Sunday, October 27, 2013

Language & Travel

A few weeks ago, I was watching the show The Amazing Race on a calm Sunday evening. I used to watch this show all the time growing up but life and work got busy and I soon left it behind. Of course I've also been going on my own Amazing Races minus all the rush, no sleep,.....and the unlimited supply of money! :-)

A family of 5 on one motorcycle - Alexandria, Egypt

If you have never seen The Amazing Race or don't know what I'm writing about, it is basically a world race with teams of two who are competing to win prizes at the end of each competition. Along the way, it is also about travel and seeing countries you haven't been to. Although it is too rushed that they really don't see much. (I know a cameraman who works on the show and he told me everything that actually happens). Each week, a team is dropped from the race if they are the last to make it to the finish line. The team who makes it to the finish line first in the finale takes home the big prize of cash!

Samba Parade in the Sambadome - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

But watching this episode opened my eyes and realized it didn't really make me happy. I was watching the episode where the teams were in Chile. I watched as they scrambled around and yelling things at the Chilean people in English to help them out so they could win their competitions. Rushing around and causing chaos in this beautiful country (and all the other countries they run through during each episode/season as well). 

But you are in a Spanish speaking country? A lot of the people on camera did not understand what the teams were telling them. And in my experience, when I was in Chile, I wasn't really understood so I used my Spanish there, not English. Actually in all Latin American countries, I put my English aside and only use my Spanish to get by. 

Locals hanging out and enjoying each others company in front of the fish market - Lima, Peru

It just made me realize how important it is to me to learn the language of the country I'm traveling to. Or at least learn the important words to get by and show appreciation for the country I'm visiting. I've seen people give up when communicating with a local and I've seen people not even try and it makes me sad. How can you travel when you don't even appreciate their language? How it ties to their culture, people, food, and lifestyle?

This beautiful cook asked me to sit in her kitchen and enjoy the meal she prepared for me - Cusco, Peru

As of now, I am in my advanced stages of Spanish. I took 2 years in high school and 2 years in college. And now I'm using the Spanish channels and radio stations so I don't forget! For years I wanted to learn Mandarin Chinese and now I am currently learning the language and feel like I'm picking it up pretty well! I understand some Arabic, and a little Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese. Even a few words in sign language. I've picked up some Italian words without having to use a translator!

I've mainly been to the Latin American countries and when I'm there, you will see and hear me use my Spanish. I never second guess what I'm going to do or say. I'm in their country, I will speak their language or try my hardest to. They deserve all the respect and I will not take advantage of that. Even in Egypt, I tried my best to understand Arabic. Especially because I wasn't in the tourist center and completely merged in with the locals. In my opinion, this has made all my travels amazing. By being one with the people and not just a tourist, visitor, or English teacher.

An Argentinean shared his Yerba mate with me - Mendoza, Argentina

I feel like I cannot understand the country itself if I do not understand the language and the meaning of their words, gestures, and customs. If I ever end up living and teaching English in Korea, China, or wherever I choose, I will completely dive into their lifestyle, culture, and language. Isn't this the whole meaning of travel? To understand someone else and find something new?

What languages do you know? What's your opinion on learning languages and traveling?