The World Nomads Podcast: Learning a Language in Lockdown

In this episode, the television presenter using her time in lockdown to improve her Spanish, while also trying her hand at Hindi as she dreams of future trips.


Girl on a beach Photo © Supplied: Alex Outhwaite

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The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News

As governments around the globe impose lockdowns and people self-isolate, coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the travel industry hard. The World Nomads Travel Podcast has suspended its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines, including the future of travel.

What’s in the episode

00:35 Learning a language is on the rise

01:34 Being a travel lover in lockdown

04:31 What's Alex been up to?

07:34 Kim's highschool french

10:44 The friendly people of Pakistan

13:27 Start local

16:25 Where to next?

Quotes from the episode

“…if you're wanting to immerse yourself in a culture, obviously learning the language is one of the best ways that you can do that. Even with the Spanish that I've got from learning for a short while I've been able to meet people and have experiences that I wouldn't have been able to have unless I had at least basic understanding of Spanish.” - Alex

Who is in the episode

Alex Outhwaite is a travel TV Presenter with shows broadcast in 30 countries worldwide. Her TV show Off the Grid filmed in Kashmir for Travelxp was nominated for Travel Show of the Year at the Indian Television Awards. 

Alex is known for visiting less touristy destinations and has built up over 140,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel with videos from counties including El Salvador, Honduras, and Uzbekistan. 

Follow Alex on Instagram.

Resources & links

You can sign up and start learning a language with either of these links Rosetta Stone in the UK or the United States.

Alex’s vlog filmed only on GoPro in San Salvador as discussed in the podcast.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and World Nomads Travel Insurance Coverage.

Travel safety alerts.

In self-isolation? You can put your time to good use practicing your travel writing skills

You can get in touch with us by emailing

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Kim: In this episode, the television presenter using her time in lockdown to improve her Spanish, while also trying her hand at Hindi as she dreams of future trips.

Kim: Hi Kim and Phil with you and learning a language was and is popular among nomads doing their best to satisfy their wanderlust during the lockdown.

Phil: Rosetta Stone offers 23 language learning programs and they recently did some research which has found language-learning is on the rise, from 23% before the coronavirus pandemic to 28% during the lockdown.

45% said the desire to meet new people is the number reason for learning a new language.

The figure rises to 62% among 16-24-year-olds, who are bitten by the travel bug and desperate to form friendships around the world, with curiosity heightened in the past few months.

Kim: Travel TV presenter Alex Outhwaite has spent her time in lockdown brushing up on her Spanish through Rosetta Stone but otherwise how is she coping with lockdown in the UK?

Alex: Well, it's started to ease a little bit now, but I mean, it was hard for all of us at the beginning, of course, wasn't it? But for a travel lover, I've been stuck. This has been the longest that I've actually spent in London probably since I've moved here, to be honest. I'm probably normally spending about seven months of the year out of the country. Sometimes only back for a couple of days to basically repack my rucksack and then head off again. This has been a big change for me to be honest.

Phil: Yeah. Tell us about your travel. When did you get into traveling? Because, as you say, you go seven months of the year. You've ticked off a few countries, haven't you?

Alex: I never liked to say ticked off countries because there's always more to explore. But yeah, I think I've been to about 70-something now, actually. I'd actually thank my parents for getting me into travel. I'd always spend quite a lot of time away with them when I was a kid and as soon as I started to earn my own money, it was traveling that I wanted to spend it on.

In fact, with my first proper paycheck, I used to teach swimming when I was a teenager and I ended up going to Dahab and diving. So I went on a big Red Sea dive holiday. It was the first thing I spent my money on. I've been fortunate enough to turn it into a TV career. I've actually started working for a channel called Travelxp, which is based out of Mumbai, but they're in about 30 countries now.

I started working from about seven years ago and turned it into, as I said, a TV career, but also on the social media side. I do a lot of YouTube videos and content creation for tourist boards as well.

