This post might seem early but completing this task will probably take the most time. Since we plan to base ourselves in each country for at least a month, it makes sense to know some language basics before we go.
During my solo backpacking life, I used to ensure I knew the language basics before disembarking. Phrases like hello and goodbye, counting up to 100, the days of the week, directions and how to book a hotel room were something I would normally invest a couple hours learning. Something happened the last few years where this fell by the wayside. I attribute this to staying in western style hotels where English is often enough to get by in that setting. For this upcoming trip I think it is important to get back to our traveling roots and spend the time to engage with locals in their language. The most basic reason is that it really is the polite and respectful thing to do. The benefit for us in the long term is that any language basics we acquire should make each stay a little bit more stress free. We know we will get in some jams. Knowing the language might help us make the right decision at a critical time.
Our ambition is to have a very basic understanding of the following languages before we disembark.
French – To level set, Paige and I both took French throughout school. I am going to say that Paige is fully bilingual in this regard. My French is far rustier but I can get by. A couple weeks in a French speaking region and it should come back to me easily. Isabella has French once a week at school.
Italian – Even though I am 3/4 Italian, I never learned it as a child. I learnt some basic phrases during my first trip abroad. This is one I look forward to learning again with my kids
Spanish – Paige currently has some basic skills through a course or two in school. Like Spanish, the kids will enjoy this one.
Portuguese – We are starting from scratch on this one.
Mandarin – Paige and I both always wanted to learn as we thought at some point our careers might end up in China. This will involve the most heavy lifting.
With 800+ days still to go there is no excuse to not get this one completed. I have yet to determine the best way to go about this but so for the last week I have been using two apps on my phone. I have started the Italian basics on both Duolingo and Rosetta Stone. Much more to do on this front but another start has been made.