Why you should learn language basics before you travel abroad

Learning the basics of the mother tongue for where ever you are travelling to, may not seem important to the average traveller. 

This is a classic mistake I see made time and time again.

Yes, it's true - most cities are full of people who speak at least a bit of English, and in many places you can get by only speaking in english the entire time. But that is not the point.

Learning the bare minimum of a new language is not hard.
Taking the time to learn just the basics of the language will benefit you over and over.
Besides making it easier to communicate with people, you will probably instantly find that people are a lot more friendly to you.
People understand that you may not speak their mother tongue but if you at least try to speak some words, they will usually appreciate your effort.

When I've travelled to many places for modelling, I have found knowing some basics of the languages has actually been beneficial to my career as a model. Especially in cities in Asia.
Clients have often thought it's sweet/cute/funny to hear me try to say things in their language. 

Now I'll level with you here - I am terrible at learning another language. I only speak English. Even though I studied Japanese at school for 7 years (Yes, 7!) I can not speak it and I struggled with only the basics. And even I always try to learn the essentials for a language in new countries.

So what classifies as bare minimum that you need to know?

Thats easy, it's the words and phrases you use the most everyday. These words are essential for communicating with anyone and can be used in a million different circumstances.

Start with learning:

  • Hello / Goodbye

  • Yes / No

  • Please / Thank you

If you choose not to put in the effort of learning at least a bit of the language then I beg of you, PLEASE just learn these six words! 
You could actually learn all of these in one day, no kidding!
Simply knowing how to say these words will help to break the ice and you can at least communicate something with someone who speaks no english at all. Also these words are essential for being polite and well mannered.

For the traveller who wants to learn a bit more, here are some important basic phrases and words you can try to learn:

  • How are you?
  • My name is ...
  • Do you speak English ?
  • Excuse me.
  • Left / Right / Stop
  • Where is the toilet?

If you can learn these basic phrases you will have started to build your communication levels and people may start to be surprised and impressed at how much you can say. I find that people really do appreciate your effort even if you are pronouncing things incorrectly. 

For the keen traveller who has learnt the few basics listed above and wants to learn some more, here are a few phrases I find handy to know:

  • Good Morning / Afternoon / Night
  • I am well thank you.
  • Can I have the bill please?
  • Nice to meet you.
  • I come from ...

However you do it, and no matter your education level, learning a few words of a language can be really rewarding. I always feel proud of myself when I master a new phrase (it can take a lot of practice) and when someone compliments me on my good pronunciation. 

It really is worth just know the few basics. It can make your trip more enjoyable and you avoid being that A-hole who couldn't even be bothered to learn the word 'hello'.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post.
Do you have any other phrases that you like to learn when visiting a new country? Let me know in the comments below!