Musing about Language

I just came back from a trip to Madeira, where I was travelling on my own, hiking in the mountains of the very quiet south-west.
Before I went, I had looked up some important Portuguese expressions. Speaking English usually makes us carefree about language needs, but I had experienced some places where English was not much use before.

With Spanish and English, however, it was no problem at all to manage any situation. Even if somebody only spoke Portuguese, my basic Spanish would help. In some remote mountain dwellings a one-word question pronounced with a big question mark would trigger a helpful answer.

In some cases, people apologized for their limited knowledge of English, always helping me a great deal with what they could explain. This gave me a new perspective on language and I would like to encourage teachers to go travelling to places where English is not a lingua franca taken for granted by everyone. Instead of marking every forgotten third-person "s" or any use of the wrong tense at school, do enable students to use language to make connections: That‘s what language is for!