Have you ever travelled to a country where you couldn't communicate with anyone? It is so frustrating to not being able to even say "thank you" or "hello"!
One of my favourite things to do while travelling is learning the local language. It is so rewarding when you only just know a few sentences! People appreciate it when they realize you are interested in their culture and language. You get into the culture more quickly and you make new friends so quickly – which helps you practice even more!
So here are my top 10 things that help me learn a new language quicker:
Learn one word/sentence at a time and use it instantly every time you see the chance to do so.
Ask! Ask people to tell you a useful sentence or how to say this or that. Maybe you want to learn the sentence "how do you say this in your language" first ;)
Write it down. It's not a secret anymore that we learn through several channels. So writing down (by hand!) helps our brain to connect the words through more senses and stays there easier. Depending on the language i only write down the way i pronounce it (e.g. in a language with a different alphabet i'm not bothered with writing it down in the correct orthography).
Keep a little notebook with you at all times. Make different chapters: Basics, Small talk, Restaurant, Market, ... Write down every new thing you learn immediately. So you can use it just the next moment you need it.
Make mistakes. One of the big keys to why children learn things so fast is because they are not afraid to make mistakes. They try, they fail, they laugh about it and then they try it again. You'll be surprised how much fun it is to make mistakes and make people smile about it. It's a real icebreaker.
Talk to yourself. Yes, that might sound a bit strange but it really helps. Once you got a new word or sentence, keep on using it – no matter if there's someone listening or not.
Find a partner to practice. If you're travelling with someone, practice together. Everyone has different interests or different ways of remembering words so you might help each other with that. If you're travelling alone – as i do most of the time – ask other foreigners around you, if they already know some words and maybe could help you.
Listen to locals. Learn from the experts. Observe from a street cafe, sneak into a conversation or just randomly stand next to locals at the market and listen (and watch) them talking. It doesn't really matter if you understand any of it. You probably won't in the beginning. But it's about practising your ear, watching their gesture and being aware of the sounds they make. Try to imitate certain sounds that are special for this language and practice it. If you don't feel comfortable observing people, watch movies or TV in that language.
Listen to music while reading the lyrics also is a nice way to get into the language and learn some vocabulary. I mostly already start listening to music before traveling to the country so i already have a little sense of the sound and pronunciation.
Practice. Use your new words and sentences as often as possible. If you're in the country: Learn a sentence, use it and never use the English version again. If you're at home: Go to that restaurant/store/neighbourhood where you can talk to native speakers. People are always so happy to hear someone really trying to learn their language, i am sure they'll be more than happy to practice with you.
The first few things i always want to learn in a new language are these:
– "Hello" and "Goodbye"
– "Thank you" and "Please"
– "Yes" and "No"
– "Excuse me", "i'm sorry" and similar
– "How are you" and "i am fine"
– Numbers from 1 to 10, 20, 30,... to 100 (and maybe other numbers depending on the currency)
– "How much does this cost?"
– "How do you say/call this in your language?" or "What is the word for this in your language?"
– "One/two beer please" and "One more please"
– "Cheers" and "Enjoy your meal"
– "i do not speak ..." and/or "i am learning/practicing"
– "can you say that again?"
– "i am from ..." and "where are you from?"
– "my name is ..." and "what's your name?"
– "the food is delicious" or "it was delicious"
– "very good" or "it is nice/beautiful"
Depending on the culture, try to find some of the most common things to say. In so many countries for instance they love to hear you talk about their food. So get ready to learn that menu card and fruits/vegetables at the market. Also what is most likely to get you some new friends is compliments. Many culutres love to make and recieve compliments... You'll find out by repeating point 8 :)
Have fun and let me know if you have any comments or more tips.