20 Practical Insider Tips for Language Learning on the Road
What better way to learn a new language than while traveling!? Don’t leave before reading our tips for language learning! They are awesome and will make your journey more enjoyable and productive.
What kind of trip are you going to take? Are you a globetrotter with a passion for exploring new cultures? Or are you just ready for a short vacation?
You can pick up a few phrases or master the local language – start by following what is next!
1. Embrace the local culture
Immersing yourself in the traditions, customs, and daily life of the people in your destination can help you get a feel for the language.
Try local food, attend cultural events, and engage in conversations with the locals. You’ll not only learn about the culture but also improve your language skills.
2. Learn the basics before you go
Before you embark on your journey, it’s a good idea to learn some essential phrases and vocabulary in the local language. This includes greetings, common expressions, and basic conversational tools.
Online language learning platforms and smartphone apps are great resources to help you get started. Even if you’re not fluent, knowing the basics can go a long way in making connections with locals and navigating daily life.
Imagine you’re a college student named Olivia, living in Australia, and you’ve always dreamed of backpacking through Europe during your summer break. You’ve decided to start your journey in Paris, but there’s just one problem – you don’t speak a word of French!
To prepare for your adventure, you turn to online language learning platforms and smartphone apps like Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone.
You download one of these user-friendly language learning apps, and start your French lessons. Every day for a month leading up to your trip, you spend 20 minutes practicing basic French phrases, greetings, and essential vocabulary.
The gamified approach of Duolingo, for example, keeps you engaged and motivated to continue your studies.
Thanks to these online language learning platforms and smartphone apps, your dream of traveling through Europe has become a reality. They have helped you get started on your language learning journey, making your adventure in Paris a more enriching and immersive experience.
3. Carry a phrasebook or language app
While you don’t need to be fluent in the local language, having a phrasebook or language app can be a lifesaver in many situations. These handy tools provide instant access to commonly used phrases, translations, and pronunciation guides.
They can be especially helpful when you need to ask for directions, order food, or interact with locals who might not speak your native language.
4. Join language meetups or apps
If you’re planning an extended stay in a foreign country, consider joining local language meetups or finding partners on language apps.
Meetups are often organized by language schools, community centers, or even through social media platforms like Meetup.com.
In the Speaky app, you can have as many partners as you want (and in several possible languages) – they can lend a helping hand for you to communicate in any situation. And they’re just a tap away on your phone.
5. Practice with locals
Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with locals, even if your language skills are limited. Most people appreciate the effort and are often happy to help you learn.
Whether it’s at a café, market, or public transportation, seize the opportunity to converse with those around you. They will be curious about your country and you’ll love to give them details about it.
6. Listen and imitate
Language learning isn’t just about speaking; it’s also about listening and imitating. Pay close attention to the way people around you speak and try to mimic their pronunciation and intonation.
Watching local TV shows or listening to local radio stations can also be valuable in improving your listening skills. This immersive approach will help you sound more like a native speaker.
7. Label your surroundings
A fun and practical way to reinforce your language learning is to label objects around your living space.
Use sticky notes or labels to identify common items like tables, chairs, and appliances with their corresponding words in the local language. This will help you build your vocabulary while going about your daily routine.
8. Set realistic goals
Learning a new language while traveling can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to set realistic goals.
Meet Lateef, from Egypt – an adventurous traveler who’s always wanted to explore the vibrant streets of Tokyo, Japan. He’s excited about his upcoming trip but is aware that he doesn’t speak a word of Japanese.
David begins by acknowledging that learning Japanese fluently in a short period is unrealistic. Instead, he sets specific and achievable goals:
- Engaging in basic communication first
- Achieving cultural insights
- Appreciating local cuisine
- Learning through immersion
While Lateef knows he won’t become fluent in Japanese within two weeks, he’ll be equipped with enough language skills and cultural knowledge to navigate the country, immerse himself in its rich culture, and make the most of his journey.
Be patient and aware of your limitations and focus on achievable milestones.
9. Keep a travel journal
Maintaining a travel journal is not only a great way to record your adventures, but also to practice your language skills.
Write about your experiences, describe the places you’ve visited, and express your thoughts in the local language.
Why not do that through a blog?
Try it and maybe your blog will even become a hit!
At the very least, this activity can help reinforce your vocabulary and grammar.
10. Watch local movies and TV shows
Watching local movies and TV shows is an enjoyable way to immerse yourself in the language and culture of your destination. This will expose you to colloquial language, slang, and local accents, helping you understand how people truly communicate in their everyday lives.
We suggest some popular TV shows for some countries:
- In France: “Call My Agent! (Dix pour cent)” – a comedy-drama series;
- In Japan: some anime series, like “Naruto,”;
- In Portugal: dramas or crime series, like”Bem-vindos a Beirais”;
- In Argentina: “Bailando por un Sueño” (the Argentine version of “Dancing with the Stars”);
- In Italy: series like “Don Matteo”;
- In the US: news programs like “60 Minutes”.
