Some years ago, I went to Lithuania for a seminar on web technologies. The city where the seminar took place was Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania. I knew the seminar would be in Esperanto, but I don’t like to visit a country without knowing a bit of the language, so I learned some Lithuanian before setting out, maybe 200 words. From the moment I set foot in Kaunas airport until the last day of the seminar I didn’t use a single word that I had learned, because I was always with other participants of the seminar. On the last day, they explained to me which bus I had to take to the airport and how to find the bus stop. Except when I arrived at the stop, I found that there was construction work going on and the busses couldn’t go there. What next?
I tried to talk to locals in order to ask them how to get to the airport. I tried English, German, French, but nobody understood me. Maybe they would have understood Russian, but I had never studied Russian. Finally, I used the few words of Lithuanian that I knew in order to make them understand that I was looking for the bus to the airport. I did not understand their answers, but I was able to follow their gestures. By using phrases like “To the airport?” (in Lithuanian), I was able to first find the bus stop, identify the right bus and arrive at the airport in time for my flight. These few words of Lithuanian saved me a lot of money, because otherwise I would have had to buy another flight ticket. That’s why I recommend anyone to study a bit of the local language before embarking on a trip abroad. One cannot expect that others will have studied foreign languages and that they will speak them well enough to be able to help.