Kim: Can I just thank you for pointing out that you don't tick a country off because we just say that off the top of our head and we get a lot of people that we chat to that say, "I've ticked that off." But if I said I've ticked Greece off, well, I haven't, I haven't even scratched the surface. I've been there so-

Alex: I understand the phrase, of course, and I'm sure at some point I've probably used it as well, but we're fortunate enough to visit a new place but what does ticking it off mean?

Phil: Yeah, that's right. Plus you can go back a year later or two years later and it's different again.

Alex: Exactly.

Phil: What is it you get out of travel?

Alex: This is probably going to sound really cheesy, but quite a few years back, I was thinking, I don't know what my purpose is, that really does sound cheesy. But I just didn't know what I wanted to get out of life and what it was that would make me happy. And I found that travel was actually just something's up. It makes me so happy because I'm able to meet new people every day. I'm able to have new experiences. I just don't want to live a life where each day is the same and travel continues my education. I'm always learning. And I think certainly as adults, we don't learn new skills as often and travel is a way that I can learn new things about the world, learn new things about myself as well even.

Kim: So what have you been doing Alex to stay in touch with and exploring the culture of other countries while you've been in [inaudible]?

Alex: I've tried to be quite productive actually. Tried being the keyword there, but I've got a lot of friends in different countries. Now I'm fortunate enough and I've been speaking on a lot of Zoom chats with people abroad as I'm sure we all have. But I've actually been trying to learn Spanish with Rosetta Stone because I've got a lot of friends in Central America, El Salvador, and Honduras, particularly, of course, it would be better if I'm actually able to communicate in Spanish as opposed to just being a lazy Britain and trying to speak in English all the time.

I've also been cooking a lot, which probably means I've been eating too much too. But I think food is definitely one of the ways that we can appreciate other cultures. I'm not a chef of course, but I'm a king cook. I've been trying to recreate some dishes that I've learned abroad back home.

Phil: You are such a World Nomad, the things that we love to talk about as well.

Alex: I've been eating Mongolian beef and a couple of Japanese dishes, but during the day I'm on lady shakes [crosstalk 00:00:04:18].

Kim: So Rosetta Stone, you mentioned it. Tell us what it is?

Alex: So Rosetta Stone is a language learning company. You can learn on your desktop. I've actually been learning on my app. And the reason for this is because I can just do it on the move. So especially now lockdown is starting to ease a little bit. I can be out and about in the park. We're now allowed to go in the park, we're very lucky. So I can actually just go out and sit on my phone and I can use the app. And it's fully immersive, which means that everything that you see and everything that you hear is in the language that you're trying to learn, which of course is the way it would be if you were traveling anyway. So it's good practice for when we're able to travel again.

Phil: Yeah. That immersive style is great, isn't it? I learned French at school. Whenever I've been in France, those neurons reconnect really, really quickly and the language comes back and because you don't have a choice, you've got to speak French or die basically.

Alex: Exactly. I think sometimes it's just a bit about kind of confidence and practice as well. And it's been good to just build up a little bit of confidence. In fact, I actually had a trip to Ecuador last year, just after I had started learning. Usually, we're fortunate enough as English speakers, that when we go to other countries, people can often speak English, but suddenly I found myself in rural Ecuador where my Spanish suddenly became the only way that I could communicate. And if I hadn't been practicing even just 10 minutes here and there, I wouldn't have been able to get by really.

Kim: You talk about confidence and I have some phrases up my sleeve and I always make sure before I go to a country that I know how to say hello, thank you, goodbye, delicious, whatever it may be. But I'm really, really conscious of throwing in the accent there. So in France, as an example, Phil, you said your high school French comes back. In France. I will find myself going [foreign language 00:06:19] which they'd be looking at me thinking, what are you saying?

Phil: Stop murdering my language.

Kim: Exactly. I just lack the confidence to put that little bit of [foreign language 00:06:34] or whatever the French into it. Have you found that or talked about that with your friends?

