8 Ways to Learn A Language As You Travel

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Sitting in the departures lounge with a phrase book and no idea how to say anything?

It happens to the best of us!

English speakers are, of course, utterly spoiled when travelling. So many people speak our language around the world that it can be tempting not to bother with the memorizing.

However, the rewards from learning a handful of phrases can be huge, and we aren’t just talking about the practicalities.

Making the effort to speak the local language will enrich your experiences, allow you to discover the best hidden gems off the tourist trail and it demonstrates a respect for, and genuine interest in, the culture you are exploring. At the very least, if you muddle through and get a smile, then your efforts will be worth it!

Check out our list of tips for language-learning as you travel, and try not to be shy. The world awaits!

1- Pack Light

As tempting as it might be to pick up a big grammar book at the airport, that style of learning is unlikely to help you out in-country. Aside from the fact that you have far more exciting things to do than pore over a book, you also need to remember that you are literally surrounded with the greatest source of language-learning information: people!

The kinds of things you can expect to pick up in an hour on the go will be very different to the things you would typically learn in an hour on the books. However, both of these approaches to language suit different environments. When you’re already in country, too many books will just distract from people and the words around you. Get out there and learn!

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2- Set Goals

This is an important point which came up in our previous post about language learning (https://markstraveljournal.me/category/language/). Goal setting is essential whether you are learning for 3 months or 3 hours over the course of a weekend away. Without goals, it is too easy to fall short of the final part of learning a language – attempting a few words!

As you are travelling, it is likely that your goal will relate to talking with a person. Recognizing signs is fantastic, but difficult to measure as a tangible goal. Examples of the kind of thing you could set as a daily challenge would be: ordering a meal, or a ticket for something; talking to the staff at your hotel or hostel; even just saying hello and goodbye in the target language.

3- Choose the Target Language

Listen in to tours, go to the cinema, listen to the radio. Make a concentrated effort to hear the language as much as possible.

Going shopping? Write your shopping list in the target language. In fact, write as much as possible in the target language.

This is so much easier when you’re in-country, so make the most of it!

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4- Play at Word Association

Don’t be afraid to make up slightly bizarre mnemonics to remember things. These will often be unique to you, and they help. One example might be Hungarian for hello – Szia – which sounds like See Ya. So I think of the Beatles song ‘Hello, Goodbye’ and the lyrics – “you say goodbye and I say hello”. For anyone else, this might seem like a convoluted approach, but if it works for me, then it’s perfect!

5- Ask for Help

Depending on your personality, this can be easy or impossible. Years of language-learning have allowed me to worry less and less of what people are thinking when I ask for help, but I know this isn’t the same for everyone.

The more you get used to approaching strangers and asking for help with language, the easier it will get. However, try to make the most of speaking to people you meet. Ask the waiter in the restaurant how to pronounce the word for your favourite dish. If you’re feeling especially brave, ask if they would mind you recording the phrase on your phone. You’ve got new vocab and a permanent reminder, all at once!

Memorize how to say “how do I say this?” and don’t hold back. 9/10 people will be delighted to share their language with you, I promise!

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6- Pack your Post-its

If you’re staying for a few days, then this tactic is slightly wacky but it works. Label things in your accommodation with post-its, and the word for them in the target language. Of course, maybe don’t try this if you are staying in someone’s home or they might get a little annoyed. Otherwise, you’ll pick up words for everyday items far quicker than if you weren’t seeing the word every time you used the object.

7- Use what You Have

If you have a smartphone, take photos of things you want to remember the word for and rename them with the word. Fill your notes with vocabulary, or record yourself reciting key phrases and listen to it as you sit on the bus.

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8- Enjoy Yourself!

This style of language-learning is meant to be done in quick chunks. Don’t fret about verb conjugations, and not having a clue how to reuse words. If you can only remember key phrases but you get the chance to use them speaking to a real person, then that is a huge achievement.

We’ve talked about setting goals, but don’t feel bad for setting them low. Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, the whole point of learning the language is ultimately to enhance your enjoyment of your trip. You will not be taking exams, and no one you talk to is going to be testing you. Relax, and enjoy it!

 

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If you have used these tips, or have some more to suggest, then please comment on social media and let us know!

Bio: Global Language Services (http://www.globallanguageservices.co.uk/) is a Scotland-based translation and interpreting company committed to providing speedy, efficient and accurate service no matter what. Please get in touch or check out our website for more details.

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How to Learn Language Basics Before Your Holiday

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Ever arrived in a foreign country for work or play, and found that you wished you could have at least introduced yourself in the native tongue? You’re not alone!

Learning a language can be intimidating, but it’s worth it. We aren’t talking fluency, we’re just seeking to make a little effort to chat to locals and add a whole new wonderful dimension to your trip. People tend to be happy to hear someone attempting to speak their language – no matter how many mistakes you make. If you’re trying, then you will be rewarded with cool experiences and conversations. Plus, you’ll be able to ask where the toilet is without having to mime awkwardly. Everyone wins!

1- Set Reasonable Goals

Put down the grammar textbook, because the aim here is to make learning little but often and fun. Whether you have three months or three days until the flight, you can still learn enough if you are consistent. 2 hours a day might sound great, but if it doesn’t fit in your schedule then don’t push it – you’ll feel demotivated a lot faster.

As well as time goals, think about what you would reasonably like to achieve. If you only have a week, then keep it basic. Aspire to introduce yourself, to order food and to buy tickets and transport. If you have a few months, then maybe you could work towards a ten minute conversation in the target language.

