That’s it. Your holiday trip is booked. Airplane ticket, checked, your travel insurance, checked, your hotel reservation, checked. Language knowledge: oh no! And it’s when you start to panic. Stop, listen to me a moment. You can still be language ready for travel no matter how little time you have. It pays off to take that extra effort to tick that box as well.
What are the benefits?
Being able to know some phrases and expressions of the foreign language, gives you more confidence to get around, and you will have for sure a warmer reception from the locals who will get out of their ways to be useful to you.
You’ll be able to read signs and get to whenever you wish to go, ask for directions when you get lost, or order food at a restaurant. The natives will also appreciate your effort and it will be a sign of respect for their culture.
How to learn for travel
You must be very selective and only learn what you are certain you will use. Picture all the situations where you will need to communicate in the foreign language.
These common situations are usually:
Getting from the airport to the hotel
Checking at the hotel (in an Out)
Asking for a room
Ordering in a restaurant/paying
A bus you must take
Finding the train station
How long does it take?
Where the next stop is
Asking for prices
How much do things cost?
In bars: ordering drinks
Information about yourself that you will be asked.
Learn only the vocabulary you will use.
If you are an absolute beginner at the language, start by learning greetings like hello, goodbye, please, thank you., good morning/afternoon/night. How are you? Yes, no. Sorry, the bill please, I don’t understand. Etc
Also learn numbers from 0 to 100, you can find them online and for the correct pronunciation you can use theForvo tool to lean how they are pronounced correctly. Knowing numbers is always useful, you can handle money transactions, ask about which bus you should take or what platform is your train amongst other things.
Write all the information you will need in your notebook. Choose a subject daily and study the phrases to commit them to your memory. You can upload them on Anki, which will help you in the process. Before going forward, always go back to the phrases learned the previous day. You can use various memorisation techniques at your disposal.
When thinking about the questions you will be asking for a particular situation, you should write down possible answers you might receive also. Put yourself in the other person’s place. For example, if you are at a restaurant when you ask for the menu, a few minutes later the waiter might come back and ask you if you’re ready to order. Learn the following phrases: what would you like? Would you like a drink? What would you like to drink? Is everything OK?
Also learn the possible answers people might give you when asking a question
You ought to be prepared for this type of interaction so that you might understand what is said to you.
Buying a phrasebook with translation in your mother tongue might be very useful. Learn what you’re going to say and what they might answer.
Now you know the different topics you will learn, then you must start listening to the foreign language to help your ear getting used to the rhythm, intonation, and musicality of the language. To do so, you may find contents on YouTube, podcasts, interviews, music.
Next you should find time to practice the language with someone. You can meet native speakers on Italki and rehearse your topics with them. You will notice the different answers that they will offer.
Find someone online to practice with
Always go back to your topics and phrases and revise them. If you stop doing it, you will forget them by the time you travel.
Map out all the major situations you might find yourself in.
Learn the dialogue for each chosen topic and the possible answers you might get.
Learn your new phrases
Listen to the foreign language (podcasts, videos, music)
Practice the language with a language partner
Keep revising what you learned until you get to the foreign country.
Learning a language for travel, no matter how small your knowledge, or how little time you have, will still be beneficial to you when you get to the foreign country. It is feasible as long as you have a specific plan in place, and you stick to learning only what you will need on your trip. Remember it’s not about fluency, your aim should be to get by during your trip and showing the locals that you do care about their culture.