Alex: To be honest, I think certainly in countries where they maybe don't see tourists quite so frequently, people do seem to appreciate you trying, even if it is a bit of a [foreign language 00:06:50] I think they do realize that you're trying and you're trying to immerse yourself in the culture and the language. So I would say go for it even if you're not quite confident enough with your accent. Like we said, by the time you're actually in a country for a while and practicing every day, then it's only going to get better, it can't possibly get worse.

Kim: There's no coming back from that [crosstalk 00:00:07:15]. Do you think it's important for people to learn a language when they're heading to a country or planning on traveling?

Alex: I think it's important for a few reasons. Firstly, if you're wanting to immerse yourself in a culture, obviously learning the language is one of the best ways that you can do that. Even with the Spanish that I've got from learning for a short while I've been able to meet people and have experiences that I wouldn't have been able to have unless I had at least a basic understanding of Spanish. Secondly, I think as I said before, we don't learn as many things, new things when we're adults. When you're a child, you're always learning new things and as an adult, we were a bit too busy, we tend not to and I think there's a lot of joy to be [inaudible] from learning a new skill.

Phil: You've got a pretty extensive YouTube channel of your own as well. Where are some of the best places that you've been to while you've been shooting those videos?

Alex: I was actually very surprised by Pakistan. It was somewhere that if I'm honest, I didn't really know that much about and until a year ago it was quite difficult to get a visa. You had to go to the embassy and apply. And it wasn't just a visa on arrival, which we've become used to as Brits now in a lot of places. And it honestly just blew me away for so many reasons. The landscapes and mountains were just absolutely incredible. Some of the most beautiful sites that I've seen and equally the architecture, because of course, it used to be part of the silk route. So the most magnificent buildings and some of these are UNESCO sites and there wasn't really anyone there. And there's something nice to be said about visiting a place when there's only maybe three or four of you around and it's not just Instagrammers queuing up for photos.

Phil: [inaudible] spoke to Simon Monk and he was telling me about his travels through the stands as well. And he said he didn't pay for a meal for days on end because he kept being stopped in the street and invited in for cups of tea and a meal. Did that happen to you too?

Alex: It happened actually when I was in Pakistan recently. I had been told about the hospitality of people in Pakistan and I experienced it firsthand where I'd be walking along and someone would run out of their house with fresh juice, kind of running towards me, like "Please, please, welcome to our country." I just thought you would not get that in Europe, people going out of their way to be kind to you. But it did and it was Pakistan as well, I remember sitting on a wall and I was just admiring the buildings nearby and somebody came out carrying a cushion. And we didn't speak the same language, but they kind of gestured and they wanted me to sit on this cushion because I was there in December and it was cold and they wanted to make sure that I wasn't uncomfortable. And they didn't want money, they didn't want even necessarily conversation. They were just being a really lovely person. Isn't that lovely?

Phil: Especially when you're filming stuff as well, do you bother with permits and things or you're just a traveler when you go. Do you have any trouble? How do you approach going into somewhere new?

Alex: It depends really. If I'm working with the TV channel then it's not very conspicuous, really. So we have to go along the permitted route. For example, we were filming in South Africa a while ago and we had to have a permit to take all the equipment in because if it was over, if it's worth over a certain amount, you need the permits really, otherwise it looks like you're importing filming equipment.

If I'm on my own filming for YouTube, then I tend to go down the route of doing it first, ask questions later. I mean, sometimes some for example, I was filming in San Salvador and it was just a vlog for YouTube, but it's actually turned out to be one of my most successful vlogs. It's got about 1.3 million views now in the past year, but I just filmed that on a GoPro because I just wanted to get kind of stuck in with the markets and meet a few local people. And I didn't want to turn up with all the equipment and make a big song and dance out of it. It was just, let's get some shots. Certainly didn't ask for permission there.

