Languages have always fascinated me. I’ve never been one of those people who’s embarrassed to have a go. Who cares, when you’re a beginner, if it’s ‘der’, ‘die’ or ‘das’, ‘le’ or ‘la’? Just plunge in.

I remember on my first trip to France trying to play charades in a corner shop and, in my best schoolboy French saying (sort of) “you put in your mouth and chew”.  The lady behind the counter looked at me and gave me the correct French words for the object I was searching for. “Ah, le chewing gum!”

As a frequent traveller I have learned one eternal truth: you get a lot more out of a trip if you can master even just the basics of a language. Hello, goodbye, thank you, excuse me, please, where, one, two, three, four, five, water, beer.  Those stood me in good stead in Iran. (Well, not beer).

And arm movements go a long way too. I’ve booked train tickets in Poland due entirely to the joy of charades, but it would have been so much easier if I’d just been able to say “a one way to Krakow, second class, on the 9am express tomorrow please.”

So, now I’m taking the plunge in German with Rosetta Stone. By the end of this course I don’t expect to be chatting about the intricacies of Nietzsche with the locals in a bar in Cologne, but it would be nice to be on holiday and go slightly beyond a basic “yes, the sun, it is hot, no?” So let’s see. Here we go!

Brazil beach

Will Hide is a journalist who spent 12 years on the travel desk of the Times. He now writes for a wide range of publications including the Financial Times, Travel & Leisure and British Airways High Life. He also shares his travel adventures on his blog, Been There Done It or follow him on Twitter. He last learned German at school in Yorkshire a long, long time ago and is now picking it up again with Rosetta Stone!

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