Although it can be easy to rely on most people knowing how to speak English when we travel abroad, sometimes it’s fun to be a little more adventurous and head off the beaten track to the less-traveled areas of a country.
This can mean that you might encounter some serious language barriers and it’s good to prepare beforehand. Sure, depending on the language you want to learn and the target level you want to reach, you could just download Busuu or Babbel—language learning apps that enable you to learn on-the-go. There’s also the option of interacting with a human and taking actual classes, in which case, checking out www.listenandlearnusa.com or www.fluentu.com, where you can design your ideal learning timeline with native teachers, would be great places to start.
But for the rest of you, those who may already have a little bit of that language in your back pocket or simply feel like you can teach yourself enough to get by independently, there are tons of tips and tricks to take advantage of. Take the steps to become a smarter globetrotter and read on for a 4 ideas on how to go from zero to hero with your language skills before your big trip!
Speak it whenever you can
Will you speak it in a box? Will you practice with a fox? Dr. Seuss-related language puns aside, you should take every opportunity to practice your target language in the weeks leading up to your trip. Find a language exchange partner, or join a local language group, and get in as much practice as you can. Yes, even speaking it aloud when you’re home alone can be an excellent way (you’re not crazy) to improve your pronunciation and ease with using the language.
Consume foreign language media
The average person spends roughly 24 hours a week online, and the average American devotes 10 hours per day to screen time. It’s time to turn all that into a language learning opportunity! A lot of news sites have multiple language options, and you can easily browse sites like Buzzfeed and Reddit in other languages. All the major streaming services also have an array of shows and films in foreign languages, too. Do you really need a better excuse to watch lots of movies and TV shows before your trip?
Get feedback from native speakers
Unless you’re a language genius, it’s pretty much impossible to acquire good language skills if you’re learning and practicing in isolation. Put yourself out there and make sure you get plenty of feedback from native speakers. Risking being embarrassed is one of the hardest things to accept about language learning, but if you want to feel confident using the language abroad you need to start stepping out of your comfort zone now. Trust me, if you can’t do it at home, you won’t suddenly start doing it when you step off that plane and into a foreign country.
Be efficient with your learning
Because you only have a short amount of time to learn your target language, efficiency is paramount. Think carefully about what sorts of situations you may find yourself in abroad and study up on the vocabulary and grammar that you feel would be most useful. You probably won’t need to describe your lost pet dog to a local, but you will need to know how to ask for directions, order food, and carry on a basic conversation. Use your time wisely and pick and choose what vocabulary will benefit you the most!
Remember, at the end of the day, the best learning strategy is the one that works for you. Take the time to figure out yours before you get on the road and make all the friends and connections you can along the way.