I deal with people, I would like to say that. Obviously, if I'm interacting with people, I do not just go and stick my camera in people's faces. And I think that's really important to say because some people don't want to be on camera of course. So I'd always make sure I got permission from people before filming if they were cooking or something of course.

Phil: Have you got any advice for people that want to try and follow in your footsteps?

Alex: I get a lot of messages like this, obviously and what I usually say to people is start local because of course, I'm fortunate enough to live in London at the moment. And for me, London is just home, but for people not living in the UK, London is exciting and interesting and they want to see videos from here. So start in your hometown. You can use whatever equipment you have. Like I just said, you don't need to have an expensive camera. I filmed some blogs for YouTube that I've done quite well, but I've just been on a phone. So don't worry about the cost of it. You can use your mobile phone to start in your hometown and build from there really.

Kim: And getting back to the point of understanding some of the languages from the country that you're going to with Rosetta Stone is it easy?

Alex: Yeah. It starts a little bit differently from how we learn languages when we were at school. I mean, you touched on that before, when you were learning French at school and I think I did French at school as well. And I think just the way that you learn the language in a classroom, I don't think it works for a lot of people. Rosetta Stone does ... The reason it's kind of stood the test of time is because it has worked for people, partly due to the immersive nature, as I said before, but just in terms of what it teaches you at the beginning, it's more practical. I learned at school how to describe my bedroom and I don't know about you guys but I don't normally go around telling people what my bedroom looks like.

Phil: I actually advise against that.

Kim: Yeah, totally. Do you know the first words we learned were no and yes and knowing yes was [foreign language 00:13:41], I used to giggle.

Phil: Child.

Kim: I was 11. So whenever we had to say [foreign language 00:13:50], I thought that was the funniest thing ever.

Alex: I remember my very first French lesson at school actually. And we were 11, I think. And the teacher came in and said [French] which of course means ready, are we ready? The whole class went [French] like that and waved.

Phil: Have you ever seen that Facebook meme of the English girl, whose name is Gemma Pell? And [crosstalk] introduce herself in France, [foreign language 00:14:22] Gemma Pell.

Kim: [foreign language 00:14:23] Yeah, [foreign language 00:14:24] Kim, that's it my name is Kim, it's coming back. How cool is that? I need to get to France but the frustrating thing is we can't. Have you learned any other languages apart from Spanish?

Alex: I'd actually like to learn Hindi or I work quite a lot in India and I have a lot of Indian friends and that should certainly be something that I put my time into when I've got a little bit more time in the future. Because I think it would be fun and it would be helpful as well. I've only got like a couple of phrases that I know in Hindi at the moment and I certainly need to extend my portfolio of phrases for next time I go back.

Phil: Last question, obviously with locked down restriction, starting to come off, you must be planning your next trip.

Alex: I'm always planning trips. But yeah, at the moment, I'm hoping to go to Georgia at some point soon when we are allowed to. It was one of the first countries in Europe to start lifting its lock down and allowing foreign tourists in. And I get the impression they're trying to almost rebrand themselves as a new upcoming tourist destination because they perhaps weren't on the map for a lot of people in terms of tourism. And it's where I haven't been, and I'm always keen to visit new destinations for me so-

Phil: It's on my bucket list as well. After we did an episode about Georgia. You got to listen to our episode about Georgia. It sounds fantastic.

Kim: Well, Phil said that was the last question, but where can we go for more information on Rosetta Stone?

Alex: You can visit

Kim: It’s also available in the US and we will have all the links and info you need in show notes.

Phil: To get in touch with us email and don’t forget to share and subscribe to the World Nomads Travel Podcast from wherever you get your favourite pods.

Kim: Next episode another Tv host and adventurer stranded in Turkey with an adopted kitten.



1 Comment

  • dfooo said

    Rosetta Stone may not be suitable for you if you have more experience in language learning or a higher level of knowledge, or really want to speak a foreign language.

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