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4 Ways to Learn a Language before Traveling

Hola, Bonjour, こんにちは, 안녕하세요, 你好, Привет…… 

When seeing these words, what comes into your mind? The welcome screen on a new iPhone? Foreign words printed on fashion T-shirts? If you are like most English native speakers, you can probably guess that these are the six ways to say “hello” in Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Russian. And this is pretty much the extent you know about these languages.

While speaking English can help you get by in many countries around the world, knowing some simple expressions of the local languages will make your next trip a lot smoother! Talking to the locals can not only bring you a more unique and valuable travel experience, but also help you understand the target culture and make the most out of your trip.

So why not seize this chance and learn a new language for your next trip abroad? Language learning has never been easier thanks to the advancement of technology. Now we can access hundreds of real-life expressions and speak with native speakers at home! 

Read on to see the 4 ways that I find particularly useful to learn a new language before traveling.

Use Language Learning Apps like LingoDeer

The easiest and most cost-effective way to learn a new language before traveling is using language apps. Unlike traditional language schools or 1-on-1 classes, bite-sized language apps like LingoDeer will save you much time and help you learn the basics of your target language with minimal effort.

LingoDeer provides everything you need from the basics to intermediate-level conversation practice. It’s especially friendly to beginners and travelers with a free alphabet section and travel phrasebook. So even if it’s last-minute preparation, LingoDeer will get you equipped with the most important language stuff — alphabet, writing system, pronunciation, grammar etc. If you have time, you can also go through all bite-sized lessons and reach the intermediate level before you go.

If you are a more social type of person, using language exchange apps like HelloTalk can also be a great idea. HelloTalk allows you to talk directly with people from all over the world and use a new language while learning it.

Watch movies, videos, talk shows, and more

Just as many people around the world regard Friends or Harry Potter series as their introduction to real-life English, you can also find movies or TV shows alike in your target language to learn vocabulary, idioms, and sentences within context. The key is to find one that you really enjoy and can stick to. 20 minutes a day can go a long way if it becomes a habit.

In addition, watching talk shows or YouTube videos can also be helpful because they are mostly created by native speakers and spoken in a casual manner. As a result, the language you hear from these types of videos is much closer to the everyday language you are about to hear from native speakers than that from formal news.

Also, I suggest watching videos attentively rather than putting them on as background noise while doing other stuff. While listening to podcasts or news can be beneficial for advanced-level learners to expand knowledge, language beginners should probably learn more seriously. You can also have the double subtitles on – one in your mother tongue and the other in your target language – so you can learn the translation and spelling while practicing listening skills.

Listen to foreign music and learn the lyrics

Have you ever felt that after listening to a song over and over again, the lyrics seem to stick to your brain even without you trying? Isn’t this much easier than reading language books and memorizing long vocabulary lists?

Music is a language that expresses emotions, feelings, and culture by itself. Listen to music attentively, write down and learn the lyrics if you can. Sing along and have fun if you feel like to. The catchy melody and lyrical repetition ingrain new words into your brain even without you knowing it. Besides, listening to music can help you practice listening, as the speech rate is much slower.

Practice basic reading and writing skills

Many may argue that for travelers, listening and speaking skills are more important than reading and writing as they’ll be used more often once you arrive in a foreign land. While it’s true that being able to communicate with the locals is crucial for travelers to have a holistic experience, reading and writing skills should not be neglected either. Imagine you need to read a menu in a restaurant, or a train itinerary at the station, being able to read the key information will promise a much easier journey.

What’s more, studies have shown that writing ability is closely associated with the other 3 key skills. It not only includes the ability to present your thoughts, but also to think cohesively and structurally, which in turn can be beneficial to other skills. If you are also looking for job or study opportunities during the trip, then being able to write correctly (accuracy in spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.) is even more important. 

Above are the 4 ways I found particularly useful for picking up a language before traveling abroad. Hope it can assist your next trip abroad.

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