You can do that while taking a rest in your inn, after your day of touring!
11. Engage in language exchange
Many travelers seek language exchange partners to practice speaking. In a language exchange, you can teach someone your native language in exchange for them teaching you their language.
There are various websites and apps where you can connect with potential language partners, such as Tandem, HelloTalk, ConversationExchange, and our Speaky.
12. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
It’s crucial to remember that making mistakes is an integral part of the language learning process. Don’t be afraid of sounding less than perfect; embrace your errors as opportunities for growth.
Meet Maria, a Romanian, dedicated language learner, who recently started studying Spanish. She’s passionate about mastering the language, but she often worries about making mistakes when speaking with native speakers.
Maria found a friendly and patient partner in the Speaky app, from Chile. In her first meetings, nervously, Maria makes several errors in grammar and pronunciation. 🙁
That doesn’t bother her: she continues the conversation, even when she knows she’s not speaking flawlessly. Juan, appreciating Maria’s efforts, offers gentle corrections and, over time, Maria becomes more confident in her Spanish-speaking abilities.
As we always point out, native speakers will appreciate your efforts, and they’ll often correct you in a friendly and helpful way (ask travelers that have been to Brazil about that…).
13. Be patient and persistent
Language learning is a journey, and it’s essential to be patient and persistent. Progress may seem slow at times, but every bit of effort you put in will pay off in the end.
Don’t get discouraged if you hit a plateau, OK? Keep pushing forward and enjoy the process.
14. Use flashcards
Flashcards are an excellent tool for expanding your vocabulary before leaving for the trip.
Follow these steps:
- Create your flashcards
- Review regularly
- Practice pronunciation
- Test yourself
- Real-life practice (if you are already in your destination)
- Maintain consistency
Some good flashcard apps are the following:
Create flashcards with a word or phrase in the local language on one side and the translation in your native language on the other. Review them regularly, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll pick up new words.
15. Label your photos
A cool idea: as you travel, take photos and label them with descriptions in the local language! This not only helps you remember the words but also creates a personal connection between the language and your experiences.
16. Explore language learning apps
Language learning apps are incredibly convenient for travelers. Apps like Google Translate, Memrise, and FluentU offer a variety of features, from instant translation to interactive lessons and videos.
Imagine you’re embarking on a journey to explore the vibrant streets of Berlin, Germany, in the summer. While you’re excited about the adventure, you’re a bit nervous because you don’t speak German. To make your trip smoother, you decide to rely on language learning apps.
As you arrive at the Tokyo airport, you’re instantly greeted by signs and announcements in Japanese. However, you’ve installed Google Translate on your smartphone. With the app’s instant translation feature, you point your camera at the signs, and the app translates them into your native language!
During your first night in Berlin, you decide to try some local food. You open Memrise, which you’ve been using for a few weeks before your trip, to review some basic German phrases. Memrise offers interactive lessons that allow you to practice pronunciation and common food-related vocabulary. Armed with these phrases, you confidently order a delicious meal at a local restaurant!
Throughout your trip, you use Google Translate to communicate with locals when necessary. Although not perfect, the app helps bridge the language gap and allows you to ask for directions, engage in small talk, and interact with the friendly people you meet during your travels.
Thanks to these language learning apps, your journey in Berlin becomes much more enjoyable and manageable. Download a few of them to your smartphone and use them during your journey.
17. Try out language challenges
Challenge yourself by setting language-learning goals for your trip. For example, you could aim to have a five-minute conversation with a local every day or learn a new phrase each morning. These challenges will keep you motivated and actively engaged in the learning process.
18. Immerse yourself in local music
Music is a universal language, and immersing yourself in local music can be both entertaining and educational. Listen to songs in the local language, and if you can, try to sing along (there are some karaoke videos on Youtube!).
Are you going to England? Sing Adele’s “Someone Like You”!
Are you going to Mexico? Listen to Luis Miguel’s “La Bikina”!
Are you going to Brazil? Gilberto Gil’s “Toda Menina Baiana” is catchy!
You’ll pick up new vocabulary and expressions while enjoying the rhythms and melodies of the culture.
19. Stay with locals
Choosing accommodations that allow you to stay with local hosts, such as homestays or Airbnb rentals, can provide an invaluable language learning opportunity.
Living with locals means you’ll be constantly exposed to the language, and you can practice in a comfortable and supportive environment.
20. Explore food culture
Food is a central part of any culture, and exploring local cuisine can be an enjoyable way to learn the language. Visit local markets, try street food, and engage with vendors.
Learning the names of dishes and ingredients will not only enhance your dining experience but also your language skills.
Learning a new language while traveling is a rewarding adventure that can open doors to rich cultural experiences! With a little effort, a positive attitude, and the right tools, like the Speaky app, you can make your journey not just a vacation but a true language-learning experience.