Thursday, January 27, 2011

Interesting Expats part 3 - A traveller who never travelled ...

While some who travel, really aren't travellers, other ...
This one is not really about an expat, but someone who probably should have been an expat - i.e. live in a different country.

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"?

1 comment:

  1. One of my siblings, the one that send me the link to your blog. He studies several languages. I have always wonder what for. I really hope one day he travels and uses all of those languages ,or maybe write a book and be able to check if the translation for each language is correct :). Learning languages was never my best . It was difficult for me to learn English and when I thought I had learned it I discover I just knew how to speak about engineering stuff and here I am learning about how to speak about kiddy things and sickness and ton of things I never learn the vocabulary until now.. :)