On The Ground Guide to Learning a New Language

If you are a digital nomad who travels a lot and earns a living while working online, your only barrier on the way to the 100 percent immersion in a country might be… Its language.

You change destinations, you are always on the road, you never stop hustling, and you have no time for classrooms, language lessons, teachers, assignments, or weeks-long language courses. Location independent, you still and all find it difficult to build learning habits because there’s no guarantee you’ll stay in one place every Monday.

And yet, flexibility is the #1 skill you’ve mastered for the time of your travels; so, you might want to consider no lessons ways of getting extra-linguistic knowledge and, therefore, improving your ability to make contacts and work steadily in a foreign environment.

Study Thai in Thailand

How to learn a new language when on the go?

Download Tools

The Internet and gadgets are your permanent companions in travels. You use dozens of tools and online services to simplify your work and organize your time for better productivity, so a couple of extra tools for learning languages wouldn’t go amiss, would they?

Language learners are helpless without:


Most apps allow to create a database of translated phrases and need no internet connection. Five best translation apps for travelers make it easier to avoid yielding the smallest potatoes.

They let you translate words and short phrases to bridge communication gaps. The more often you use them, the more you remember. Apart from Google Translate that is not always accurate even with a context, you might want to try app-based translators such as Waygo (it translates words by pictures) or Voice Translator (it works with your recorded phrases and sentences).

Also, with devices like the Vasco Translator, you can do it in real time now too. Check out my vasco translator review here.


Though online translation gets better, it’s still hard for machines to fathom linguistic nuances. Especially, if there’s no context. While app-based translators deal with separate words, online dictionaries share all shades of meanings with examples and situations on where to use them.

Also, they provide synonyms, antonyms, idioms, and more related words for you to learn new language units and enhance your vocabulary.   

Urban Dictionary or Visuwords might be the choice of yours, as well as more traditional. Google Dictionary or Wiktionary.

Language learning tools

They are numerous! Some look like language courses, others remind educational games, and all don’t take much time from you but help to practice vocabulary by focusing on memorization and repetition.

Duolingo, LingoDeer, and Memrise are among the best language learning programs that let you take lessons on the go. Livemocha is worth trying, too: it’s free, and you would learn from native speakers there.

Join Communities

Online communities of language learners, as well as messengers to talk with native speakers are great sources to enhance vocabulary, practice pronunciation, master communications in a foreign language, and meet new friends from all over the world. Also, they help to familiarize yourself with languages by practicing reading and writing.

Chat with voice and text messages to native speakers via Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, or any other messenger you prefer. Online communities, like Busuu, allow to engage native speakers in your personal learning process. HelloTalk facilitates speaking practice, TripLingo eliminates the stress of real-time conversation, and HiNative encourages to ask for translations or advice on cultural norms.

Learn languages by practicing in storytelling (write better with Draft) and academic writing (as long as you’re not studying anymore).

Feedback from experts via live chats (available in both options mentioned above) or emails allows to polish grammar and vocabulary.

Listen to Audio Tapes

Listening to radio stations in target languages can do wonders:

  • It doesn’t make you dependent on geographic location.
  • Up to 40 minutes per day is enough to practice, so it won’t be time-consuming.

You can listen to audiobooks without trying to understand what they say there: several new words will “fall” on your ears one way or another, and listening to foreign sounds in the background can help to “feel” the language.

Podcasts are perfect for learning languages on the go, as well. Depending on what you learn, you might want to check these:

  • Listen to 3-5 minute podcasts on Chinese, each one with two or three new phrases for travelers to know.
  • Podcasts from Radio Lingua Network on Italian are worth trying.
  • Learn the French language by listening to poems.
  • One Minute German Podcast is a good choice, too.
  • Listen to Coffee Break Spanish, 15-minute audio podcasts to understand the language basis.

Songs help, too.

Singing aloud, you let your speech apparatus and inner voice get hip to foreign words, as well as enhance vocabulary and improve pronunciation. Do you know that Beautiful by Christina Aguilera and Stan by Eminem are must-listen for developing a perfect pronunciation in English? Find great songs in your target language – and mix business with pleasure.

Watch Movies

Many consider Friends the best series for those learning English. Seeing the language in a story context helps to learn words, understand idioms, and increase comprehension. Find alike series or short video stories in your target language and watch them with subtitles while traveling.

Talk shows, daily newscasts, or animated features work, too. The daily repetition of situations helps to learn vocabulary while watching. Choose videos with double subtitles – in your mother tongue and in the language which you learn – because it will help you kill two birds with one stone: you see how to spell unknown words, learn their translation, and practice your listening skills.

Watching Youtube videos, both entertaining and educational, is another alternative for you. The Travel Linguist, Innovative Language Learning, or Easy Languages might teach multiple languages to those on the go, and you can always find a video to watch while aboard or waiting in departure lounges.

The ball is in your court now…

What do you do to overcome language barriers abroad? Are there any lifehacks you can share? I had a great experience when I signed up in person to study thai in Bangkok.

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