Tips & Tricks
Learning a Language whilst Travelling
Are you considering travelling in order to learn, practise or perfect a language? Then fear not, you’ve made a great decision and here are 5 reasons why…
Learning a language traditionally takes place in a small, safe setting like a classroom or conversational group, but what about in the real world?
I believe that visiting a country and immersing yourself in the culture is one of the best ways to improve your language skills. I’ve been studying languages for over 10 years and despite this, my knees still quake whenever I’m put on the spot. When I’m travelling, I still make embarrassing mistakes that make people laugh and me cringe. However, being bold and just spitting it out has also made me more resilient and ironically, more determined to get it right the next time.
I lived in Singapore for two years, when I was 8 years old and whilst there I started learning Chinese. Just 30 mins every day and I quickly I became relatively fluent, although mistakes still occurred, like the time I asked a shopkeeper how old she was instead of how much the object was in my hand. Another classic, in both French and German, is saying that you’re hot for someone instead of hot in temperature (je suis chaude vs j’ai chaud). The list is long but friendships have been born out of my faux pas.
Language polishing is the very reason why I’ve taken it upon myself to travel solo in the past and will do again in the future. Here’s why I think you should try it too.
- Immersion – when you travel, you’re constantly immersed in the target language environment. Unlike at home, when you step outside you’re still in a foreign environment. You don’t need to create a little foreign bubble with radio and film when you’re there in the flesh, working towards fluency.
- Conversation – when you’re abroad, conversation topics deviate from the textbook examples of what you had for dinner and describing rooms in your house. With real life humans, you can talk about almost everything.
- Resources, resources, resources – instead of the limited choice of books found in a dusty corner of the library, you get up-to-date texts everywhere you look abroad. This includes everything from podcasts, ATM instructions and newspapers to subway signs and conversing with new buddies. Ever complained about there being a fly in your soup in your new language?
- Voices and vocabulary – when you travel you don’t need to rely on automated voices or overly-exaggerated tape recordings. You get to hear real-life people speak with different regional accents, at different speeds and volumes. You learn how to train your ear, as well as pick-up local vocabulary that isn’t in your text books.
- Surviving – since you’re living in a foreign country, you’ll need to use your language skills for everyday tasks such as finding food, getting around and shopping. This forces you to use the language, especially when locals don’t speak your native tongue.
Got the validation you needed?
Good, now think of the advantages you’ll gain from speaking additional languages:
- You can connect with more new and interesting people at home and abroad.
- It boosts your CV. Did you know that 300 million Chinese students are being educated in English? Just imagine how marketable they’re going to be and how valuable speaking another language could be for your future.
- Your memory will enjoy the workout.
- It builds self-confidence and forces you out of your comfort zone. Locals will love that you get the joke or understand the words to song.
- You’ll increase your cultural awareness and people will appreciate that you’ve made the effort to learn their language.
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