Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Travelling, Language and Manners...

I'm leaving in a few days for a holiday in the UK and Europe.  I can't wait!  Having finished my end of financial year "necessities" a few hours ago, my mind is already moving towards the northern hemisphere, warmer weather, a very special friend...and language.

I have been having some interesting conversations with fellow Aussies - family and others - about languages.  There is an increasingly strong policy move in Australia towards mandatory second language tuition in schools. We are very monolinguistic here.  Few opportunities to speak, or hear, a second language, day to day, make it a fairly natural situation. But it's very frustrating when travelling.

I have been studying French informally now for a couple of years, and I love it - the mental stimulation, the ability to listen to the French news without subtitles, and "get" most of the stories; the recognition of dialogue in French movies while  trying to blank out the subtitles...and the speaking with an appallingly Aussie accent.

Without language knowledge,  travel looses so much of its gloss.  The understanding of the  subtleties of culture and manners necessitate some language skills.  As does a respect for the people of the country being visited.

So, while I know I will have intense moments of frustration during my holiday, I am still looking forward to the opportunity of making a fool of myself, hopefully not too often, when speaking and basking in the cadence of words other than English.


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