Learn a language while you're travelling
Article updated by Sarah Kearney in collaboration with the Erasmus+ UK National Agency.
Whether you’re planning a short or long trip away, there’s no doubt you want an experience that immerses you into your chosen country. Making new friends, embracing the culture, discovering new locations – all these await you!
But if you’re not familiar with the language, it can prove quite tricky to gain this immersive experience. Therefore, you may want to consider learning the language – and what better way than to learn during your travels.
Yes, it sounds a little daunting but you’ll find many perks from understanding the language. If you’re travelling solo, it’s necessary if you want to navigate safely around. Want to avoid getting off at the wrong train or bus stop? Keen to impress all your travel buddies? Then take those first steps towards learning a language.
In addition, considering 50.6% of young Europeans are learning at least two foreign languages, according to Eurostat, this is a bandwagon you should jump on! Let’s go through some of the ways that can help you become multilingual.
- Just have a go!
Even if you're a beginner, you need to practice and you’ll learn more by making mistakes. Ask people to speak to you in their language even if they’re fluent in yours. If they switch to your language, keep using theirs. Start with basic vocabulary and sentences. Don’t struggle to form long and complex sentences – but do try to speak clearly.
While you may struggle at first, particularly if you need to pronounce sounds you’re not familiar with, practising will aid you in speaking and listening. It will also help you feel more confident using the language.
- Put down your books
Don’t spend too much time learning vocabulary lists or studying grammar books. They’re not very practical while you’re travelling and likely to remind you of school lessons.
Experiencing the language is the best way to learn. Ask local friends to teach you how to pronounce words correctly; it’s much better than a phonetic transcription. To remember words, try putting sticky notes on objects around your room.
- Get extra help with mobile apps
There are now plenty of language-learning mobile apps to help you in your travels. Many of which you’ve probably already heard of, such as famous Duolingo. Depending on the app, they can offer you quick lessons through challenges and games, help you connect with native speakers and more.
You may feel the need to download them all. But it’s actually best to download only a couple that will realistically help you. Lingualift offers a detailed guide on all the language mobile apps available, helping you choose the right one for you.
- It's not all about the language
Immerse yourself in local culture and customs too. Read about the country and ask local people questions. Listen to music you like in the language or read a book written by a local author – you’ll learn new words without even trying.
- Be curious
Read articles and books in the language on subjects you’re interested in, such as video games or a favourite sport. This will help you make conversation.
Other fun ways to improve your language skills include reading blogs, listening to podcasts and watching videos with subtitles in the original language. Why not even try binge-watching your favourite boxsets in the language?
- Be aware of your surroundings
Believe it or not, the local streets, restaurants and more provide endless opportunities to learn the language. Read the signs, menus and even eavesdrop passing conversations. This all helps you put your learning into practice – building your reading and listening skills.
- Go out and meet people
Go to social events, like parties or student meetings, and make new friends in the language. Or try and set up a language exchange (or tandem) with a native speaker for a couple of hours a week – it’s the perfect way to practise. Some popular language exchanges include:
- MeetUp - designed to help people in local areas to meet for a common interest, it has an entire section dedicated to language exchanges. From meeting fellow travellers to native speakers, you can make new friends and memories as well as practising your language skills.
- My Language Exchange - placing a higher focus on online language exchanges, My Language Exchange offers voice chat, penpals and meeting up face-to-face.
- Couchsurfing - not the most conventional way of finding a language exchange, but couch surfing gives you the chance to meet native speakers and stay with them.
You can also find smaller language exchanges, localised to the country. Many will have a presence on social media, such as Facebook, so it’s worth to do some research.
Online linguistic support
Are you going to take part in an Erasmus+ programme? The Erasmus+ online linguistic support website will help you assess your skills in the foreign language(s) you will use to study, work or volunteer abroad. If you are selected for Erasmus+, you can also follow an online language course to improve your language skills after the initial assessment.
There are even more useful tools that can help you in your language-learning journey:
- Poliglotti 4: – tools for learning languages and advice from true polyglots!
- Polyglot Club: – find people all over the world to practice the language and teach them yours.
- Language Learning Portal – find a language course or school anywhere.
With all these tips and tools for you to use, you’re set on the right path to learning a new language. Going to a different country and learning the language while there can seem a nerve-wracking task. But as you develop your language skills, you’ll feel more confident in using it and enjoy recognising and speaking new words. Giving you that immersive experience.
From this, here’s our final and most important tip – enjoy and embrace the challenge!
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