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When you are a traveller one of the biggest issues you have to deal with is how to conceal your passion for travelling with the need for money to afford such a lifestyle. Although life on the road can be relatively cheap compared to an ordinary one, the challenge of finding a job that gives you, not only the resources but also the mobility to wander in new lands, can be quite tricky to overcome.
For us English speaking travellers, getting a Tefl certification that allows us to teach the English language abroad has already become the norm and the easiest/quickest way to conquer the world, since the second most spoken language in the planet is also the first choice of the second language for people from all over the world. I hold a Tefl certification myself and I can certainly confirm how handy that is. Although the advice is to have one, there are English teaching jobs that don’t require a Tefl certificate.
Whilst being able to make money abroad represents a huge deal for the helpless wanderers out there, what most of them don’t realise is that the REAL reward is not actually teaching your language to people, but learning theirs: if a penny saved is a penny earned, this is definitely the way you can make the most of your income. I’m not talking about proficiency here, I’m talking about key phrases. Pure and simple.
The sad fact is: English speakers, especially the native ones are usually what I call “linguistically spoilt rotten”, and if you’re one of them, you know exactly what I’m talking about. No matter where you go, you will always find some soul that will make the effort to speak English with you, which will make you think, consciously or not, that you actually don’t need to make the same effort to learn another language.
There is no doubt that speaking English is very convenient and by all means necessary. However, a traveller who restricts his communication skills to the universal language is actually paying what the language expert Benny Lewis calls the “tourist tax”: bilingual staff cost more in any part of the world and so do translation services. By staying and eating in tourist-friendly establishments you will probably have those extra costs also included in your bill. But those are just the direct costs. Indirect costs can be far more interesting.
I’m a polyglot myself and I’ve lost the count of how much money I’ve saved in my travels just because I spoke the language or at least made an effort to do so. Like when my boyfriend left his cell phone in a taxi in Argentina. If I had called the taxi company and spoken English with the attendant, he would have never seen his phone again. However, when I spoke Spanish, I immediately won the attendant’s sympathy and she felt more willing to help us. The couple of hundreds he would have spent buying a new phone had a much better destination.
My current boyfriend is a vegetarian and as much as I’m empathetic to his choice, sometimes when we’re travelling it’s a real pain to go out for a meal because we cannot simply choose a random place to get in and eat, we always have to check the menu first to see whether veggie options are offered or not. I’ll probably be a bit cocky here, but without my linguistic efforts, my poor vegetarian boyfriend would have been confined in a touristy culinary circle, without actually tasting the real flavour of both Sardinian and Brazilian food. Yes, because the real bargains are never at the touristy places (although they always have veggie options), but where the locals are - and with local prices. And you cannot get there by only speaking English I’m afraid.
If you haven’t already used Transferwise, then do. I’m not quite sure how it can be so cheap to exchange and send money, pretty much instantaneously, but it is. If you travel a lot I imagine you’ll be needing this service – you’re welcome!
I could give endless examples of how language learning can turn simple trips into much better cultural experiences with the plus of not spending any extra for it. When you make the effort to speak to people in their own language instead of expecting them to speak to you in yours, amazing things happen and a whole new world of possibilities opens up right in front of you.
You can read more about Talita's adventures in her blog. at: http://talitaswanderlust.com/
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