Language Books for Backpacking Travel

FAQ : Should I Learn the Languages Before Travelling?

There is something fantastic about being on a bus or a train and not having a clue what everyone else is talking about.  I well remember the one and only time I set foot in Italy a few years back. The only words of Italian I knew were the ones which we use in English (latte, lasagna, tutti frutti and so on).

Backpacker looking at a travel language guide...

Backpacker looking at a travel language guide…

Sadly those words are only of limited use to a holidaymaker who doesn’t intend spending all day eating and drinking. The day I tried to buy a ticket on the Rome underground was interesting, as I simply repeated a couple of random words I had read on the wall there and caused complete confusion. It didn’t embarrass me at all but things have changed since then.

Now I travel to Portugal with my family every year and I am starting to learn a little bit of Portuguese. I know it is a popular country with British tourists but I have also discovered that it is easy to get off the beaten track and see some of the real culture of the place. This has left me with a thirst for more knowledge about the country and its culture. Sadly my current level of Portuguese is well short of letting me converse with anyone so I decided to work out whether it is worth my while studying it in earnest before my next holiday.

The Time It Takes

The biggest problem with learning a new language is that it takes so blooming long to do it. I realise there are no short cuts but I just wish that I could magically wake up one day and know all of the grammatical rules without all those hours of studying. I guess it gets easier once you get to a certain level and can build in this but at the start it seems like a long, hard road.

The Fun You Can Have

A friend learned Spanish recently and he told me that I should make the learning as much fun as possible. He said that listening to music, watching films and even surfing the internet in the language you want to learn is a good idea. I had never thought of studying as being fun but I guess I could learn some jokes in Portuguese and watch more of the local telly when I go across there.

The Difference It Makes

One example of why I want to learn the Portuguese language comes from when I went there to stay in a nice hotel last year and went further afield to explore the area one day. I came across an old man selling craft items and I would have loved to have been able to speak with him and ask him about his life and his work.  As it was I could only nod at his beautifully crafted items and say that they were nice, and I don’t think he really understood me anyway.  If I can get comfortable enough to speak the language reasonably well it will help me soak up some of the local culture and really feel at home.

My Decision

I intend to take my summer holidays in Portugal for as long as my wallet and my legs allow me to, and I hope that to be an extremely long time. I don’t want to be going there in 20 years time and still not knowing more than a few words –how embarrassing would that be? This means that I really need to make the effort to do this no matter how long it takes or how difficult it might be. Of course I am hoping that I can also get some fun out of it anyway.

You don’t need to learn the language to enjoy a great stay in Quinta do Lago but it is another option for regular visitors.

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  • Marcia Hester Says

    I hate when I’m traveling and some dumb backpacker slowly and loudly speaks in English to a local like that would help! Very rude.

  • Disrae Says

    im joining the military, and im gonna travel. what languages can you recommend i learn?

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