Sunday, December 11, 2011

Learning A Foreign Language For Travel

"喂 ciao привет hola こんにちは विवाद Powitanie 안녕하세요!"
    So as you may have read in general travel tips a great thing to really immerse yourself in the culture of a country you are going to is to learn the language, don't worry you don't need to be extremely proficient, even just knowing the basics will impress the people you are talking to and show that you have a real interest in learning more about the country and culture.

   My only strong foreign language is Spanish, I learned it in school, and live in the Phoenix area where it is used quite often, but in my travels and preparation for trips, I've learned some Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and Italian. Knowing your hellos, good byes, please and thank you's, ordering food, asking where something is, or simply stating you don't understand that language can get you pretty far sometimes! Here are some great ways I have used to learn a language for travel:

In Person Classes: Oh I wish I had the time again! Learning with other people and native speakers is one of the best ways to learn, if not the best! You don't necessarily have to go to a college but often times the college price is the same as an adult language learning center, so why not get the credit?

Immersion: This is not always an option, but while some people say immersion is the best way, I respectfully disagree. Immersion is a great way to learn a lot, but simply immersing without reading and learning will only get you so far. There are many people in countries where the native language is their second language and they learn only what is needed to get by. However we are budget travelers, so if you are not going to be working in a country, immersion is not the worse option. I believe immersion can take you far, but ultimately you want to be reading and watching tv or listening to the radio in the language to properly learn all grammar. Rosetta Stone is similar to immersion.

Language Series Books: Language books are great, I've used Living Language and the Oxford system. They are great tools to learn a foreign language properly, most will include work books, and never ever buy something to learn a language that does not include audio tools. I recommend both systems if you have the time to listen to the audio tapes and do the readings. For long term if you are planning on working or living in another country, this along with reading books and watching tv/movies in that language is in my opinion the best long term method. Click any amazon links here for books.

Soley Audio Learning Systems: My favorite!!!!! For the most part, this is our way to go. You can do it in your car, walking, on the train, etc. We are budget travelers, we do not always have the down time to learn a language and sometimes if you are keeping your flight alerts emails coming and suddenly the golden ticket for under $800 to fly to China comes up, you will not have a year to learn the language. Hands down, the best audio system I have used, Pimsluer:

Pimsluer works by banking things in your short term memory, midterm memory, then long term memory. The Cd's for the most part are just the basics, so it is not for a long term, ie moving/living in another country, but they have been excellent for me traveling to other countries and even interacting with foreigners at work. Within only 20 minutes I learned more Chinese with Pimsluer than I had in a month of working on Japanese with another system. Above is Spanish, I will include many other popular ones at the bottom of this page.

Note on learning Chinese and Japanese: I learned a bit of both for both trips to China and Japan. A word of advice, it may be tempting to learn the written language, I felt it was a bit of a waste of time learning the Kanji for Japan, and for China I went soley with audio. Chinese and Japanese students have 10 years of school to learn the written alphabet. Both alphabets contain over 30,000 characters with at least 3,000 being commonly used. In the time you will take to learn the written language you will learn much more spoken language which will be much more useful. Unless you are planning on living in those countries, or want to make sure that tattoo you got late last night at the bar really says hope, love, and strength, I would save time and avoid the written language.

Learning languages are not only a great way to immerse but I also really enjoy it as a hobby, and it is odd how the most irrelevant language may help you in other places in life, but that's for another time, or another blog. ;-) Happy traveling and learning!

Top languages to learn!


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