In this day and age, English will get you far…But not always far enough. If you’re planning a RTW ride, which are the most useful languages to learn, or at least get a few phrases memorized (apart from the motorcycle language, that is)? It depends on where you’re going and whether you’ve got a knack for learning languages quickly, but for me, here’s what has been the most useful so far:
Easily one of the most useful languages you can learn – and also an easy one to study – Spanish is an obvious one if you’re heading for Central and South America, sure; but Spanish can help you in Europe, too, especially if you’re at least on a conversational level. A Latin-based language, Spanish can also help you understand Portuguese, Italian, and French, which comes in handy in Europe and Africa.
Planning to travel to Central Asia, Mongolia, and Russia? Learn at least a few Russian phrases to help you along the way. It’s not the easiest language to master, but if you know at least some basic words and phrases (including swearwords – those are always a source of entertainment), the locals will appreciate the effort and will be more likely to warm up to you and help you out. Pro tip: if you can’t understand a word they’re saying, just say “Tolstoy” and offer a smile and a thumbs up.
German or French?
I had some German at school, so for me, it’s an easy choice; at the same time, oddly enough, German has been a lot more useful than French simply because Germans are…everywhere. This is a nation that loves to travel, so knowing a little bit of German will help wherever you go. French will come in handy in lots of places around Africa as well as the North-Eastern countries in South America.
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