Common Ground Travel

The Beauty of Language Learning

As you might have guessed, we at CGT are super passionate about language learning. Without learning a few foreign tongues, we might never have travelled to all the weird and wonderful places we have.

Let’s talk about why language learning is so awesome, particularly in the context of travel.

Language Learning Opens Your Mind

Our native tongue restricts our mind to running on one familiar track. Since it’s built on particular patterns and exposes us to a unique combination of vocabulary, it has us think, behave and view the world in a certain way.

English is the world’s dominant language at this time, meaning it has a disproportionate influence on our psychology compared to other languages. This has positive and negative consequences.

By learning a foreign language, you break this native-tongue bias and become used to forming different structures and using a distinct set of words and phrases.

Over time, this impacts your behaviour and thought, releasing you from the cage of your native language. What’s more, your mind is more open to further learning experiences. It sets off a positive feedback loop that you can potentially exploit forever.

Truly Immerse Yourself in the Culture

Have you ever travelled to a foreign country and felt like you didn’t fit in? We at CGT certainly have. This is only exacerbated when you don’t speak the native tongue. You’re forced to make do with pointing, or hoping that those you interact with will understand basic English.

We’ve found that knowing the native language helps you easily slide into the culture, just like a shoehorn helps your foot slide into your shoe. The natives interact with you authentically. You can read and listen to what’s around you without the distortion of translation. You can act like one of them, which inevitably affects your travel experience.

You don’t feel like an intruder who has come to pry on the locals as though they were animals in a zoo, but more like an explorer or adventurer, deep in the jungle, soaking in the unique traits of the culture. Your mind switches away from its usual mode of operation, and the whole experience shifts.

The Language Learning Process Shapes You

Though they’re becoming wonderfully effective, one thing that automatic translators and interpretation machines will never be able to replace is the transformation you experience when you learn a new language.

Let’s be honest: mastering a foreign tongue is difficult, particularly if you grew up in a heavily monolingual environment or have never before reached a significant level in one. Though it’s challenging, you’re richly rewarded. Not only do you learn the language, but you change. You surrender your previous knowledge and enter beginner’s mind. You become more resilient. You learn new ways of thinking.

This is especially true once you begin regularly talking to native speakers. It almost feels like the transition from childhood to adulthood. You go from being insufficient, clumsy and inferior to being on par with those around you, whose ways you adopt and learn. It’s a sculpting of your character and mind.

It’s crucial to keep this in mind as you’re going through the sculpting process, particularly its early phases. Know you’ll be richly rewarded with new skills, a new character, and a new mentality you can use to face any of life’s challenges.

My Experience

In my case, I can’t imagine my life without my foreign-language abilities. I’m in constant contact with other cultures through family ties and travel experiences. I wouldn’t know my relatives as I do. I wouldn’t know other cultures as I do. And I wouldn’t have had all the life-altering, mind-expanding experiences I’ve had. I look back and am so thankful for my persistence and for my ongoing desire to expand my linguistic repertoire.