Learning an Asian language

Can be both hard and easy

Speaking a bit of the local language can be a great way to get more from your holiday, and nowhere is this truer than in Southeast Asia. Despite the masses of travellers the region has been receiving for years, very few bother to learn much of the language at all. It's true these are some of the world's more challenging languages, but if you try your hand at them, you'll be surprised at just what a warm response you'll receive.

While many local students study English at school, the level they leave with is often rudimentary at best, while very few foreign travellers study any Khmer, Lao, Thai or Vietnamese whatsoever at school, so it's not at all unusual to come up against language barriers over and over again while travelling. The simplest way to get around this kind of problem, not surprisingly, is to learn some of the local language.

It's not as difficult as you may think to pick up the basics, and, as with any language, once you've got the basics down, the more you use it the more you'll learn.

Unless you're planning a long stint in the region, undertaking a formal course in-country isn't always practical, so it's a good idea to warm up the foreign-language section of your brain before departure. Rest assured, if you arrive in the region being able to exchange pleasantries and count from one to 20, you'll be way ahead of the pack!

So keeping in mind you want to get to a basic conversational level, and won't be bothered if you're unable to discuss the intricacies of border demarcation disputes, the best place to start is with some free online downloads.

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