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2- Select Relevant Vocab

Phrasebooks are great, but don’t waste time learning things you aren’t going to use. Make your own vocab list based on your interests and needs and learn those words, not necessarily the ones that the phrase book assumes you might need.

Imagine a conversation where you are introducing yourself. Learn the words for your nationality, your travel plans, your interests. If you don’t like a certain food, learn how to say so. If you can talk about your family dog til the cows come home, then you’d better make sure that ‘cute’ and ‘best friend’ are in your vocab list! You get the idea.

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3- Be Practical About What You Need to Learn

If you are looking for a quick fix, then ditch grammar in favour of learning phrases and sentences. Often, sentences like “where is the … “ can be reused with other nouns and will still make sense. If possible, ask someone to check.

If your target language uses a different alphabet, then you may also decide to devote your time to learning to speak rather than read. Most of the tips in this article are more geared towards being able to talk on your holiday, but factor in extra time for alphabet if that’s part of your goals.

4- Make it Fun

As well as using a variety of different resources (see next tip), taking the time to come up with clever ways of learning has been proven to really boost your ability to recall phrases in a foreign language. As a french speaker, I remember learning l’orge (barley) when I worked as a tour guide for a whisky distillery. I would visualize Shrek, the ogre, in a field of barley in order to remember the word as it sounded so different to the English. And it worked! Come up with mnemonics and your learning will stick.

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5- Use Different Resources

Phrasebook: Particularly useful in-country, but try and pick one up before you go as they will often have good suggestions for generic phrases to learn such as directions and ordering food.

Dictionary: Whether you prefer an old school paper dictionary or would rather just download one on your phone, this can be a great way to pick up words. Try setting a reminder once or twice a day to pause what you’re doing and look up the word for whatever you are doing, or for an object in the same room as you.

Flashcards: Once again, this can be paper or digital format. Take public transport to work? Flashcards. Waiting for dinner to cook? Flashcards. About to go to bed? Flashcards. The words will start to stick before you know it.

Radio: Online, you should be able to find radio channels from all over the world. Listening to the radio can be a great way to immerse yourself and get used to the way a language flows. Plus, you can listen pretty much whenever you have internet access. It can be a good way to keep your brain thinking about the target whilst still doing other things.

Youtube: There are lots of great youtubers out there who either film in your target language, or who blog about learning their language. Youtubers are great because they will often also give you cultural tips as well.

Movies: Watch Netflix with subtitles and add a few foreign language movies to your watch-list. You can learn and relax at the same time!

Apps: I’ve used Duolingo and Memrise to great effect, the former to brush up on some German before a trip to Berlin and the latter to tackle the Arabic alphabet to give myself more excuses to visit Morocco.

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6- Talk to Natives before you Go

This may seem impossible depending on where you live and the language you are learning, but it can be surprisingly straightforward to get experience of speaking and it will make a huge difference to your learning.

Have a look online for local language meetups first of all. No luck? Then the internet can help you out again. Sites such as iTalki allow you to connect with hundreds of teachers who have really reasonable prices for a skype lesson, or a language exchange if you can find someone with the complementary languages to your needs.

Now that the practicalities are sorted, you might feel that it’s going to be impossible to talk to somebody for half an hour. Perhaps it is, and that is precisely why it’s so important to get the first chat attempt out the way whilst you have internet access to hand and all of your vocab in front of you! Make good use of this time by noting down the gaps in your vocab as and when they arise, and just one or two short sessions will really boost your confidence ahead of talking the language in person.

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7- Once You Arrive

The most important thing is just to have a great time! Do not be scared in the slightest of making mistakes. It happens to us all and you are highly unlikely to really offend someone as they will know you are trying your best. I once chatted away about how lots of ready meals contained condoms. I was trying to say preservatives (conservateur in French) by saying preservatifs. It means condom in French. I figured out that mistake pretty quickly, and I’m still on good terms with the lovely French friend who corrected me. No harm done.

What do you think of these tips? Will you use any of them to learn some language basics before your next trip? Have you ever used any of them to great success? Let us know in the comments!

 

Bio: Global Language Services (http://www.globallanguageservices.co.uk/) is a Scotland-based translation and interpreting company committed to providing speedy, efficient and accurate service no matter what. Please get in touch or check out our website for more details.

Ski and Travel…

I’m a big fan of night skiing. When I was a kid, I was a member at a little ski hill called “Uplands”. I would walk over to the hill after school and ski into the night. I remember that each of 4 runs had one light on it near the top. It was primitive but it was the only way to ski during the week.

Fast forward a bunch of years. Instead of school, I’m at the office staring at my ultra-cool Rule#5 Snow Messenger Bag and thinking of skiing. The bag is made of waterproofed nylon with snow crystal print and ski runs named in the lining. It holds my laptop and and tech gadgets to and from work. I pack up and get ready for a quick after work trip to the ski hill. I still can’t wait to go night skiing!


My lifestyle involves travel and skiing in large doses. It’s what I work for. I love to travel and love to ski. Lifestyle products keep me thinking about “apres work” and keep me motivated. Besides the Snow Messenger Bag, Rule#5 has a Backpack, Slim Wallet, Dopp Kit and Regular Wallet under there ski inspired collection. Travelling with frequency seems glamorous but it’s not. Long days, flight delays, long transfers -fun!… The travel part of my life is easier to coordinate and plan with functional products like this. Check it out!