International travelers know what a formidable barrier a foreign language can be. From time to time, language spills over into the headlines — as it did last week when Fidel Castro insisted his brother’s comments about political reform in Cuba were “misunderstood.” Tom Adams knows about language barriers and how to overcome them. He’s the chief executive of Rosetta Stone.

Q: Can you get along with just English when you travel internationally?

Adams: You can if you’re traveling to major cities and don’t plan to really engage. However if you’re trying to go into the field and really discover a culture and a country, then yes, you do need another language. I think that anyone who has successfully learned another language knows that the benefits are tremendous. Those that experience success communicating in a new language often describe it as life-changing.

Q: Let me confess, I’m one of the people who makes fun the tourists who try to learn a language before they visit another country, or worse, they tote around a phrase book and read from it. Convince me of the error of my ways.

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  • Elliott

    Christopher Elliott has been called one of the world’s leading travel experts. But his focus isn’t on the destination, or ev…

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