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Along my eleven month journey I will pass through nine language zones. Kicking off with the Indian Hindi, it so far hasn’t been much of a leap to the similar Nepalese. After that there will be Malay, Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese in quick succession, followed by Japanese. The icing on this linguistic cake will be Mandarin, which I will need to brush up on for my residency in China. If you’re counting, the ninth is English; by far the most common language along my itinerary.

But there’s more. The traveller’s path is awash with language. Ich habe oft ein bischen Deutsch geschprachen, and have met people from The Netherlands, Portugal, France, Belgium, Italy, Sweeden, USA, Oz and NZ. Even Aussie language can seen alien – ‘singlet’ and ‘bikeies’ both confused me, and ‘thongs’ (flip flops) provided a frequent source of amusement.

Personally, I have found this cacophony of speech liberating and enjoyable, yet there is good reason for my positive experience; I am never forced to stray from English. As an English speaker there exists a constant safety net. Failure to explain oneself in any foreign tounge is easily remedied by a return to seemingly-universal English.

For those not so lucky as myself, learning English appears to be the ultimate world passport. One travelling companion, Evelien Mertens, combines her first solo forays into the world outside her home – The Netherlands – with her first immersion in the English language. Although impressively confident to begin with, time has made chatting a breeze for her. The immersion is so absolute that, when talking to friends and family at home, Evelien now discovers difficulty in translating her English-filtered memories into Dutch storytelling.

Although Evelien’s challenge is not necessary for me, I do feel free to dabble in language. To dabble in language as a collective, rather than in individual systems.

Travelling from place to place with person to person, there are always new words to speak and ways to think. For me at this time, this extends only so far, but I feel confident now that travel and time will unravel ever more joyous tounges.

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