|While some who travel, really aren't travellers, other ...|
The second house I lived in Cuernavaca was a 10 minute walk from downtown. Right across the road was one of the many little convenience stores that people here open in the front part of their homes.
The owner had never travelled far beyond the area directly surrounding Mexico City. His family - a son, daughter-in-law and 2 grandsons - were just like any Mexican family.
But this shop owner knew English, French and German. He had practiced some English with Americans he knew in Mexico City. German and French he had learned from those do-it-your-self language kits that everyone buys and no one really uses. The amazing part was that he actually knew German and French quite well, well enough to get by in either of those countries.
I was amazed by this. So many expats hardly learn the language of the country they're living in, especially if their spouse speaks their language. When people don't have a compelling need to learn a new language (work, pay raise, a potential girlfriend, etc.) they usually give up their efforts pretty quickly, and are satisfied with a handful of poorly spoken phrases mixed with English - just enough to get what you want.
This guy learned 3 foreign languages, on his own, without any daily motivation to do so!
Also amazing is that he never travelled, or at least worked in tourism to put these languages into use. Next time I go back to Cuernavaca I'll go back to that shop to see if he's still there.
I'm really hoping to get news that he's packed up and left for Paris, or something like that ...
For posts about expats, read:
Interesting Expats Part 1 - The Priest
Interesting Expats Part 2 - The Drunk "Dentist"
What is an "Expat"?