! If you want to learn languages for travel purposes, I'd go for some of the large world languages that are spoken in places where people don't all speak English, or I would pick languages spoken in places where you want to stay for a long time.

December 27, 2015

You're welcome Christen :)

December 27, 2015

Thank you for all of your responses! It's nice to know what people are thinking!

December 27, 2015
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