Foreign languages are a key challenge for travellers. Knowing the basics of a language makes life a lot easier when visiting a new country. In this blog we give you five tips on how to learn a foreign language – quickly and smoothly.
The question is how much one should know in order to make the process of language learning worthwhile? Reading the menu and signs, being able to ask for directions and explain where you are going are what we consider a minimum. Knowing polite phrases is a must as well, The good news is that learning a foreign language is not expensive at all and there are plenty of resources online. However, be prepared to invest quite a bit of your time!
1. Use Apps For Learning a Foreign Language
There are several apps for language learning. Memrise and Duolingo are two popular apps and these are the ones that I have used. They are slightly different; Duolingo is more limited when it comes to the number of languages but the ones that are available are quite thorough. Memrise, on the other hand, provides a wider range of languages. The quality, however, differs between courses. Memrise can also be used for learning an alphabet or for conjugating verbs.
The good thing about apps (and the internet in general) is that you can improve your language skills on the go. Tip: dedicate a few minutes of your time in the morning to language learning. It’s the perfect way to pass the time while commuting to work!
Note! Few apps offer comprehensive explications of grammar. Grammar might not be as important as vocabulary BUT it will affect your overall understanding of the language.
2. Talk to Natives or Listen to the Langauge
Listening comprehension is key when trying to communicate in a foreign language. If you don’t have any native speakers to talk to you, try listening to music, radio or the news on TV. Natives often speak quickly and it might be difficult to get the gist for an untrained ear. The advantage with a real native speaker is – obviously – that you can talk to them. In this time of technology, the internet works as well as meeting in real life. However, real life interaction might be more personal.
3. Predict and Be Prepared
Predict the situations you might find yourself in and learn the corresponding vocab and phrases. You will probably need to buy food at some point, so a good idea is to learn the names of the foods you like and dislike. That way you will avoid eating disgusting things. Are you planning to do a specific activity? Learn the appropriate vocabulary!
English works in many countries but many locals really appreciate it if you try speaking their language. In case you ever visit Slovakia and plan on calling for a taxi, learn some Slovak. They might refuse to speak to you otherwise.
Remember, you might need to familiarize yourself with different dialects. For instance, I was nervous about my Spanish skills when going to South America since I speak European Spanish. Before our trip I tried to learn some of the most common differences between European Spanish and Rioplatense Spanish. I was still confused at times but being prepared made me a little bit more confident.
4. Make It A Priority
Learning a foreign language requires time and effort. Few people manage to learn a language – even if it’s just the basics – overnight. I’m a member of some language groups on the internet and many people seem to find it difficult to know where to start.
My tip: learn the alphabet and the most common phrases. After that I would learn different topics that are necessary (food, visit to the doctor, booking hotel, directions) and of personal interest (e.g. politics, literature, sports, media). Learning a little everyday will be more efficient than trying to memorize a huge amount of vocabulary and grammar rules at once.
5. Stay Positive
Learning a foreign language is not as difficult as one might think but it does require time and effort. Try to make the learning experience a positive one. Read about topics you are interested in, watch good films, listen to music. And remember: you might start by learning the basics, but who knows where it will lead. Your travel experience will be more rewarding and you will gain a deeper understanding of the country you are visiting.