…to be honest I wish I could write this post in Spanish to prove that I’ve learned some things in Colombia other than „Si, yo soy de Alamania, pero mi madre está de Korea…“ or „No tengo un novio, por que?“
How far can you get when you only now the simple self-thought phrases like „Quiero un cerverza, por favor“ or „muchas gracias, hasta lluego“? It depends and it’s up to you is the masterful answer.
From my experience I definitely know it helps to know the numbers from 1-100 (1-20 taught by my Russian born bootcamp-coach only days before my departure), to know how to say „Perdon, no entiendo – puedo repetir un poco despacio por favor“ (taught to me by a Mexican guy I met in Cali) and always being friendly (taught to me by life, I guess). A language app for your smartphone or tablet might be helpful, a little pocket dictionary as well and a pen and a paper to take notes a long the way because you pick up so many things that you shouldn’t forget. Asking helps and is a fun way to get to know a place and people!
99% of travelers I’ve met made an effort of speaking with the locals in their language: Spanish. Only a few wouldn’t even try these little things because they knew they would get their way by either pointing at things or speaking verrrrry slooooowly in English. Because in their narrow-minded heads English must be spoken and understood anywhere in the world. And no, these people where not from the States, Canada the UK or Australia…one for instance was from a tiny western European country. No gusto el chico.
Of course some people are natural talents when it comes to learning a new language, others only think in mathematical formulas or don’t think at all. But it doesn’t make sense to me if you consider yourself a traveler, a person who likes to discover other places and cultures, meaning that you are open-minded, curious, not afraid, that you wouldn’t even try to speak a few words of the language that is spoken in your travel country. I thought colonial times were over.
Despite not having taken a Spanish class yet I got to improve my very basic Spanish skills in only two months. In the beginning I used to say „No hablo Espagnol“, in the end I chose to be more confident and say „Si, entiendo un poco Espagnol“ – can you imagine what a different that made? I remember my first real conversation in Spanish and could still high-five myself for that despite lack of grammar and limited vocabulary. But Angelica and I spoke about the bumpy road we were driving on, work, the coffee farms and all the families living in the area. I felt very proud and ever since that day I know that Colombians are warm people that treat you like one of them when you meet them at eye-level.
So, I ask again: How far do you get, when you only know a few things and when you don’t behave like a dumb-ass gringo but instead embrace the Colombian culture of street food, tranquilo and much more? You can get pretty far!
Traveling means discovering not conquering! Keep that in mind next time you travel. Por favor!