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June 2016

How to Learn a Foreign Language Before Travelling

Tips for learning a new language as quickly as possible

Travelling to places with distinct cultures and languages from one’s home is a wonderful experience. Being exposed to new sounds takes us out of ourselves, and we are made better with travel. But for those who visit foreign countries and do not speak the local language, a connection to the true magic of the place is less profound. It is far better to learn some of the language of a destination before visiting, as the rewards are multitudinous. Today we’ll take a look at some tips for speed-learning a new language before travelling.

Utilize pocket phrasebooks and smartphone apps

Pocket phrasebooks and smartphone apps of useful phrases are helpful for anyone who needs to converse in a foreign language but does not have the time to fully learn it. Such resources are commonly available and are popular with travellers, as phrases and vocabulary from these resources are organized by theme and importance. While the usefulness of learning phrases without having the comprehension to process responses is limiting, it’s still better than nothing. Choosing a portable phrasebook or using smartphone apps are preferable also because they are travel size, meaning you can utilize them prior to the exact moment you need the phrases.

Memorize relevant words

Most language books provide lists of vocabulary that would prove useful while travelling abroad. Knowing these words helps a lot when interpreting signs abroad. Useful phrases, just to list a few examples, include “entrance”, “exit”, “open”, “closed”, “push”, “pull”, “restrooms”, “passport control”, “customs”, etc. Learning enough vocabulary to decode important signs can help you navigate in a foreign country and save you from a massive headache.

Role-playing common interactions

If you’re visiting, say, Italy, you’ll most likely find yourself in a pizzeria or a gelateria. A useful exercise for learning pertinent phrases is using role-playing. Imagine you are entering such establishments and need to order food. How would you say you want a slice of pizza? How do you order a small cup or cone of gelato? Role-playing is useful, whether you do it mentally or act scenes out, because imagining the real-world application of phrases helps one remember them.

Take online language lessons

While formal classes often cost a lot of money, it’s possible to find private tutors online for a fraction of the price. These are often instructors who teach students over video chat programs like Skype or Google Hangout. A benefit of private lessons is that they can be taken at home. The courses can also be tailored to your desired goal. Having the opportunity to converse with a native speaker is also an invaluable resource for learning more about the country’s culture and getting advice on how to interact with locals while there.

Practice in your home country first

It’s always nice to warm up before visiting a foreign country by testing some of your newly acquired language skills in restaurants and shops in your hometown. Using the prior example of travelling to Italy, one could dine in an Italian restaurant while practicing food vocabulary. At least if you mess up in your home country, you can revert back to your native tongue. If anything, it will give you and your waiter something to laugh about.

Do you learn foreign phrases before travelling? How do you linguistically prepare for trips? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more language learning articles!

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