Visitors should learn languages for travel


“Où est la toillete?”

“¿Dónde está el baño?”

“Where’s the loo?”

While knowing how to ask where the bathroom is when traveling to another country is important, making a bit more of an effort to know the language of the country to which you are traveling is essential to an enjoyable vacation.

Whether it is through taking a foreign language class next semester, checking a book out of the library or using Rosetta Stone, learning the language of the country you are traveling to should be a crucial part of your planning effort when planning your next vacation.

Breaking the language barrier during your trip is necessary for having the most enjoyable and smooth trip possible. Imagine being in the French Riviera in hopes of learning about their rich history, and you arrive at your destination for the day, and no one speaks English.

If you spoke French, not only would you be able to continue your planned-out day relaxing with the locals, but you would also not be stuck in a situation where you must figure out a way to get back to your hotel or to a place where you can communicate in English.

Learning the local language is more than simply a way to have a more enjoyable trip; it is also a safety precaution. We would be fooling ourselves if we thought that tourists, and specifically American tourists, were not a prime target for pickpockets, scam artists and criminals.

If you were put in a situation where you must report a theft to the local authorities, it becomes much easier and more likely that you will get your stolen items returned to you if you are able to speak the same language. Also, if you are an idealist like me, and are prone to believing that if you are attacked you can potentially talk your attacker down, it would be possible only if you speak their language.

Allow me to give you an anecdote. Last spring break, Nikki Marcotte, senior in philosophy, traveled with the K-State Concert Choir over spring break to Vienna, where she was able to utilize her knowledge of the German language with the locals.

Marcotte said they went to eat at a little pub in Vienna. Because the place did not have enough room to seat the large party, they were paired with Edith, a 93-year-old Austrian woman who didn’t look a day over 60 and didn’t know a lick of English, Marcotte said. They were able to communicate with her through Marcotte’s limited knowledge of German.

Marcotte said you could tell the woman appreciated it and ended up coming to a show the students told her about. She even bought them a round of wine “for girls only, no boys,” Marcotte said.

“It is amazing what you can learn about people and the culture if you know their language,” she said.

Another way we could disprove this misconception of Americans is by breaking the double-standard that we have in the United States. This double-standard is the belief that when we go to a foreign country, we expect the locals should be able to speak English to us.

However, when we have travelers here in the United States, we do not expect to have to speak their language. When we begin to speak their local languages, we are breaking the stereotype that we are elitist and American-centric.

With an increase in technology and international trade, we are moving into an interconnected world. Being able to communicate with people outside of our country will be crucial in the future in order to be as successful as possible and to be able to integrate into our international community.

Since enrollment for classes is just around the corner, why don’t you consider taking a foreign language class?

– Molly McGuire is a sophomore in political science and speech. Please send comments to