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Surf Travel Reports

Learning Languages For Surf Travel

One of the best things about surfing is the ability to travel – and the fact that the hunt for perfect uncrowded waves often includes a trip to a new and different place.  Many of these places that you’ll go will involve a different language or culture – one of the most fun and challenging things about surf travel.  Since surf is being found literally all over the world, we are looking beyond the usual spots to some really far flung locations, such as China, Japan, Norway, and even Antarctica.

Traveling to new countries involves learning at least a little bit of the local language.  Depending on how much effort you want to put in, you can learn a few basic words or you can attempt to learn a lot and have a few conversations with the locals.  If you’re looking to do a bit more and delve into a language more deeply either because you’re planning a trip or you go to a certain place often, there are a few options.


Many community colleges offer language classes.  This is probably the best way to learn a new language – it keeps you accountable, and the interaction with other students and a teacher will help your pronunciation immensely.  Since learning a language is a difficult prospect and takes time and dedication, joining a class can definitely help you stay accountable.


You can also hire a tutor in the language that you want to learn.  You can post an ad in the classifieds looking for people who might want to earn a bit of extra money in exchange for lessons in the language of your choice.  The more obscure the language, the harder it might be to find a tutor, depending on where you live.  However it’s worth a shot!  Tutors can be great because of the one on one attention that you’ll be getting.  It’s also a great way to delve into conversational learning right away – which is probably one of the best ways to learn a new language.


If you don’t have a lot of time and money, then learn at home computer language software can really be helpful and useful.  There are a plethora of language learning options out there, from the free-to-use Duolingo to the more advanced Rosetta Stone software.  I really like Duolingo a lot – I started to randomly learn Swedish one day because I like Swedish cinema (random, I know) and I want to travel there one day, and it really seemed to stick.  It’s free, so you have nothing to lose!  Another great program is the Rocket Languages software–I used Rocket Spanish before I went to Mexico to supplement the college classes I had taken a few years prior.

Other Stuff

Despite the fact that you need a bit of a structured course in order to learn a language, you can supplement your learning in fun ways such as seeing foreign language movies, getting magazines and books in the language you’re learning, perusing foreign language websites and newspapers, and much more.  You can get as creative as you want with it.


There are obviously a lot of advantages of learning a bit of the local language before a surf trip.  It makes you a bit safer because you can effectively read street signs, maps, and ask for help if you need it.  It makes life a lot easier in terms of ordering food or getting directions.  And it also impresses the locals – rather than expecting them to speak English, it’s only polite to try to speak their language instead.  Chances are they probably know a bit of English but they will definitely respect you for trying to speak their native language.


Hayley Gordon

Hayley Gordon has been surfing for over 20 years. Riding both shortboards and longboards, she's traveled the world to surf but mainly sticks to her two home locations of San Diego and Long Island.

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