-(PLEASE) Vote for this blog entry by liking us here on Facebook! :D -Angie: “Mom, I want to be an exchange student.”
Mom: “Hah, okay tell me again in a week. Then I’ll know your serious.”
This conversation happened every single Wednesday night after I got home from meeting up with my sailing crew for four months straight. Without fail. Even if the meeting was canceled, you can bet at 9:17 p.m. on Wednesday night, I was reminding my mother of how badly I wanted to travel.
People have told me both that I’m crazy, and that I am the most courageous person they have ever met. Apparently not every 17 year old wants to see the world, a concept I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand, but I wanted to fluently learn to speak another language, and I couldn’t think of a better way to do it.
Not only is learning a foreign language fun… but it enhances every aspect of traveling in matters such as safety and saving money, as well as the little things, like being able to order a meal all by yourself. It was always the little things that made me feel the best when I was learning German, like when a stranger on the street asked me what time it was… and I actually understood what they were asking me. I’ll never forget the time I almost ran over an old lady on my bike. She started angrily waving her cane at me at the cross walk where we both waited, and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing simply because I was so happy to understand what she was saying.
Languages enhance travel experiences in so many ways, the biggest being the language is based on the culture, so if you want to really understand the culture, you need to understand and speak the language. For example, a common German stereotype is that Germans are punctual… and the language reflects this. If I were to say “See you soon” in English, I could mean in five minutes, tomorrow, next week, or even in a year. “Soon” does not have a definitive time frame where as in German one can say “Bis gleich” (until within the hour) “Bis später” (until sometime later today) “Bis Bald” (until sometime in the relatively near future but at the earliest tomorrow) and “Bis irgendwann” (until eventually), but in English, “See you soon” or “Until soon” is the equivalent of all those things! (Note how often in English speaking countries it’s normal to be ‘fashionably late’ whereas in Germany anything less than 15 minutes early is late!) When saying goodbye to my German friends I would often say “Bis gleich” when I wasn’t going to be seeing them for days, and they would look at me as if I were crazy!
Traveling and experiencing life from other perspectives can influence every aspect of someone's life. For me, because Germany is very eco-friendly, I try to mimic that lifestyle back here in California. I always hang dry my clothes outside, bike to school, and unplug my electronics when they’re not being used to save electricity. I now have friends to visit on literally every continent in the world (aside from MAYBE Antarctica!), all because the German language united us! I know countless people who can’t speak a word of English, yet they are some of the people I feel closest too, all because I took the time and effort to learn their culture, and by default their language. My second host family is a perfect example of this. I love my host-dad more than almost anyone in the world, yet his English is about a good as my Hindi (and let it be noted I don’t even know how to say “hello” in Hindi).
Ever heard the expression “There’s always more fish in the sea?” Well for people who only speak one language, the expression should be modified too something like “There’s always more fish in the puddle.” Not only does traveling allow you to see the world, but the people who live in it as well. Imagine being from Whales and walking up to an English speaker and saying “Actually, the sun does shine from my ass." Not only will this cause a lot of confusion, but seeing as the pick-up line doesn’t translate, the person probably won’t even know they’re being hit on! My fourth host-parents met while traveling… my host-mom was from Quebec, and my host-dad from Germany… and now they speak English because it’s a ‘mutual’ language a.k.a. not either of their first languages.
Last but certainly not least ( There had to be cliché somewhere in this post!), my personal favorite reason to travel and learn new languages is all the mess ups while trying to learn. A couple of my personal favorites include:Erik: “Hey Angie! What’s the English word for dick?”
-‘Dick’ means fat in German-Felix: “We all have to puke on Angie! No, that’s the wrong word! We all have to sleep on Angie!”
*In German*Angie: “Hey are your balls cold? No no! I meant are your ears cold?!”
No matter what language you’re trying to learn, embrace the mistakes! Not only will it make it more fun to learn, but if you’re not afraid to mess up, it will be a lot easier too! And maybe it’ll even help you remember things. I know I’ll never mix up testicles and ears in German again!
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P.S. I want to give a special thanks to one of my readers for the idea to write this post. Learn English with Kaplan today!