By: Felicia Meadows
One of the first things bought in preparation for a trip to another country is a guide book shortly followed by a phrase book. Most of these phrase books give you the general sayings that you might need like “Where’s the bathroom?” or “How do I get to the airport?” Sure, these sayings will help you get along okay in the country but you will miss out on an important reason for traveling to these countries, experiencing the culture.
A great example of how learning the language can help you experience the culture is popular cruise ports. Cruises are a very popular way to travel especially in the summer and one of the busiest places to visit is Cancun, Mexico. Now most of these port places will be able throw around some English because they are very popular tourist areas. However by even just learning conversational Spanish you will be able to open up so many other experiences than the usual snorkeling, shopping, and sun bathing on the beach.
Instead you would be able to haggle your way to better prices on gifts from the markets and shops which most Spanish speaking people enjoy. In some parts it is even an insult to just pay the fixed price without even trying to haggle. This haggling is a great cultural experience and when you become more open to the culture it is easier to be able to get to the less touristy parts.
Another popular cruise spot is Cozumel, Mexico. Many cruise goers tend to forget that there is so much more to Cozumel than the sparkling beaches and pricey excursions. By using the conversational Spanish that you took the time to learn you could go about the older parts of Mexico and experience the rich traditional culture it possesses. If you go in February you can even enjoy the Carnaval de Cozumel that has been a traditional celebration since the late nineteenth century. Or in late April, you can experience the historic festival of El Cedral which includes bull fights, traditional feasts, and fairs.
By taking the time to learn a language before you travel you are opening yourself up to not only a better vacation but a better cultural experience that will always stay with you. From witnessing the religion steeped into the festivals of Mexico to haggling a lower price on gifts, learning the language will give you a much more fun vacation as well as an exciting tale to be told to your friends.
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