Week 18: Learn a Language

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

– Nelson Mandela

Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling

When I go outside of a (non-English speaking) country, I am impressed to the locals who can speak English and speak English well. Also I feel guilty and embarassed on the behalf of America. If you go to America, you’ll find people speak English and nothing else. I wish in America we invested more in foreign language learning and culture immersion.

In America, majority of students learn foreign language in high school. The minimum requirement to study a foreign language is 2 years and majority do not retain it. I have a coworker who had two kids take Spanish classes since they were in kindergarten to their senior year of high school. They went on a trip to Mexico and their kids forgot all their Spanish. I was surprised because I would think if you took so many years of formal study you’d be able to speak Spanish professionally at the work place.

When I was at high school, I took four years of French and I chose to retain it. I worked hard to retain it; I continue to read in French, write even though I have no one to write to, listen to French movies and music, and if I come across someone who is native of France or other Franchophone nations, I make conversation. It’s been my gateway for the love of language.

Whenever I plan a trip to a foreign country, I study the language enough to get myself by  — I learn numbers, asking for things I want, food, directions, salutations, where’s the bathroom, etc. I know there is a highly likely chance the locals will interact with in English. Languages I learned were Khmer, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Italian, German, and…currently Spanish and Icelandic. Spanish because naturally, I live in Los Angeles. It would certainly help me professionally as long as I work in human services field. My goal with Spanish is to be as proficient as French. I am learning Icelandic because we’re going to Iceland.

And people ask me why am I making this effort. When I was in university, I met a lot of international students who studied in America learning American university, culture, and you guessed it…English. Doesn’t it make sense the other way around?

For examples, you go to Paris because love the Eiffel tower, macarons, the food, buildings, culture, etc. but it’s surprising that those who go to Paris don’t dare learn the language. Also think about other places in the world. If you don’t make any effort to learn a bit of the language — isn’t that a dick move to show you don’t care and you’re a lingo-centric jackhole?

Also don’t make excuses that the [fill in the blank] language is hard. English is hard and so many internationals make an effort to learn English to make their foot in America because it’s the language of opportunity and money. When I interview international students for internship position, I think it’s brave of them to go through an interview in English, their second (third, or fourth) language.

Also you can say I am an aspiring polyglot. I think it is badass to have learned and applied so many languages over the years. I get to open up and speak to more people.


Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (2012)

Read more posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

Week 1: Your Favorite Travel Photo of You and Intro
Week 2: Little Known Travel Tips
Week 3: Funny Travel Story
Week 4: Travel Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual Travel Activities and Photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: 5 Favorite Blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting travel stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in my backpack?
Week 12: Happy and Sad Travel Stories
Week 13: Unique Cultures Encountered 

Week 14: Top 3 Travel Destinations
Week 15: Travel Regrets
Week 16: Scary and Cool Travel Stories
Week 17: Things to Purge

Who else is doing the challenge?

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!