When you work abroad as an English as a foreign language teacher, coming home for the occasional visit and obligatory Christmas festivities means there are a number of things to look forward to. Personally custard, gravy and drinkable tap water are pretty high up on my list, but that’s just me. Friends, family, Wetherspoons breakfast… there are all sorts of things that beckon you and make home, home.
But there are also pitfalls, things you forget about and either take for granted or that have become so instilled, you don’t realise you are doing them.
Here’s a few of mine. Play snap?
No matter how many times I come back, I always get flummoxed by the roads. Left hand lane, right hand lane… I look both ways to prevent becoming a bug stain on a car bonnet every single time. And once I tried to get on the driver’s side of a National Express coach. The driver patted his knee and asked me if I’d like to drive. Possibly not…
Yes, I should know better. But when I want to know the price of something I always find myself speaking in the language of the country from where I have just come – currently ¿Cuánto es? to check a price and perdona when I bump into someone. Which I do. A lot. Clumsy…
My first cafe visit on arriving back to England involved me trying to kiss a stranger. Not because I’m a floozy, but because I’ve just come from Spain, and the double kiss thing is part of my everyday greeting. Honest.
Someone sneezes, I say everything apart from bless you as a result of a number of different colds in a number of different cities. Thank you. Pardon. Would you mind…? Sorry. Sorry to inanimate objects like doors and trolleys. All the time. No wonder people outside of the UK have the mistaken impression that we are very, very polite.
When you first go abroad you convert everything back into pounds, but when you come back here after an extended stay away, everything is automatically put back into euros (or whatever currency you know). Which makes every shopping trip an accounting adventure.
Somewhat in the category of price checking I know, but hear me out. If you’ve gone from having a jarra of beer that is 1,50€ and you’re presented with a pint that is around £3-4, an outraged and indignant yell is likely to escape your lips without even a thought.
Lack of privacy
Families. They mean well. Of course they do. In theory. But it doesn’t matter your age or circumstances, when you return home to the ‘family nest’, you will be bombarded with questions (‘when are you settling down?’), misplaced praise (‘oh, you’re so brave to go off travelling’) or enforced schedules (‘we’ll have breakfast at 7, lunch at 1, and dinner at 7:30. And this is your itinerary for your stay.’) When you’ve been used to your own space and doing as you please when you feel like it, coming home can sometimes be a stifling experience.
Yes. People who hate their jobs and their lives will envy you. They will covet your lifestyle of devil-may-care and say things like ‘I don’t know how you do it’ whilst plucking one child from their knee while another is attached round their neck, telling you about their plans for decorating the living room and showing off their latest car. We don’t judge you for your lifestyle, settlers (well, we do, just… quietly), so why judge ours? And if you hate your job so much, leave. That’s what we did. Nothing magical.
Catching up on gossip
Even about people you don’t know. Especially about them. See, while we’ve been off living our lives, running between classrooms or students’ apartments, jumping from train to metro to bus and wondering if the GPS on our phones will ever kick in and be helpful, life has continued at home too. And somehow, even though we’ve not been told about events, we are automatically assumed to know about them. I personally blame Facebook for that.
For some people, planning a new work route is daunting, whether using a satnav, Google Maps, or an A-Z. And if you have to travel to another city for business, well. Brave new world. But when you travel a lot because of work, train stations, airports and maps no longer phase you, and neither does the prospect of getting lost. Living in another country makes you realise that getting lost is actually no bad thing, merely an unexpected adventure. After all. If Bilbo had taken the ‘correct’ path he was ‘supposed’ to, we’d never have even known of Hobbitty adventures, elven legends and secret kings. Life is in the adventure, is it not?
A moment of doubt
There is sometimes a moment. When you look around at all the people who were once a part of your daily lives, getting on and doing their thing, living a different existence, and you think… why can’t I do that? Why can’t I just stay in one place for an extended period and do the settling thing? And then the moment passes. Because settling isn’t for everyone. Mortgages, the 2.4 kids, and the family saloon in the driveway is really not for everyone. There is nothing wrong with either way of living. And after a week or two, or sometimes a day or two, the call of leaving comes screaming and you start looking longingly at planes overhead or twitching every time you pass a train station. Off you go, traveller. Time to depart again. Home (and gravy) will still be here when you get back.
Has anyone else had similar experiences when coming home from travelling? Or do you have any stories to add? We’d love to hear from you 🙂
So. You’ve decided you want to speak another language. But as we all know, learning and knowing are two very different things, so brace yourself for the bumpy road ahead…
1. The optimistic early days
Hurrah! You’re going to learn a language, and it’s going to be easy, and fun, and you’re going to be fluent before you know it. Bring it on!
