When moving to the UK, whether temporarily or permanently, one of the very first living aspects an Aussie really notices and appreciates most is the close proximity to other countries within Europe. Consequently, a great number of Australians in the UK decide to take a full advantage of this and travel across Europe, exploring new countries, cultures and beverages.
Traveling across Europe is an exciting adventure in itself, but what better way of immersing yourself fully than with language skills in hand? The list of benefits of being able to speak a foreign language during your travels is long – from meeting local people to finding hidden gems or using it in emergency situations – the list goes on.
Surely, you do not need to be able to speak a language fluently in order to use it. Personally, I take about an hour a day for the last three to four weeks before my departure. This allows me to learn just enough language to be able to communicate and understand what is going on around me. Of course, everyone is different. Working for a London Translation Agency, I am surrounded with different language on a daily basis, and this perhaps also has an influence on my learning abilities.
Many of us, astounded by the new, UK reality where it takes a couple of hours to fly to another country, not city, decides to visit more than one destination in one go. Going on a Euro-trip can be thrilling, nevertheless, it makes the language learning decision a little bit more complicated. Clearly, you won’t be able to learn 5 or 6 different languages and therefore you must choose a couple which might be most useful during your escapade. Surprisingly, a recent study reveals that almost everyone from Luxemburg, Latvia, Netherlands, Malta, Slovenia, Lithuania and Sweden consider they can hold a conversation at least in one foreign language. On the other hand, Hungary, Italy, UK, Portugal and Ireland consider they can’t speak any other language than their native one. If you’re planning on visiting Europe, but aren’t sure as to which language(s) you should choose, here is a list of the most widely spoken languages in Europe to make the decision slightly easier.
According to the 2012 Europa Survey, “German is the most widely spoken, with 16% of Europeans saying it is their first language, followed by Italian (13%), French (12%), then Spanish and Polish (8% each). These results are broadly similar to those reported 2005”.
The report also states that “The majority of Europeans (54%) are able to hold a conversation in at least one additional language, a quarter (25%) are able to speak at least two additional languages and one in ten (10%) are conversant in at least three.”
As you can see, travelling across Europe and being able to speak a language other than English can be in fact very useful. As previously mentioned, knowing a foreign language will allow you to, for example, meet new, local people who may not speak English at all. Trying to communicate in their native language also shows respect, not only to them directly, but also to their culture and history. It will also allow you to understand the country’s customs and culture in much more depth.
Additionally, and as I am a language lover myself, this is perhaps my favourite aspect – learning a few simple sentences for travel reasons may turn into a real fascination with the language and push you even further in your learning journey. Learning a language from books, videos or even group classes can be great, but being able to speak and communicate with a native speaker is simply amazing. Different accents, dialects or even an informal tone can make an enormous difference to one’s understanding of a language. By speaking with the locals in their mother tongue, you’ll be able to fully test your skills and absorb the language even faster.