Languages for Travelers
ABOVE: You don't have to attend a language
school to communicate as a tourist, but it's a fun way to meet Europeans.
Is it important to know the local
language when traveling in Europe? Not necessarily. Travel writer Bill Bryson
doesn't think so, according to this passage from his book Neither
Here Nor There:
"When I told friends in London that I was going to travel
around Europe and write a book about it, they said, 'Oh, you must speak a lot
"'Why, no,' I would reply with a certain pride, 'only English,'
and they would look at me as if I were foolish or crazy. But that's the glory
of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don't want to know
what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a
greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are
ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You
can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things
work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life.
Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses."
Still, for most of us, a smattering of the local lingo makes travel easier.
Being able to say "Thank you," "Excuse me," "That
one, please," or "Where is the toilet?" is more convenient than
relying on improvised sign language--at least for tourists who haven't been
trained as mimes.
The key phrase here is "a smattering," a.k.a. "un soupçon"
or "a little bit." You don't require a Ph.D. in French to buy
croissants in Paris, and you needn't memorize the contents of a Langenscheidt
German-English dictionary to rent a room in Berlin. With a vocabulary of even
100 words and the ability to string a rudimentary sentence together, you'll be
able to communicate basic needs and courtesies while traveling.
Next Page > How
to learn > Page 1, 2, 3,
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