Suddenly Struck Stupid

As the movie “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” showed, in the future a whole lot of people who never considered themselves travelers are going to wind up in foreign countries because they can no longer afford medical care or even to simply live in their own. In a lot of these countries they end up in, the populace will not speak English.

One of the ancillary effects of growing old is an increasing sense of isolation. Now that you are no longer cute, people tend to ignore you. You fade into the woodwork. And if you can’t speak the language, this happens even faster, making the loneliness more profound.

So there’s a market that didn’t exist before. Teaching older Americans to speak Spanish or Thai. Waiting for the host country’s populace to learn English simply isn’t an option. They’re working on it, but they’re much less motivated by loneliness than the elderly ex-pat.

Learning Spanish is a piece of cake compared to learning Thai. It’s quite a shock to realize that not only can you not speak to anyone, you can’t even read the signage. When you were four years old you couldn’t read, but you knew how to say and comprehend three or four hundred of the most important words in oral communication. Now you don’t even know those!



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