Make every day your adventure!

Travel preparations: how to learn a language fast and effectively

Photo by Ariwasabi

Are you sitting over your preparations for your journey? Have you thought about everything? First aid kit, papers & documents? Well done, but how about your language skills? Have you thought about how well the communication will work out? Then this article might be just right for you!

Why shrugging your shoulders won’t help you along

Unfortunately, many travelers neglect this topic and think they will get further with speaking English everywhere. And some assume, that they can communicate through gesticulating. But the following question should make you ponder:

What do I expect from my journey and which demands do I put on myself?
To give you a little motivation, here are 5 advantages for being able to express yourself in a foreign language.

Advantages of having good command of a language:

  • You will get to know locals in a more authentic way
  • You will understand better the culture and the outlook on life of the local residents
  • You can negotiate more effectively without being sold a pup
  • You won’t waste valuable time, because you understand things faster
  • You feel more self-confident

We should certainly make a note at this point: You don’t have to learn a language to reach perfection. But you should be able to communicate well in your foreign language. In this article I’ll give you some tips, how you can learn some basics in a fast and effective way.

7 tips how you can prepare yourself for your holiday destination

Are you ready? Okay, so let’s get started. Depending on how much time you have left till your departure, you should use your time productively. Which success and linguistic level you reach, all depends on you and your attitude. Here are some essential recommendations for learning a language.

1. Speak from day one

While learning a language, many people tend to have a misconception about it. A language is a means of communication and living the language should come first, more than learning it. There is no “Now-I-am-ready-day”. That’s why it’s better to take the plunge and speak the new language at home right from day one. You think it sounds terrible and laughable? It doesn’t matter, gradually you will be making progress. It would be best if you set yourself a goal, like not passing by a day without using the language in any form. Try to put to practice everything you have learned until now. In other words speak, write and think in your foreign language.

2. Immerse yourself in a foreign language starting at home

This tip goes hand in hand with the first recommendation. So, if you want to learn a language fast and efficiently you have to integrate the language permanently in your everyday life. It isn’t enough to learn some vocabulary only now and then and to occupy yourself irregularly with the grammar and the right pronunciation. It has to occur much more intense. You have to immerse yourself in the language. While you don’t go abroad, try to bring the atmosphere to your home. Through the so called “immersion”, you surround yourself constantly and everywhere with your desired language.

Here are 3 practical tips, how to learn a language fast:

Change the settings on electric appliances

For example, you could adjust the language setting on your smartphone or laptop. Change it into your foreign language. Since you daily use your smartphone or laptop, you know where to find something on it and besides you learn some vocabulary. The same thing you can do with social media, like your accounts on Facebook or Twitter. But be careful, you still have to be able to switch the language setting back at any time.

Change language settings / learn language fast

Use foreign media

Why don’t you get a foreign newspaper for example? If they aren’t available or too expensive, then the internet offers enough newspapers and news portals which you can read on-line. Probably you are already familiar with the news in your mother tongue, then it will be easier for you to understand the context when reading the same news again in the foreign language.

Further methods are movies or series. Perhaps it would be best if you start with a movie or a series you have already seen in your mother tongue. The slang and common idiomatic expressions could give you a hard time. If you feel that you can’t follow at all, then you could try to watch with subtitles in the foreign language. If it still doesn’t work then you should use it with subtitles in your mother tongue and try watching it again. A very good range of foreign-language movies you find for example on Amazon.

Another interesting tool is Fleex. While you are watching movies or series, Fleex is looking for subtitles in the source language as well as in you own language. When you touch with your mouse on the subtitles the movie pauses and you see the subtitles in both languages. If some words are still unknown, despite of the comparison, you can click on the word and Fleex shows you the matching dictionary entry.

But also the music shouldn’t come up short in your foreign-language world. It has the advantage that you learn much about pronounciation and emphasis. And on top of that you can approach the culture of the country. You’ll find free and foreign-language music on YouTube, Spotify or you can listen to many internet radio stations.

Distribute small notes in your apartment

If it doesn’t bother you or others, distribute small notes with vocabulary in your apartment! Whether it is your toothbrush, the couch or the remote control, place as many notes as possible on objects and furnitures as you like with the respective names of the object in the foreign language. By looking at the vocabulary the whole day, they will be imprinted on your memory automatically.

