Travel Tuesday: Lost in Translation

Oct 18, 2011 4:30:12 AM / by Mango Languages

Today's post comes from an avid Mango user, Betsy Talbot. Betsy and her husband Warren quit their jobs and sold everything they owned to travel the world in 2010. Their new digital guide Dream Save Do: The Step-by-Step Blueprint for Amassing the Cash to Live Your Dream does just what it says. You can learn more about living the good life at their blog, Married with Luggage.

When we first started planning our round-the-world adventure three years ago, we knew the key to saving the money and actually taking off was to act on our plan right away, even though we didn't have all the answers. We made mistakes, but mostly we learned and moved closer to our goal, reaching it faster than we imagined possible.

We've now been traveling for one year, and we've discovered that learning a new language requires the same level of action and fearlessness about making mistakes.

Traveling can expand your knowledge, give you a different perspective, and allow you to appreciate the beauty and diversity in the world around you. It can make you feel really smart when you figure something out, engage with people very different from you, or test yourself in ways you never could back home.

Traveling can also make you feel like an idiot, cobbling together sentences like a toddler, and using your hands and facial expressions to get your meaning across. Worse yet, using the wrong word, or the wrong tone with the word, can change the meaning entirely, possibly insulting your new friend or making him laugh hysterically.

  • You wanted an egg for breakfast, but you asked for a whole chicken (Thai).
  • Instead of telling your new friend you are married, you instead say you are tired (Spanish).
  • Not understanding measurements or numbers in the language might get you a full bottle of wine instead of the small carafe - and the bill that goes along with it (French).

Many people hesitate when trying out their new language skills on a trip, fearing they will make a mistake. We have made these and many more, and what we've found is that people are generally delighted when you try to speak their language, even if you do it poorly.

As we immerse ourselves in a new culture, we stumble along like 2-year-olds, receiving correction from the locals and repeating the words back to them until we get it right. It is embarrassing at first, but it often turns into a way to better know the people and customs of an area.

We use Mango Languages to help us prepare for arriving in a new country. We can't always learn the language, but we can always learn the basic words to get by - please, thank you, may I have, where is, excuse me, hello, goodbye. If you make an effort to be part of the local culture, the local people will be much more inclined to interact with you, even if they speak English.

So don't wait. Take your language lessons before you go, and then dive right in when you get there. Sure, you'll mess up, but you'll also learn a lot and possibly even make a new friend.

And don't forget to learn to say "I'm sorry" in the local language, just in case you accidentally tell someone you are going to kill him. (Spanish)

Have you ever had an experience where something you or someone else said was completely lost in translation? Tell us about it!

Topics: Language Learning and Culture, Mango News

Mango Languages

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