How to Learn Language Basics Before Your Holiday


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 ( 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.


The Best Apps for Productivity Across Time Zones

For many folks, travel is a way to escape from the daily grind, relax, and gain some much-needed rejuvenation. But for the world’s more than 480 million business travelers, travel too often involves worrying about missed emails, dropped expense reports, or scheduling meetings or keeping a project on track from across different time zones.

It can be tough to get work done far away from the office, but that’s where each of these apps comes in. Every entry on this list meets a specific need of the modern business traveler. Taken together, they offer business travelers a maximum-productivity package that will help ensure you’re able to get work done pretty much anywhere.


Asana is perfect for anyone who needs to tackle collaborative projects with a remote team. It’s developed by one of the co-founders of Facebook, and it’s just as on-trend as the behemoth social media platform. The app lets you lay out the steps necessary to complete a project, assign each task to a collaborator, track the project’s progress, and communicate with other team members—all without being in the same room or worrying about scheduling a phone call across time zones.


Perfect for trips on which you anticipate doing lots of networking, CamCard allows you to digitally store business cards and contact information for new prospects or collaborators. So there’ll be no more panicking when you get home and realize you lost that potential new client’s contact info en route.


For the executive on the go: Docusign makes it easy to digitally execute contracts, manage transactions, and issue legally binding electronic signatures across mobile devices. The service prides itself on being usable from virtually anywhere in the world (it’s already in use in 43 languages and 188 countries), and it’s secure as it is functional.


No matter where you are in the world, you can access all of your files from Dropbox. If you know you’ll need access to certain documents while traveling, simply upload them to the service ahead of your trip. Then you’ll be able to access them from any device, at any time. (It sure beats having to wait several hours until a coworker wakes up and can email you the documents you need.) You can also easily share files with simple links.


Never worry about processing expense reports on the go again. Expensify allows users to quickly import card transactions, add cash expenses, record billable expenses, auto-categorize expenses, create custom invoices, ditch paper receipts, issue reimbursements, and more—and it will do it all while supporting more than 160 currencies and international taxes.


For those times when you need to communicate with your team in real-time (but you’re in, say, Bangkok while the rest of your team is in NYC), turn to HipChat. The app offers a group chat service that’s available on desktops, tablets, or smartphones. The app will also deliver messages to your phone even when you’re signed off, so that you and your teammates will be able to reach each other at any time should a pressing issue arise.


Sure, we’re shamelessly self-promoting. But it’s only because we think we’ve made the best travel app on the market. Hipmunk’s app eliminates wasted time in the planning stages of a trip by finding the best hotel and flight deals, providing free flight fare alerts, and offering instant booking. Business travelers can also use the app to coordinate group travel. Leave the trip planning to us so you can get back to work.

World Time Buddy

World Time Buddy is a world clock, time zone converter, and online meeting scheduler all in one convenient app. Need to plan a conference call with someone inSan Francisco while you’re in Dublin? Skip the math and simply plug in what time zone you’re in, what time zone they’re in, and bada boom: The app will provide you with a selection of compatible meeting times. The app also tracks market hours.

XE Currency

If your business travels take you to multiple countries in one go and you need to calculate currencies in a hurry, then XE Currency has you covered. The app allows users to view historical charts and current exchange rates and calculate prices from a mobile device. You can also create customized comparison charts for prices anywhere in the world.

The only downside to these apps? They’ll limit your excuses for not getting work done during your travels. Welcome to the great big mobile world!


This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on February 18, 2016.

How To Survive An Airport Layover

Before we discuss everyone’s least favorite part of traveling, I’d like to thank Mark Crone for the opportunity to reach out to his blog’s readers! If you’re new around here, your next destination should be How To Make Hotel WiFi Work For You or The Only Primer on Airplane Etiquette You’ll Ever Need.

Airport layovers are obviously stressful, but if you try to view it as an opportunity to relax before or after your busy vacation, positive thinking may win out!

Give yourself a chance to have a great time by planning ahead for your airport layover. Here are some ideas for ways to spend the time that won’t break the bank or stress you out!


