learn a language

The world is getting smaller everyday and knowing multiple languages is more important than ever. It doesn’t just make traveling more enjoyable but as business becomes more global it opens up more opportunities. The toughest part is of course learning the language but it can be fun! Here are some ideas…

Before you travel

1. Buy children’s books. Children’s books are the most basic reading you will find in any language. Any words you don’t know you can easily look-up with the help of your dictionary or smart-phone.

2. Watch movies in the language. Dive even further into the local culture by watching movies from the area.

3. Find locals. Get out in your community and find out where people are speaking and using the language you’re using ie. Chinatown. Try shopping, ordering food and asking for directions in the language you’re learning.

4. Listen to children’s songs. Just like children’s books, children’s songs are as simple as they come. You can find songs that can help you practice basic numbers, letters and phrases.

5. Find a friend who knows the language and only speak in it. Having a friend who knows the language is a huge asset. Mastering casual conversation is one of the toughest things you will learn.

6. Get your news online in another language.  You watch the news anyway, so it’s another opportunity to practice reading and listening to videos.

7. Use technology. There are numerous resources online and for your smart-phone to help you learn. Here are a few of the best to check out.

BBC Languages – An extensive resource covering some of the most popular languages and cultures.

Mac Genius – Genius helps you memorize things. Genius organizes your information and carefully chooses questions using an intelligent “spaced repetition” method that’s based on your past performance.

Anki – Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy that works on PC. It is a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn.

Talking Translator/Dictionary (Android & IOS) – Speak a sentence and hear the translation. Plus many other useful features.

Google Translate (Android & IOS) – Translate text and speech between more than 60 languages

8. Skype Partners. You can use The Mixxer to find language partners over Skype. This service will help connect you with someone looking to learn your native language while you try to learn theirs.

9. Meetup.com for language meet-ups. Find local meet-ups for language groups. There are a lot of groups out there covering most languages where people gather to hang out and speak the language in a social setting.

10. Private tutor – find a college student. Oftentimes a private tutor is the best way to get to the next level. Use them to help clean up areas you struggle with or point out mistakes you tend to make.

11. Pick up foreign editions of your favorite magazine. Reading things you’re familiar with will help you put phrases together in context.

12. Change your computer settings. Force yourself to get stuff done and discover pictures of puppies in another language.

13. Eat out! Find restaurants that offer menus in both languages. Again, make sure to only order in the language you’re trying to learn.

14. Cook in a foreign language. Find a recipe and see if you can get it right!

15. Hit YouTube. You can find a lot of your favorite videos you waste time watching anyway in foreign languages.

16. Write basic lists in a foreign language. These can be shopping lists, reminders, or anything you do frequently.

Take the trip!

The absolute best way to learn a language is to throw yourself into the scene. Force yourself to figure out how to communicate and get what you need. Just hearing the language all day long from your surroundings will help you pick up on many things.

It’s also one of the more fun things you can do and an experience you won’t forget.

17. Date a local. This can’t be guaranteed but whether you succeed or not you will learn a lot trying! The initial conversation will be a major test and if you succeed you will have someone that you can practice with everyday.

18. Stay in hostels. Hostels will provide you with the most authentic experience. Even if you don’t spend your entire trip there just staying and interacting for a few nights is beneficial.

19. Hire a local guide. Most local guides will only speak their native language and you can use the experience as a way to test yourself to describe things and ask questions.

20. Haggle. Put your negotiating skills to the test and see if you can convince someone to give you a deal.

21. Watch local TV. Your hotel may offer other options but don’t use them!

22. Attend local events/gatherings. The more you engage and get involved in the scene the more of the language you will pick up.

23. Go out to local bars. Make sure to order everything in the local language. After a few drinks you will really be tested to see if you can correctly get your message across.

24. Don’t use maps. Make sure to always ask for directions and read the signs.

25. Only use local currency. Many places might accept multiple currencies but don’t even carry anything else.

26. Get a job. If you’re staying for awhile it could be useful to pickup a basic job. Working a few months in a surf shop in a foreign country will not only be fun but will force you to learn and use the language.

27. Ask locals to take pictures of you. Figure out how to explain what you want and how to use your camera.

Have fun!

Jared O’Toole is the co-founder of Under30Media. You can find him on Twitter or Google. 


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