2. The study hours
So, with great enthusiasm, you buy books, download apps, spend days learning verb endings…
3. The reality check
Oh. Turns out this might not be as easy as you thought.
4. The tough days
Sometimes it’ll feel like nothing’s sinking in…
5. The lazy days
The sun’s out. Who wants to sit around studying? Let’s go to the beach!
6. The doubts
What if you make a mistake and embarrass yourself?
7. The panic
Or join in a conversation and then don’t understand a word?
8. The despair
You may even feel like giving up altogether.
But don’t – because it’s about to get good!
9. The first successful conversation
When you ask someone for an ice cream – and actually get what you asked for. The right flavour and everything…
10. The quiet satisfaction
When you impress people by telling them you speak another language.
11. That smug feeling
When you see a tourist struggling, and you can be the mysterious stranger who steps in and helps them out.
12. The sense of achievement
When you talk to someone in their language and they don’t immediately realise you’re from a different country.
And let’s not forget…
13. The new places you can discover
14. The new friends you’ll make
15. It even makes you smarter.
So what are you waiting for?
Today, we’re welcoming back EuroTalk blogger Kirsty with some of the biggest benefits of learning other languages.
How has knowing more than one language helped you? Let us know in the comments!
1. It makes you cleverer
It has long been thought that learning another language, and being competent at it, indicates a high level of intelligence in individuals. Recently this has been proven, with studies on bilingual children showing they were much more developed than their peers, as well as a similar link being drawn between the results of teenagers at school and being able to speak two languages. This means your language learning is actually making you smarter!
2. It can prevent ageing and disease
People who study an additional language have also been shown to have ‘younger’ brains than would be expected for their age. Cognitive ability, or how effective your brain is at functioning, is much higher in people over sixty that can speak two languages than those who can only speak one. Essentially language learning can prevent the likelihood of forgetfulness and ‘getting slower’ in old age. Learning a second language can also make your brain more resistant to diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. A study conducted on a group of elderly people who spoke both Spanish and English demonstrated that they typically developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s much later than those who only spoke English. Who knew that learning a language might actually be able to prolong your memory and your life?
3. It allows you to explore more of the world
Alongside the multiple health benefits of language learning, speaking a second language also allows people to explore the world in a different way. Whilst anyone can visit a country it is the people who can speak the language who truly experience the culture. Basic competency in the language makes the locals more open to helping you and maybe even pointing you in the direction of the best places to visit away from the tourist hot spots. It is these ‘little gems’ that will be the part you remember most from your holiday, from the little hidden coffee shop in Rome to the underground bar in Paris.
4. It opens up new opportunities
There are six million people on earth, so why limit yourself by only speaking one language? New friends don’t just have to come from the same town, or even country, as you live in, but can come from all over the world. The easiest way to gain new friends across the world is to get a pen pal, and in the internet age you don’t even have to pay for stamps! There are lots of good websites that will set you up with a pen pal that speaks the language you’re learning, so why not put your new found language skills to use, make friends and learn even more.
What benefits of learning a second language have you discovered? Let us know!
“When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of ‘me too!’ be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe.”
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Today, we’re excited to introduce Amy, our new sales and marketing assistant. Amy’s going to be with us for the next twelve months while on her placement year from university, and she’s written today’s blog post, about why learning a language is one of the most important things you can do.
When you ask people if they can speak another language or if they would like to learn one, the response is often, ‘Why? What’s the point, everyone speaks English?’ Here at EuroTalk we want to change this perception and to show you why learning a language can be rewarding, enlightening and open up so many more opportunities.
Yes, it may be easier when visiting another country to assume they will speak English, and very often they do in the main cities and tourist areas, but what if you want to explore off the beaten track and find the soul of a country? Do you want to feel apprehensive, excluded and unable to participate, or do you want to be able to jump in with both feet, get to know local people, their customs and truly the best places to visit and eat, not just the latest Top 10! Without the ability to speak the language it is difficult to get to the heart of a country and to appreciate its people or culture in any depth, you can end up merely skimming a clichéd surface.
If you know the language, you will enjoy meeting people rather than feeling awkward and are likely to make some good friends as well, an even greater benefit if travelling alone. In life, isn’t it as much about the people you meet and the experiences you share, as where you were at the time?
Maybe you’re worried that learning a language is a bit boring? Not any more. With our app, uTalk, you learn in a fun and exciting way, no more sitting at a desk for hours at a time, dreading being asked to read out loud! No time? You can learn on your commute, whilst standing in a queue for your lunch or simply sitting on your sofa at home. Learning a language has never been easier and more accessible. No matter where your next adventure may be, make the most of it by learning the language. Remember, you never look back and regret the things you did do, just the things you didn’t. So what are you waiting for?