Authored by Lingoo
If your first language is English, it can be easy to take advantage of the world dominance of the language. In many countries we can get by okay, and with some accompanying hand gestures generally make ourselves understood.
But if you are travelling for new experiences, sticking with your mother tongue will mean you are missing out on opportunities to learn about and truly appreciate other cultures.
The Best Way To Learn A New Language While Travelling
Why Learn Another Language
Learning a new language while you are travelling opens up your world to more interactions with interesting people and will take your travel experiences to a deeper level. As you learn to converse with people you would probably otherwise not, you will also gain more confidence.
Don’t be surprised to be invited to dinner with people whom you have just met, or gain access to adventures beyond the usual tourist trail. In short, learning another language as you travel will open doors that you never even knew were closed.
Beyond travel, having knowledge of another language is also advantageous because you get to take home your new language skills. This will look great on your resume and, with more and more companies operating in a global market these days, give your career prospects a nice boost.
Match Your Travel Destinations
First of all you need to match your travel destinations based on the new language you want to learn.
Want to dig out that high school Spanish? Spain is obviously a great choice but there’s also virtually the whole of Latin America using Spanish as their official language.
Fancy perfecting your French? France is the obvious choice and a good one, but there other countries in Europe such as Belgium or Luxembourg, and many African countries also speak French.
Next up, don’t take the easy route! It’s human nature to seek the company of those who speak the same language as us, but if you are serious about learning a new language you must try to resist this somewhat.
Put Yourself into Real Life Situations
You need to minimise the amount of time you are speaking English and maximise the amount of time you are speaking your new language. You should aim to move from translating everything in your head to thinking in your new language as soon as possible.
Force yourself to speak the language you are learning at every opportunity, even if you know the person you are interacting with speaks English. Get started by purposefully going to the local market to practice speaking.
Stop people in the street and ask for directions to places, even if you already know where you are going. Strike up a conversation with the person behind you in a queue.
It may seem a little scary at first but it will soon become comfortable. You should also practice on your own. Online apps such as Duolingo or Babbel are great for building your vocabulary and improving grammar.
Overcome the Fear of Mistakes
Learning a new language while you are travelling can be tough and you will no doubt hit a few plateaus, so be sure to motivate yourself by reflecting often on how much much you’ve learnt and the interactions you’ve had where you have been able to get closer to people.
Try to overcome any fear of mistakes as soon as possible because as a language learner you are going to make plenty of them. It’s how you learn. Through letting go of your inhibitions and acting like a child when you speak will help you improve.
If you don’t understand something, don’t just nod and smile, ask questions. It will be a challenge and you may feel foolish to start with, but once you can see yourself improving, that will motivate you.
You will find that through being in the country where the language is spoken, corrections to your speaking and pronunciation happen naturally. You need to learn to not take this constructive criticism personally because it unbelievably helpful.
And when you are not involved in a conversation try to hone in on others’ and actively listen to see if you can pick out words and follow the dialogue. Be sure to listen to the local radio and TV channels too.
Best Language Immersion Programs
When studying a new language, learning the contextual culture is a huge advantage because you get to listen to the local dialect and learn idioms in their natural environment rather than in a constructed one.
It is for this reason that learning a language through immersion is so effective. One of the best ways to experience this and improve your language skills quickly is to plan a local homestay into your travels.
A homestay is where you pay to stay in a family’s home and live with them for anything from a few days to a few months. You will speak and consistently be involved in the family’s interactions in your target language in a real and authentic way.
While it may seem a little intense the best language immersion programs will provide a welcoming, relaxed and judgement free learning environment by designing your homestay around things you enjoy.
Volunteer or Teach English Abroad
Other methods of immersive language learning on your travels that may interest you are volunteering and teaching English Abroad.
If you fancy volunteering, you should pick a cause you truly care about to keep you motivated and choose somewhere where speaking English just isn’t an option. This will ensure you are communicating in your chosen language and using the time effectively to advance your speaking skills.
Teaching English abroad as a language au pair is a fun and cost effective way to learn a language while travelling. Similar to a homestay, you will live with a family and have the opportunity to practice speaking your new language every day, but your stay will be for free in exchange for English conversational coaching with the family for a portion of the day.
Being exposed to cultural context in this way is invaluable to language learning!
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