|Transitions Abroad Magazine May/June Vol. XXVII, NO. 6|
Back Door Travel
Program New & Notes
From the Editor
When I sat down to write this editorial, on the first warm day after a long winter, the sap was running and the snow had nearly melted. Howard Dean had won Vermont’s primary. John Kerry had been identified as the U.S. Democratic candidate. Change seemed closer.
But then came the news of the upheaval in Haiti and the rising death toll of Iraqis. And now comes the news of the bombings in Madrid. The world is mourning with Madrileños, as they did with New Yorkers three years ago.
Once again it seems it takes a tragedy for us to understand how connected our world is. A Muslim from Sydney, Australia wrote to the BBC about Madrid’s bombings. He said, “This is another sad day for humanity. My heart beats as one with the people of Spain.” Don from the U.K wrote, “I don't care what your race or religion is…this sort of atrocity will only strengthen the resolve of the majority of good people in this world to stand up against international terrorism in any of its forms.”
Like most people in the world, we Transitions Abroad travelers see ourselves as global citizens. Perhaps more than most, we are passionate about getting to know cultures and peoples. And no matter how challenging the process, the first and most rewarding step is to learn a foreign language.
Since English has become the world’s lingua franca, some may ask, "Why should I bother learning a foreign language?”
It is true that people worldwide speak English fluently and some nations even require their elementary school students to learn English (resulting in the endless demand for teachers of English). Those rare Americans who speak the language of the countries they visit not only have an advantage in communication, they also gain immediate respect. Using even basic phrases in the native language of the host country is a step in the right direction. Even if you do not plan to live or work overseas, you still enrich your visit by committing yourself to speaking the language of your host country as much as possible.
As you will discover from the articles in this issue’s Language Vacations section, attending a language school is not only highly educational, it can also be an affordable and fun way to spend time abroad. If you’ve only got two weeks, there are accelerated classes like Lee Anne Hasselbacher describes in her article on learning Spanish in Antigua (page 36). If you’re lucky enough to have a month, summer, or semester, as Roger Norum describes in his article on language study in Italy (page 30), you can consider enrolling in a long-term course, which also makes for a good entryway into an international job or career.
However you decide to go about learning a language—even if you just use language-learning books or software (see last year’s article “Teach Yourself a Language” by Nathan Crow at check out our section on “Language Schools”)—it’s not just about memorizing the rules of grammar and vocabulary. Learning a language, which is an integral part of every culture, is also about coming to a deeper cultural understanding.
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