I thought I'd take a break from the 30 Days of Indie Travel project I've been working on to jump back to my current life. I started teaching myself Korean!
I don`t know about other travelers, but something that I've discovered about myself is that I am much more at ease traveling somewhere when I speak the language. Really the only place I've gone where I didn't speak the language at all was Turkey, and luckily I had a friend there with me to make fools of ourselves and get lost together. And I was there for four days. Usually I travel alone, though, and that can be pretty scary when you don't speak the language.
I know that going to Korea I will be greeted at the airport by someone from my school who speaks English, but I will have my own apartment, I will be in a city that's not very known to tourists and only has a few hundred English teachers among its 600,000 residents. So I'm learning Korean. As of Tuesday.
I know most of the letters of the alphabet, a doezen food words, and 20 or so other words that were used as pronunciation examples as I was learning the alphabet, like "pants," "squid," and "bridge." I have no idea how to make sentences, but I can write and pronounce the word for rice, soup, and a couple other basics, and I know how to write kimchi! So far, I'm definitely that traveler who speaks in nouns and points and plays charades. But it's been three days, so I'm not worried. Hopefully by the time I leave I'll be able to find a bathroom, ask directions, and make a bit less of a fool of myself than the average tourist!