Do I need to learn languages before traveling?

Hi Chris,

You can probably make your way through much of the world by communicating with basic English, or by simply using gestures and other signals to make yourself understood. But it’s much more satisfying when you can go beyond the basics and talk to locals in their own language. And in most European countries, you will find that they appreciate it when visitors make the effort.

Instead of hopping and jumping between many countries in a short period of time, why not get to know one or two countries particularly well? This way, you can plan to learn some of the languages, get to know some of the cultural traits, and make a deeper connection with the local way of life.

In short, it’s not crucial for you to be fluent in the language of your host country, but it can significantly enrich your experience if you plan to spend any length of time there. And it will also mean that you are able to communicate with locals rather than sticking with tourists. And don’t forget to think long-term: More languages means more professional opportunities. Regardless of what your plans are for your first trip abroad, you should have a plan to learn one or more languages for the sake of your future career.

Check out our articles (for registered users):

Best wishes,


Full question: 

My friend said that in most parts of Europe they can speak English. I am going to volunteer on farms in several European countries next summer. Do I really need to spend time learning languages?

-Chris, 23, New York City, NY