Traveling is a great opportunity to engage with a second language at every turn. I was reminded of this on a recent trip, when I read a very similar sign to the one below.


Amid the rush of going through security check points, reaching your gate in time and finding comfort and peace of mind in your seat, you might miss some wonderful opportunities to engage with the language around you, and make the time inside the plane, train, airport, station, hotel or final destination an opportunity.

Having this awareness is specially important when you are traveling with kids. Pointing their attention toward discoveries, and encouraging them to learn while sitting in a constricted space, for what seems like an awful long time, can be a lifesaver.

How to incorporate this bilingual activity into your trip?

  • Plan ahead: Kids should take their writing tools with them (journal, pens, pencils)
  • Practice Observation: Encourage your kids to look around and find any surface with written instructions. (written signs, safety brochures, magazines) This is a good opportunity to encourage them to pay attention to the verbal instructions given by the crew and the safety regulations’ video before take off.
  • Reading opportunities: Signs, brochures, magazines or news papers, and of course the subtitles on safety regulations and welcoming video.
  • Writing opportunities: Copying words and sentences from those signs and reading materials, with their proper translations, on their travel journal. Writing down new words and looking for their meaning.
  • Engage with people: Greet the crew, taxi driver and people inside stores and other places you visit during the trip. Ask questions to the people you meet about words you hear, what they mean and share your word/meaning with them.

When we travel we shouldn’t just come home with pictures and souvenirs, we should come with a wide array of experiences, cultural awareness and verbal expressions. This can only happen when we find the nuances of our surrounding and live in the present moment. Then, and only then, can we catch a glimpse of the flavor of a culture, its people and their language. Then, an only then, the limited and transitional space within a plan, a train or a taxi can become its own unique world of bilingual adventures.

What new word did your family learn in your last trip?



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