One of the most important things when travelling is to make sure you know something about the local language.
First of all, there is a practical reason to state this. This is because we all need to feel ready to handle an unexpected situation or ask for help to some locals if we need it. Usually, we memorize some common sentences to make us understandable in the languages that are most different from ours. For example, when we went to Japan we carried all the time a little notebook with some Japanese idioms in it to use them in case some local did not understand English. It proved to be very useful, especially when travelling around by public transport!
However, there is also a cultural motive to learn a little bit of the country’s local tongue before travelling: to enjoy your trip better. Language is meant to unite people and express national feelings that may have their origin in historical events. Knowing about a country’s way of speech is necessary to understand its tradition and culture. For instance, there are some words in each language that are impossible to translate and that can tell a lot about the people that use them.
This topic came up when we visited Paris and we met some local friends. They explained us the meaning of some French words they were unable to translate directly. This is the case of “l’esprit de l’escalier” -referring to the ability a person has to be witty in his answers but when it’s too late- or “faire du lèche-vitrine” -its literal translation is ‘to lick the window’ but it means ‘to go window-shopping’-.
As we’ve seen, French culture is rich in this curious phenomenon. That is why if you are planning a trip to France in you early future, we recommend you to learn some French. Learn it fast or just write down some words and phrases and take them with you!