“Vannakam”, “Merhaba”, “Zdravo”… there’s something beautiful about languages. Traveling to a new city and engaging in a conversation at your best even if it’s just a few words of the spoken language can truly take your travel experience to the next level.
Growing up English was the main language spoken at home. But my family made sure us kids got our mother tongue on point. So the other two languages spoken at home were and still are, Swahili and Gujarati. I suppose they are the reason for my special appreciation for languages. Wanting to know more and being open to new words has always been intriguing.
Pronouncing words in languages that are foreign can be challenging. For instance, the word “drinking” in Swahili is “kunywa” whereas “poop” is “kunya”. If not pronounced right you could end up with ” I am pooping milk ” instead of “I am drinking milk”. Trust me – been there done that – it’s still an existing joke in my family. Nonetheless, it is a fun experience. It’s all right to let yourself be made fun of once in a while- a way of creating good memories and you learn something. To say it right! Don’t worry, you won’t always end up in a pickle like that but yes, getting the accent right can be difficult. Practice makes perfect and embrace the experience while you are at it.
Back in 2013 my best friend Suraksha and I visited Tanzania. We both went there to complete a surgical elective in a hospital and boy was she quick at picking up the language, with the right accent too! People thought she was more African than I was. I learned from her to allow yourself to immerse and flow into a culture, gaining all you can. To be part of it. Being able to say “hello” to the people you are visiting in their own language can get you some extra love and extra food. Who wouldn’t love that?! It is a way to show you care and respect them for who they are. It creates a comfort zone.
Moving forward to 2014, I traveled to South India (Tamil Nadu) for the first time to visit Suraksha’s hometown. The first word I learned was “Vannakam” meaning hello and eventually a Tamil song too! (I won’t embarrass myself now). That got me lots of dosas with smiling faces.
Give it a try
So yes, learning a new language may seem useless ’cause when would you ever use it again? (You’ll be surprised – even those single words can get you places) There’s no harm in giving it a try. Learn a new language; a few words is a start. And honestly, you don’t have to be in Spain to learn Spanish. You can do it at home. I try some French using duo lingo once in a while (it’s fun). Traveling or no traveling be open to a new word from a foreign language.
What’s a language you’d like to learn?