Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

Winston Aldworth: Learning languages

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Our monolingualism limits our interactions when travelling.

Having a crack at a foreign language is great fun and adds to your travel experience. Photo / iStock
Having a crack at a foreign language is great fun and adds to your travel experience. Photo / iStock

On paper we're a bilingual nation, but for the vast majority of the population - myself included - only one of those languages trips off the tongue with any ease.

Our monolingualism limits our interactions when travelling too. Kiwi travellers should make a better effort to learn a little bit of the language of the country they're visiting. As my English-Welsh mate Jo (who speaks a heap of European languages) says: "It's useful, it smooths transactions with people and it ingratiates you to locals, who really appreciate it."

In Spain, you'll see lots of Brits too ignorant to learn a little Espanol, when a little bit of effort can make all the difference between great service and disdain. Likewise Kiwis in Fiji who can't manage much more than a basic "bula".

With the Rio Olympics kicking off and Air New Zealand's new Buenos Aires service underway, South America will be booming on the radar for Kiwi travellers over the next year or so. Tucking away a couple of Spanish and Portuguese phrases could be a major help.

France, of course, is the classic. In Paris, a little "merci beaucoup, un cafe s'il vous plait" can make the difference between a great cuppa with a view of the Eiffel Tower and a cold saucer of spilt java served with a Gallic shrug.

Having a crack at a foreign language is great fun and adds to your travel experience. There are lots of sites online where the novice can get useable language skills with a few hours effort.

More than anything, locals will appreciate your effort. Ask them for help. Even that surly Parisian waiter is likely to lend a hand.

- NZ Herald

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Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

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