Without plans or even a hotel booked, Jean-François Dubé jetted to Thailand to immerse himself in the language and culture during his month-and-a-half stay. Nighttime spearfishing, motorcycling through remote Thai villages and connecting with the locals filled his spontaneous itinerary.
“My favorite experience is when we went spear fishing and got enough fish to feed fourteen people. That was the best experience of my whole life. We took a lot of risk from what I’ve heard later. I guess it’s not a good thing to swim at night with dead fish attached to you when there are sharks around…I didn’t think of it at the time.”
Although he believes that when it comes to travel, “the less plans, the better,” Dubé did prepare for his trip by learning Thai with Mango.
“I wanted my first trip to Asia to be a full experience. For me, to learn a language is a cultural thing. The experience is totally different when you try and immerse yourself in the culture.”
Dubé’s adventure took him outside the city where he had to use what he learned of the language to find his way.
“I took a motorcycle into the country and got a bit lost. In the little cities, they don’t speak English as well as in the touristy places so knowing some Thai saved me a lot of trouble because I could say where I was going and get help. Because I used Mango to learn Thai, it created a link with the locals also. There’s a use for us to learn a language but it’s also a basic respect to talk to someone in their own language. It’s the same as if I were in Montreal. If an American came to me and tried to speak to me after they took the time to learn French, I would enjoy helping him more because I would feel an openness with our language.”
“French is my first language but I learned Thai in English with Mango. While I was doing it I said to myself, ‘Wow, I’m starting to learn a language in another language that I don’t usually speak!’ At the end of the course, I was often thinking in English.”
For Dubé, the importance of language goes far beyond learning solely for travel but is deeply rooted in his upbringing and day-to-day life in the bilingual city of Montreal.
“Even if you don’t travel, learning languages opens your mind to other cultures. When I speak another language, I feel like I’m in that country. Every time you learn a language, there’s always a story that goes with it. I feel like I share something else with the rest of the world. There’s something special about it.”
Dubé plans to continue his culture and language adventures in India this fall, “I’m planning to spend two months in India by myself. India is a passion for me even though I’ve never been there. This summer I’m going to use Mango to learn Hindi and I am even learning their national sport! I started practicing cricket two weeks ago; I want to play with them there because that’s their sport.”
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