Applying to work with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International (Doctors without Borders), gives me the opportunity to:
do the things I love, travel & give back
to grow personally & professionally by pushing me to live out of my comfort zone
be motivated to learn new languages
Last year I learned Burmese phrases for my 1st Assignment to Myanmar in hopes to better communicate & connect with the people there. This time Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country, with over 820 indigenous languages, representing 12% of the world's total, but most have fewer than 1,000 speakers.
Knowing how to speak a second (or a third, fourth…) language is a gift. Not only will this make you feel more welcome from the locals, it might bring you opportunities that you’d never thought could befall to you, and it will enrich your life by offering you a deeper understanding of the culture and history of the people you’ll encounter.
Learning a foreign language and getting soaked into an entirely new culture and world view is the surest way to become an open-minded, understanding individual, and that is, I would argue, absolutely priceless. Once you are aware of the fact that we are all cultural beings, products of our own environments, and that you recognize the cultural base for your own attitudes and behavior, you are ready to consider others in a more favorable light. Seeing the world from a different perspective, and understanding where you and others come from, is a fantastic, eye-opening experience.
Music, movies, food, literature, poetry, theatre, fine arts: the list of fabulous things that culture brings to our lives is endless. You might have heard that language and culture are two sides of the same coin: I would tend to agree with this.
One of my personal favorites, discovering a new culture is an immensely enriching experience intricately tied to the knowledge of a foreign language. Of course, you can learn a particular geography’s culture without knowing the language, but you can’t feel it fully without throwing yourself in, and that begins with the language.
There are four official languages for Papua New Guinea: English, "sign language”, Tok Pisin, and Hiri Moto. Although English, I was told is widely used in PNG, I decided to learn PNG sign language!! Not to mention some Creole phrases.
Travel is not just about taking pretty pictures and posting them on social media or spending a week in a 5-start all-inclusive resort. Learning a foreign language, even as little as a handful of phrases, will make your travel experiences so much better, and i speak from experience when i say this.
To many people, learning a foreign language is something unthinkable, way beyond their ability, or simply too boring (or all three). It’s something that requires years of painful effort, expensive books and classes, and above-average intelligence. And many would add, along with many other excuses, that learning a foreign language has no obvious, direct benefit since “everybody speaks English anyway.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The point is, anybody can learn a language; do not fool yourself into believing the contrary. Best of all, you can learn as little or as much of it as you want. Yes, reaching native-like fluency might take many years of study and practice, but reaching conversational level can take as little as a few months (or even weeks, depending on your experience and approach!). Even learning a few greetings and basic phrases will go a long way in making the locals appreciate the effort you’ve put in, and they will be much more open and receptive. Believe me, speaking even a modicum of the local language will make all the difference between a nice trip and potentially the trip of a lifetime.