Language

Talk about the forum & website, off-topic chatter, etc.
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Herbrandt
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Language

Post by Herbrandt »

Hi!

First of all, I love the existence of this website. I have been fascinated by Central Asia for quite some time now, but all that time I never heard of this site, which brings all the information together very nicely. So thanks a lot for that! :D

I probably won't go to Central Asia for the next few years because of financial reasons. But I am already gathering information about the whole region.

I was for example wondering how to deal with all these languages. Can you really find your way around with just English or is it not a bad idea to know some basics of several of the spoken languages there? I'd love to, but it must be very hard to keep all these languages apart.

Also, I read about the presence of bears and wolves in some areas. I've already read some things about how to avoid them and what to do when encountering them. But maybe this only goes for the animals in Europe and the US. Should I be really worried about them when, in the hypothetical situation that, I would go camping in the wild? For example in Chatkal?
I read this wonderful blogpost about it, in which Steven wrote about having met an English man who has been hiking around the area for a month already. Is this really possible or wasn't he camping out in the valleys?

Patiently looking forward for replies! :)
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steven
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Re: Language

Post by steven »

Hello Herbrandt!

First of all , thank you for the compliments. It's normal you didn't see the site before, it is still very new. Stay in touch, I would love to accompany your learning journey through Central Asia before you start (I am also just still learning a lot)

For the language, different people have different opinions about which language to study. I recommend you this blogpost, it is very nuanced: http://caravanistan.com/travel-tips/sil ... h-persian/

About bears and wolves, I don't think you should be afraid. I once saw a bear in southern Kazakhstan, and it ran away quickly. Wolves are common in certain places, but I never heard of them attacking people. Locals do wild camping everywhere, it's totally ok it seems.
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Herbrandt
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Re: Language

Post by Herbrandt »

Hey Steven. Thanks for the information!

I was asking because unfortunately I am not very good at languages. And before posting all of this, I was thinking of studying Russian or Turkish. Russian seemed the most practical, but I was thinking it might offend people when using a language which was only brought there by their former occupant.

How are the political relations between the countries? Do you know much about this? I was considering, once on the road, to either cross the Caspian Sea to Aktau, or to pass through Iran along the shore of the Caspian Sea. I read that it is relatively safe to travel in Iran, but I'd like to hear some more things or experiences about this. And whether it is safe to mention destinations in other countries. Maybe I'm really biased by the western media, but some regions seem a bit hostile to me. I'm probably not even wrong when it comes to Afghanistan, but what about all the neighbouring countries?

Maybe I'm going off-topic with the last paragraph. These things are probably even worth their own section on the website. I'd be glad to help you out on this one, but unfortunately I've not even been there once yet.
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steven
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Re: Language

Post by steven »

Russian is still the easiest language to use while traveling I believe. It is like using English in Europe: perhaps some stuffy French person will mind, but most people are just happy they can communicate with you.

I don't write about safety because I don't want to take responsibility for anything that happened to someone on the road. In my opinion, all of these countries are very safe (not Afghanistan, though). Especially Iran, I really don't understand why people think it is unsafe. Are they going to nuke you there?
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Herbrandt
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Re: Language

Post by Herbrandt »

Thanks for your response.
Okay, I understand why you will not do that. Forgive me of what I said about Iran, I've not read so much about it. Very nice, in fact, to hear from you that it is very safe there.
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Re: Language

Post by steven »

If you read some recent travel blogs about people travelin in Iran right now, I think you can get a good idea of how it is. I recently heard this woman tell me the story of a cyclist she met that had wandered into one of the secret nuclear facilities, and after they arrested him, they let him continue. Even gave him an extension on his visa! Imagine that in Europe/US! You would be on Death Row!
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pagophilus
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Re: Language

Post by pagophilus »

I normally travel without learning any of the local language (except for maybe hello/goodbye/thankyou). I am billingual (English/Polish) and while not having a particular gift for languages I do have an analytical mind and I'm particular about small details rather than the big picture (thus I can pronounce and spell correctly all sorts of long words in languages I can't speak). Knowing two European languages has meant that I can travel to Scandinavian countries and after a month be able to understand about half of what is written on the breakfast cereal packet.

When we travelled to Iran in 2009 I learnt some numbers (1-10, 1000-10000) and the Persian way of writing numbers. And just a few other words. We had no problems. Many Iranians don't speak English well, but some do (particularly university-educated ones). We were invited to the home of some schoolgirls and only one of them spoke enough English to really have half a conversation, but with some lateral thinking and a dictionary we were able to converse somewhat. But to get by on the street, you only need to learn the numbers and the names of the places you want to go to.

I'm planning an excursion to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan next year (and I'd love to go to Tajikistan but I don't think I can squeeze in 3 countries). I will not learn the local languages. I have since my last excursion to Iran learnt the Arabic and Persian scripts, started learning Persian, and I can see many Persian loan words and influences in Central Asia. With my Polish fluency I wonder how I will go with the Russian speakers in Central Asia. Polish is somewhat similar to Russian - I often think of the languages surrounding Poland as "bad Polish". (And I can largely read Cyrillic script.)

If you are a reasonably intelligent person you will get by with only English. Obviously you will have a much better experience if you do learn some local language, but you can get by without it. Learning a language for most people is hard work. I travelled to Poland for the first time last year and it was great being able to understand everything and speak to everyone, but with all the travel I have done over the years, learning the local language is unnecessary and will not overly detract from the experience.
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Herbrandt
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Re: Language

Post by Herbrandt »

Wow, thanks for the great responses from both of you! Greatly appreciated.
I was already thinking of at least trying to understand at least some basics, and maybe the cyrillic alphabet.
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dereksbiketrip
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Re: Language

Post by dereksbiketrip »

Hi Herbrandt, thought I'd chip in here as I'm currently about to enter my 3rd continent (if you count Turkey as Europe - if not I'm already there!) on my world cycle tour. I'm English with a special problem, because of cancer treatment I have short term memory problems and for me learning a language is nigh on impossible - I just have my own and a little German.

Having said that I'm having a great time on this trip and managing to converse with locals regularly by a variety of means, the most effective being pictures on my iPhone. I got the idea when another cyclist I met showed me a small scrapbook with pictures in that he continually added to - covers just about anything he would need to ask!

I also make a point of going on the web prior to visiting a country and downloading the names of daily stuff - e.g. bread, milk, hostel, camping etc. and most importantly greetings. I then access these on my iPhone when needed and constant use means they sometimes stick. I can state categorically that most locals will welcome you trying to say hello, or speak the odd word in their language, even if you make a complete hash of it!

ps - I'm amazed how many Turkish people speak German.

Derek
Http://www.dereksbiketrip.com
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steven
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Re: Language

Post by steven »

Turkey and Germany - its a love affair :)
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