This summer, we joined Airbnb to send two couples on a crazy trip: four cities and four languages in four days. But that wasn’t all! Aly and Scott are English native speakers who live in Budapest. Before this trip, the two had never met our second couple, Maxi and Nils, from Berlin. Will it work out? Spoiler alert: Of course it will! And that’s why we’re giving you the top four reasons why you shouldn’t travel with speakers of your own language on your next vacation.
Reason 1: Experts on your destination are already on board
If you’re traveling in a country where the local language is a popular second language (English, Spanish or French, for example), there’s a good chance that there’s an expert on the destination with you already. Traveling with an expert can be very helpful if you can’t make sense of the local metro map or want to order a snack after a wine tasting. If you’re unsure about your pronunciation, but you know that saying something in the local language will enchant the residents, you can practice with your expert travel companion first. And what’s more, a foreign-language menu is almost as dangerous as Russian roulette! Do you really want a sausage made of innards (the infamous andouillette) — or would you prefer a warm dish from the oven (hachis parmentier)? If only someone could make a recommendation!
In our travel group, Maxi used to study in the first city on the tour, Paris! So, while the other three travelers make their first attempts at communicating, Maxi helps them out by switching to French right away.
Reason 2: Your fellow travelers expand your horizons
It’s not only the cultural backgrounds of your fellow travelers that make the trip better, but also learning about their various travel experiences. Aly and Scott, for example, are travel bloggers who have discovered the craziest corners of the world and bring their unique experience to bear on the whirlwind tour. In spite of everyone’s differences, the sight of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia and its paintings is an experience that equally astonishes all four of our travelers.
Reason 3: You don’t fall into the trap of speaking your native language
We all love to talk. But when speaking a new language, we automatically speak more slowly and with more effort. Learning takes energy because our brains are working extra hard. We’re looking for vocabulary, verifying that adjectives are declined and that verbs are conjugated correctly. And that’s why we have to reformulate sentences more than once, even to say something simple. It’s no wonder we often end up speaking our native language when we are abroad. But, as you can imagine, this is counterproductive, because you don’t end up practicing your learning language and you lose your motivation. Our secret tip is to make it as difficult as possible to speak your native language, so that you’re speaking the foreign language as soon as possible. And in the end our four travelers learned to order their favorite ice cream in Italian — gelato al cioccolato, of course.
Reason 4: You defy stereotypes
The German tourist who uses a towel to reserve a lounge chair at 6:30 a.m. and wears white socks with sandals. The British tourist who always wears a hat, only speaks English — and when someone doesn’t understand just speaks English louder. It might sound familiar, but it doesn’t apply to you, right? Let’s get rid of these stereotypes! Today we live in a global world where more people travel regularly and experience a wide variety of cultures. Our identity is shaped by our diverse life experiences, and we can all adapt to different situations. Traveling is a wonderful opportunity for us to develop our minds, become more tolerant, question our habits, and perhaps abandon them. It’s not only you as a traveler who changes, but also the people you meet. When Aly and Scott master German compound words, they don’t just learn their first German words, they also prove that willingness to learn doesn’t depend on where you’re from.