These were only 3 helpful tips about how you can integrate your foreign language into your daily life. Maybe you come up with some more ideas how you can create a small foreign-language world at you home. Be creative!

Klebezettel verteilen

3. Use language learning apps and on-line portals

The internet has produced many undreamed possibilities. In the past someone had to pore over huge books, pay for expensive language courses or memorize those vocabulary index cards. Today, almost every learning method is summerized in online portals or language learning apps.

E-Learning has many advantages. Many people appreciate the wide range of foreign languages, learning methods and topics. But also the flexibility is a considerable bonus. You don’t have to follow a stubborn curriculum. You can spend your time with topics of your interest, whether you are an absolute beginner or an advanced student. Besides, the topics don’t become obsolete after a few years as the offer is being improved and revised constantly. Through learning portals or apps you come together with many students from all over the world.

Especially the price is a big bonus and plays an important role. Usually you can try your desired foreign language out by joining a free membership or even by downloading a especial offer. Some good on-line portals and apps are for example Babbel, Busuu and Duolingo.

app & online portals / learn language fast

4. Buy a language crash course

Even though we live in a time where e-learning is the most important thing, there exist quite a few terrific courses for selfstudy. PONS offers for example a course called “Power-Sprachkurs in 4 Wochen” for many foreign languages. A completed curriculum with 24 clear lessons and 24 online power-tests. The course helps you to familiarize yourself with the most important things in no time. The course “Langenscheidtkurs in 30 Tagen” functions according to the same principle. Common dialogs and varied exercises will bring you within a month to an A2 level (according to the CEFR, short for Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). People who are in a hurry can buy mini language courses from PONS. You will be competent to talk about something within 5 hours.

Language Crash Course

5. Learn the most important idiomatic expressions

Another helpful tip is to think before your journey about which words or idiomatic expressions you will really need. Then you could write down how to book a hotel room or how to buy a bus ticket. Of course, vocabulary like how to order in a restaurant, how to ask somebody for the way, how to communicate at the doctor or the police station are very useful, too.

If you want to be on the safe side you should get yourself a phrase book. At Amazon you’ll find small paperbacks for the respective country under 10 €. I especially like the travel guides from the series of Kauderwelsch, because they are oriented by the typical daily life. Word-for-word translations help you to get to know the structure and way of thinking of your foreign language without having to cram your head with grammatical rules. Because of their handy format, the phrase book fits certainly into your backpack.

6. Search for a tandem partner

To test your knowledge and gain practical experience before your journey you should search for a tandem partner. Most of the language schools or universities in your city act as a mediator in the case. You help someone to learn your mother tongue meanwhile he or she will teach you their language. Right at the beginning a simple conversation can lead to an enormous achievement, which can give you a huge motivation. If all of it isn’t the case in your hometown, you can have a look in the internet. By now, there are many recommendable portals online, like italki or Conversationexchange.com. And apart from that, there are also a couple of very cool apps, which help you on your search for a tandem partner. Apps like HelloTalk, Speaky and Tandemapp are ideal to find a partner.

Tandempartner suchen

7. Set yourself clear goals

Last but not least an important advice: set yourself clear goals. Without an objective you are like a ship without a helm: You will never reach your destination. Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months says, that he doesn’t have resolutions, but tasks. The word “task” transmits the idea of something urgent, a drama that has to be done against time. Maybe you have already booked your flight and therefore a deadline till you have to achieve your goal. That’s why I advise you to set mini tasks.

But please stay realistic with your objectives! Especially regarding your mini tasks. If they are too big and not realistic to achieve, you loose your motivation and will give up. A good tip is also to write down your goals. Writing something down is like having a contract with yourself. Your objectives become more binding and you feel more obliged to stick to your timetable. Making a note has the advantage that you can express your aims more precisely and in this way you wont’ forget them so fast. Don’t try to formulate only your aims but go about them and put them into action.

Here are some examples of how to define your goals

  • Learn 300 vocabulary words
  • Study 3 tenses by heart
  • Write an email in the foreign language
  • Learn important questions by heart
  • To hold a conversation with a tandem partner on-line via webcam

How can you achieve your goals?