Bring your own food

You may want to bring some snacks to avoid the overpriced (and generally terrible) airport food.

Obviously, plan around what is and isn’t allowed in airports and what you can keep unrefrigerated during your flight. Sandwiches, trail mix, fruit and vegetables with dip, and granola bars can all go in your carry-on luggage.

Remember to stay hydrated, too! Most people aren’t as hydrated as they should be, and it’s especially important when you’re traveling.

Stretch your legs

If your carry-on bag isn’t too bulky, shouldering it and taking a walk around the airport will help you burn off some calories and help prevent you from getting restless during your next flight.

Plus, there’s lots of people-watching to be done!

Take the opportunity to learn about your destination and its language 

You can watch movies in a different language on Netflix or practice with vocabulary tools such as Memrise.

If you are already an expert in your destination’s language, you can research attractions to include in your itinerary or finalize hotel plans.

Take a book! 

Unfortunately, airports will sometimes limit the time you can spend connected to their WiFi, so it may pay off to bring something to do that doesn’t require an internet connection. If you’re a quick reader, you may want to consider an e-reader or tablet rather than a traditional book so you can take multiple books without occupying your entire carry-on with reading material.

The subscription service Scribd is a lot like Netflix for books, and you can browse a huge variety of titles. Your books can then be saved on your device for the times that you can’t access WiFi, and there’s no need to finish them within a time limit like some other e-book services.

If you’re not much of a reader, drawing or coloring can be a nice alternative. Coloring is not just for children. The New York Times has recently released a coloring book complex and beautiful enough to hold the attention of adults.

Watch Netflix

A long airport layover is a perfect time to catch up on your favorite shows. If you’re not working during your trip, swapping your laptop for a tablet, iPad or Kindle Fire might help you take up less space on your carry-on bag.

As a security note, if you’re using unsecured public WiFi, such as the kind usually found at airports, make sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). When you use unsecured WiFi, others connected to the same network can see your information as easily as they could eavesdrop from the next table at a restaurant. If you plan on signing into any online account, especially online banking, this can pose a real risk.

A VPN creates a secure tunnel from the source of information to its destination and also encrypts the data passing through it, meaning your passwords and credit card numbers will remain secure and confidential. A VPN will also allow you to mask your IP address from Netflix and watch what’s available in other countries!

Play a card game or board game 

If you’re traveling with other people, a card game can give you something less solitary to do.

Finding a game that is small enough for your carry-on luggage isn’t as much of a challenge as it may seem to be. A regular, old-fashioned deck of cards is very versatile, and if poker is your thing, you can use the change in your pockets rather than bringing chips. Other options are Meuterer, Oltre Mare, Decktet, Magnate, Cards Against Humanity (for adults only!), Boggle, Fluxx or Uno.

Some games will sell a special pocket or travel edition, so it’s worth checking for small versions of your favorite games on Amazon before you head out.

Take your hobbies with you in any way you can 

A lot of hobbies require equipment or space that you won’t have in an airport, but if you think outside the box, you can bring your hobbies with you. Browse a book of knitting patterns, sketch out a new woodworking project or watch YouTube videos about your favorite video game.


Take a nap 

Not everybody is comfortable sleeping in an airport, but if you feel safe enough it might be the perfect time for a nap.

Remember to set an alarm well before your next flight leaves! 

Catch up with friends 

If you have internet access, you can update your Facebook status with news about your trip, or message friends.

If you don’t have internet access…when was the last time you called your mother? If she’s particularly talkative, you may be able to while away the hours in a really meaningful way. 

Play a hand-held game 

Hand-held gaming systems, such as the Nintendo DS, are more popular with kids, but even adults can get caught up in Bejeweled. Before you know it, it will be time to board your next flight!


What are your favorite airport layover activities? What games and activities would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

Author Bio: Jess Signet is an avid traveler and enjoys writing about her adventures. Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble she lives in makes her want to travel even further. Traveling is her drug, and she’s addicted. (Please, no intervention!)