A friend of mine was on a short vacation in Ireland and was spending the day bicycling the length of the Aran Island of Inishmore.
The day was drawing to a close, and she was cold and tired and looking forward to a nice hot dinner back at the Pier House Hotel. But then a signpost caught her eye.
She nearly missed it—the sign was weather worn and nearly covered in brambles. But she could make out two words in the Irish language: “Dún Dúchathair.”
She checked her map. The road wasn’t even listed there.
Being a history nerd, she knew dún means “fort” so she turned off the road and made the detour up the ridge to what would be a memorable experience.
The ancient fort was built right on the edge of a cliff, with waves crashing and puffins squawking below. There was nobody else to be seen, and the ground was covered in purple-blue snail shells and little yellow flowers.
She stayed until the sun started to set, listening to the seabirds, enjoying the solitude of this majestic spot on her last day in the Aran Islands… and wondering how many people pass this place by because it’s not on the map.
Experiences like these are common when you travel with enough language sense to get around. And it feels really cool when you find something others can’t which is the same feeling that comes from understanding conversations that happen around you in another language.
When you learn a second language, you give yourself more freedom. It also means added comfort, ease of getting around, more authentic experiences and more safety.
Learning a language can seem pretty impossible, especially when you’re an adult without the luxury of daily classes. But it’s doable, and in a lot less time than you think.