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When you learn a foreign language before travelling, you’re more likely to appreciate the culture and enjoy your trip.
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Have you ever traveled to a country, and found yourself lost, and unable to understand the local language? Have you felt that you would have enjoyed the trip more if you did? Or maybe you would have gotten a better price on that antique you bought if they didn’t think of you as a tourist?
Learning a foreign language before you travel allows you to immerse yourself in the culture of your destination. For example, in Japan, Geisha are entertainers at parties, skilled in their craft of dance and music. There are no such performers in other countries, making the word Geisha, a unique part of Japanese culture. Such words and phrases from different countries can’t be translated to understand. However, taking the time to learn the language will give you an insight into the culture of that country.
You would also be able to speak enough to interact with local vendors or natives. So it’s unlikely that you could be tricked into a bad deal with some unruly vendors. It’s okay if you don’t pronounce words correctly, or make a few mistakes. Locals would still appreciate the effort you made to learn. It would also show how open-minded you are and improve your travel experience more.
Learning a language could take anywhere between two months to two weeks, depending on your ability to pick up new words. That’s enough time to learn the basics, enough to let you introduce yourself and interact with locals. If you want to learn a language up to the level of a native speaker, you’ll need more time.
There are a few simple things you could do to be better prepared with your language before you travel.
Enrol in a language course
Language schools offer courses tailored to your needs, or you could use the BBC language. They offer introductory courses on Welsh and Irish and also 40 essential words and phrases in languages like Mandarin, Finnish, Russian, and Swedish. Pimsleur Language courses are also another way for you to learn. They are tapes you can access online, on apps or CDs from your local library.
Duolingo is the best for learning on the go. It’s interactive, and the animated Duo owl makes the learning process fun. Although not ideal if you’re looking to learn just the bits, and want to cover things fast. Mango Languages is better if you don’t have much time. You can use it while walking your dog or sitting idle in the car.
Watch movies and videos
Movies and videos of a language would help you learn faster and more naturally. The more you hear, the easier it is for you to learn. TEDx speaker and language professor, Rachel Smets suggests listening to the language you want to learn on the TV while doing chores around the house. It helps you pick up so much unconsciously, it really helps.
Speak with a local or tandem partner
Get in touch with native speakers online and speak to them. It would help you refine your speech and gain confidence. Italki connects students with foreign language teachers and tutors around the world. Busuu, Babbel, and My Happy Planet are also some of the best sites to learn a new language.
Use your free time and practice every day
It would be difficult for you to take proper full-time courses during the day just for a trip, so using language apps to practice in your free time really helps. It’s also essential to practice daily because a language requires consistency, or you’re likely to forget simple things. Take your own native language, for example, if you didn’t speak it every day, you wouldn’t be as proficient. You could use the time on the plane to learn a few simple phrases and practice before your big trip.
Remember learning a language is not easy, and however fast you learn and pick it up, your effort to do so will always be appreciated. Not many travellers take time out to learn the language of the country they are visiting.
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