Language and tourism have an essential interconnection following the movement of tourists to destinations across borders. This interconnection is yielded by the remarkable encounters amongst people who speak different languages. The world takes an honorable moment to commemorate The International Mother Language day 2022, on 21st February on the theme “Using technology for multilingual learning; challenges and opportunities”. Such commemorations as this present an opportunity to appreciate the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. One of the 10 principles highlighted in the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism focuses on tourism’s contribution to mutual understanding and respect between people and societies. This mandate presents a feature of responsible tourism considered to work towards preserving the differences in cultures and languages that foster peace, tolerance, and respect for others.
Over the years, various platforms and avenues have come up for learning different languages. They include but are not limited to Ablo, Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, FluentU, Tandem among others. They offer opportunities to learn some of the widely spoken languages. These exist as websites, mobile applications, and video platforms. Offered in different price packages, they use varying degrees of interactivity to keep the learner engaged. Language learning through technology can also be spotted in the entertainment industry through music, film and digital shows. The availability of captions in these media helps consumers get the information being passed while remaining in contact with the original sounds and nuances of the foreign language. There are over 6000 recorded languages in the world. Some of them are on the verge of being forgotten while others are changing dynamically. There is an opportunity for people to share more about the lesser-known languages.
Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way. Any mother language forms a substantial part of an ethnic group’s culture. Carried within them are attitudes, values, perspectives and so much more. Mother tongues are a part of creating the attractive ambiance of a destination. While staff in the hospitality and tourism industry learn and use foreign languages to connect with the guests and make them comfortable, it is also important that they hold on to their mother language. They can enrich the guests’ experience by teaching them a few words and phrases in the local dialect to influence ease of interaction with host communities.
Institutions of higher learning providing Hospitality and Tourism courses offer and encourage foreign language units. This gives the students a competitive edge by being multilingual. Multilingualism and tourism go hand in hand. This is because tourism activities imply encounters with different people from different cultures. The more languages are spoken by the staff, say in a destination, the more they can make their guests unique and organic experiences. Often left out is the language of the minority catering to the blind and deaf. With technology, learning languages such as the International Sign Language has become much easier and more flexible. Destinations should take advantage of this and give training to their staff in order to better cater for the needs of the special clients.