  • Set priorities: You should definitely sort your goals according to the importance.
  • Be realistic: How is your current life situation? Avoid expecting too much of yourself.
  • Begin even today: Don’t think about tomorrow or yesterday, begin even today to achieve your goals. The longer you wait, the more improbable it will become for you to achieve your goals.
  • Make your goals public: When other people know about your aims you are more ambitious to really achieve them. Otherwise you would have to admit defeat. This tip could bring along some stress but it helps you to be more determined.
  • Change your habits: You must probably change something in your daily routine to achieve your aims. Don’t hesitate and reject bad habits which stand in your way.
  • Reward yourself: Each time reaching a partial objective, be good to yourself! What it can be depends on the preferences of each person.
  • Set consequences of nonreaching: Of course, you don’t have to punish yourself but it drives some people more to be active than rewarding for success.
  • Use your imagination: Imagine how it would be if you reach your goals. What would you be capable of? What would you feel? Thinking of that will motivate you immensely to work on your goals!

Are you already abroad? 4 apps to learn a language fast while being away

This article is late on time, you are already in the middle of your journey? No problem, you have definitely taken along with your smartphone. These 4 apps you can download for learning languages on the way.

Linqapp

This app isn’t a classic language learning app. Linqapp is more a translation app, where you get answers directly from native speakers. It functions according to a simple principle: You can post a question, a photo or an audioclip publicly. This information pops on the screen from all native speakers of your foreign language. That’s why you can receive several answers and explanations mostly within minutes. You can be sure that you got the right answer that will help you along because of the fact that a native speaker gave you the response. Of course, you can be there for others, too. Especially for those who are learning your own mother tongue. You can answer questions regarding grammar, slang and idioms.

This tool is very handy when you are travelling, because native speakers answer your questions in real time.

Memrise

With Memrise you will come across with the good old index cards system. The only difference is that everything proceeds digitally. You learn new vocabulary through hearing, writing and several question-answer-games. At the end of a course you will be tested. If required you can let a pronunciation of words be indicated or you receive an explanation of the vocabulary in words and pictures. A little plant in the corner of your screen displays your progress. The app always reminds you of reaching you daily work quota.

All in all Memrise offers over 300.000 revised courses, often produced by users, for 200 languages. That is probably one of the best reasons to give the app a try. You will certainly find the language of your desired country of destination.

Babbel

When you occupy yourself with the topic “language learning” you definitely have already heard about Babbel. Babbel is one of the most popular portals online for learning a foreign language. The registration and download are free of charge. It depends on the fact if you want to use Babbel entirely or not, but maybe it could make more sense to subscribe to a premium account.

When applying to the premium membership you have a wide range of interactive language lessons with a variety of topics at your disposition. Babbel directs your attention to a practically oriented learning. You will get to know about the country, people and culture of the country of destination. The idioms and the vocabulary from the lessons are very helpful and easy to apply. There is also an integrated vocabulary trainer which keeps you and your vocabulary always up to date. It reminds you also in due course about learning your vocabulary, depending on how often you have already practised them or if you didn’t recognize them at all.

At the moment there are seven source languages and fourteen learning languages available. German native speakers can learn English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish, Turkish, Danish and Russian.

Duolingo

Duolingo is also quite well-known and very popular. The structure resembles a game. The lessons are called levels. For example, you have to translate simple phrases, choose the right answers or type in the sentences which had been read to you. The lessons of Duolingo contain also speech exercises. You have to repeat sentences or find the right translation. For every passed lesson you earn points which indicate your level.

Duolingo is completely free and according to the developers, it may stay like that. Until now, only English and French are available for German native speakers. In return, you have more options when English is the source language, for example the following languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Esperanto, Turkish, Norwegian and Ukrainian.

Travel more authentic and learn the language

To have good command of the language of your country of destination is only to your advantage. You will understand how people in certain regions tick, which fears and worries they have to deal with and how they manage things in life. You are going to be more tolerant, you will see the world through different eyes and after the journey you will definitely question the mindset and the way of acting of your own culture. Of course, you’ll learn many new things abroad, in the matter of foreign languages, too. So please, make time to concentrate on learning the new language before your journey. I promise you, it’s worth it!

Which language learning tools do you use to prepare yourself for your journey? Do you have some more tips? Please comment below in the comment section!

About the author:

Daniel blogs together with his wife Vanessa about the topic “language learning”. On their blog called SprachenlernBlog they post regularly tips, advices and methods around the subject of learning a foreign language. Have a look on their blog or on their Facebook Account.

Leave a Reply