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The Traveller’s Guide to Learning European Languages

Parlez-vous travel? Learning European languages can be quite the nifty travel skill to have in your toolkit when it comes to maximising your experiences. Why European languages? Well, firstly because some European languages like French and Spanish are spoken across the world. French in 29 countries, and Spanish in 21. Reason enough to learn a European language? As Indians, we aren’t averse to the idea of being bilingual. A vast majority of us are, in fact not just bilingual, but probably speak a smattering of some 4+ languages, don’t we?

I’m a bit of a language junkie, and got down to learning French rather early in life. All my peers chose French as the optional language in junior college because that was the easy way out. I took that a step further and pursued a Diplôme de Langue. And it’s something that’s only made my travels richer over the years. Learning European languages has served us well when it came to enjoying living like a local over several visits to Paris, guesstimating the meaning of words while driving through Portugal, getting the gist of museum descriptions in Prague, navigating menus in Barcelona, meeting old-timer locals in Tuscan villages, or getting fantastic service in resorts in Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Learning European Languages 101

Get started

Stop relegating learning a new language to that bucket list, for that someday that you know will never arrive. Get to it now. Signing up for classes and paying cold hard cash should guilt you into turning up each day. For a holistic, professional approach check out your local Alliance FrançaiseGoethe Institut, Academia Espanol, or the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre. If you don’t think you’ll be able to commit to brick and mortar classes, check out my favourite app – Duolingo. It’s a fantastic, free and systematic way to start learning a new language.

Learning European Languages

Benefit from your bilingual skills

Charlemagne said, “To have another language is to posses a second soul.” Here’s the bit where we as Indians have the upper hand. We’re already used to thinking in dual languages, na? Let’s take that a step further. European languages assign gender to inanimate objects. An unimaginable concept for native English speakers. But for us? We totally get how a chair is feminine, for example. It doesn’t end there. A lot of European languages aren’t pronounced the way they’re written. That’s where writing phonetics in Hindi helps.

Learning European Languages

Make friends with benefits

I made some friends while studying at the Alliance Française. We were quite the motley crew. Different ages, communities and personalities, we connected over one thing and one thing only. Our love of French. In fact, with some of them, French was literally the only language we had in common. There are some websites for this too. Think of it as a Tinder for language lovers. 😉 It’s so much more fun when you have someone to converse with and practice on.

Learning European Languages

Learn the culture, not just the language

The two are very very strongly connected. Remember that article about 20 awesomely untranslateable words from around the world ? Yeah. Languages are often so deeply woven into the cultural nuances of their country of origin, that the very concept of certain words could be completely incomprehensible to a foreigner. Learning European languages can help you unlock how people think and behave in the local culture. So I completely understand how Dépaysement is different from Homesick. Or how that moment after a heavy meal in Goa or Portugal is just so Sussegado.

Learning European Languages

Don’t get rusty

It isn’t like riding a bicycle. I should know. After a long gap of several years, it took me a few days in Paris to get back into thinking in French, or not having to look for words while speaking to someone in say, a store. So practice, practice, practice. And don’t ever miss an opportunity to listen, learn or speak.

Learning European Languages

With these simple tricks, you’ll be breezing through Learning an European language in no time. And enjoying the travel benefits that are sure to come with it. Are you already attempting to learn a new language? Is there one on your bucket list? Do you have a few skills racked up already? Tell us everything!

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