Posts Tagged ‘learning languages’

How I Learned to Shut Up and Listen

I sat at a table of no fewer than fifteen people on the street Pio Nono, entry to Bellavista, the down-home party section of Santiago, Chile. I’d been invited to go out for a beer after the monthly critical mass bike ride, and we stacked our bikes tidily (handlebars to rear wheel) against a nearby tree and set to the matter at hand. We sat at a long series of card tables extending down the street, each of us perched on one of those ubiquitous white plastic chairs, serving ourselves beer into small glasses from the liter bottles of Escudo on the center of the tables. Some, drinkers of fan-schop (a Chilean specialty), mixed theirs with Fanta. I drank mine plain, and listened.

I arrived to Chile in 2004, with way more than a passing knowledge of Spanish. Between high school and a couple of travel and study stints in the mundo hispanohablante (Spanish-speaking world), I could express myself fairly well, if not cleverly. Hadn’t I explained the electoral college to a group of teachers in Antigua, Guatemala in the 90s? Wasn’t it me who grabbed other travelers by the hand to take them to the post office, the bus station, to get their hair cut? I enjoyed helping, expressing, being in charge. I could get you a seat on the bus, a doorstop, tape to fix a book – you name it. I could ask for it directly or circumlocute it. I spoke, and people understood. At the time, I felt that this was the only necessary linguistic accomplishment. You, listen to me. And then it was over.

Why Learning the Local Language is the Most Important Trip Preparation You’ll Ever Do

All trips require preparation.

Some of you reading this are obsessive planners. You buy more guidebooks than you could ever read, cross-checking, highlighting, circling, dog-earing, and list-making about all the places you’ll stay, eat, and sightsee. You scope online forums for travel advice, putting a black mark through the name of the bar that has closed in Caye Caulker since the guidebook was published, or making the decision that you won’t visit the local market after all—it seems too many travelers have been pick-pocketed.

Some of you reading this consider yourselves spontaneous, living for the moment and priding yourself on your ability to figure out your itinerary as you go along. But even if you count yourself in this group, you’ll occasionally need to do some planning: gathering all the paperwork for a visa or buying a ticket to get back home.

But regardless of which group you’re in, I’ll bet you’re missing out on the most important preparation of all: learning the local language.

Novoarte’s Travel Blog

Julie is a passionate traveller moving back and forth between Puerto Rico, New York and Mexico City. (Interview with Julie)

Cultural Immersion: Interview with Julie Schwieter Collazo

Like many travellers, Julie Schwieter Collazo loves to immerse herself in foreign cultures – by reading more about the places she's visiting, learning the language, and by meeting the locals. The opportunity to see – and experience – another culture first-hand is one of the main inspirations behind her travels.

Originally from the southern United States, Julie lives back and forth between New York and Mexico City with her husband, Francisco. Until recently, they also lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

TravelBlogs caught up with her to talk more about her experiences living in foreign cultures.

The Daily Transit

Many passionate travellers remember their first time on the road with fondness.

Whether it's the immersion in a foreign culture or language, the chance to step out on your own, or simply the enlightenment that comes with experiencing a place you're unfamiliar with, that first trip is a profound moment in the lives of travellers.

For Ben Hancock, that first trip came a few years ago, when he headed off to Seoul, South Korea, to study for a year. This initial plunge was enough to inspire him with a deep passion for travelling. Whether he's on the road or not, he uses his blog, The Daily Transit, to share his reflection, essays, poetry and narratives on daily journeys.


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