More and more people learn to speak English, especially in developing countries. That’s a good thing, because it bridges the gap between locals and tourists and makes it easier for locals to find a job. Hence, it bridges the gap between rich and poor. However, speaking the local language has its benefits
Just to start things off: to talk local doesn’t mean that you have to be fluent in the language. It means, to me, that you are able to have small talk so that you know how to ask about someone’s background (where are you from, what work do you do, do you have a family). This is difficult. It takes time and effort. Here are five reasons why you should give it a go anyway.
1. It’s easier to get in touch with locals
Even though more people speak English, it’s not their first language. If you know how to speak their language, it’s easier to get in touch with them on a personal level. Imagine standing at a street food stall where you can tell the owner how much you like his dish in his own language. Guaranteed you will strike a good conversation after that! If you want to prepare yourself for your travels and already learn some words, check out Open Culture that offers 48 online free language courses. If you don’t have so much time then just installing a good dictionary help like Merriam Webster would be a good one.
2. It shows respect and a sign of interest
Westerners are often seen as the ‘wise people from the West who know how the world works’, which is nonsense of course. Using their language shows you are just as human as them. It shows respect, as it is clear that you are willing to step over that barrier and not ‘flee’ into the easy English. It shows a sign of interest, that you actually want to understand their culture – language included. This is also what makes you a true explorer.
3. You can actually get to know people
As I mentioned before, speaking English doesn’t help you get into deep conversations with locals. Speaking Bahassa or Vietnamese is not easy at all, so don’t expect any political discussions anytime soon. Nevertheless, it will provide an opening to get to know people as they open up more easily while speaking in their own language. Even if you’ve to switch to English at some point, you’ve already shown your true intentions and that allows people to share more.
4. Locals take you more seriously
Nowadays, many travelers speak English. All the tall foreign people, whether they’re blond or brunette know how to communicate in English. However, speaking in the local language shows you have respect and interest for their culture. This will lead to the fact that locals take you more seriously. If you really wish to know a culture, its language and its people, you’ve to be on the same level as the people who can show and teach you more about their culture.
5. If you like local, be local
All of the above ads-up to one simple thought: if you like local, be local. The best way to get to know someone or an entire culture is by trying to blend in. Be open to everything, take in as many impressions as you can and find a way to really hear the stories around you. Speaking the same language is a good starting point.
Hannah is a freelance copywriter, admirer of the world, explorer, and a dreamer. For the I Like Local blog she shares her own travel experiences and delves into the travels and wonderful initiatives of others. Read more about Hannah and see her work on www.hannahellens.nl.