Language learning has many benefits, as we saw in the precursor to this blog. Now that we know why it is important, we also need to know how to go about learning it… and then, actually learn it. Hence, the next step in our languages for travel journeys is figuring out which method of learning would benefit you. What are the pros and cons of different platforms? Which ones can I use, and what do they entail? These are the questions that will be answered in today’s post.
Often, learning a language is easier if you know why you’re learning it. If it Is for the purpose of travel, there may be some things to keep in mind:
- It needs to be a quick way to learn, as you will not have enough time to absorb all parts of the language fully.
- An approach that contains only the essentials would be best, if you are going for a short trip – learning a whole language may not be useful (in the short run) if you’ll only use it a handful of times.
- The priority of the learning process must be on conversation and vocabulary, as compared to grammar and literature. This is what will be tested in your real-life experiences in the country you’ll be travelling to.
- Convenience is key. It will be easier to learn based on your own lifestyle and learning style. If you are on the go throughout the day, your platform should be easily accessible. If you read a lot offline, the platform must cater to these nuances. This is to enhance the likelihood of making this learning a habit.
Keeping this in mind, we’ve got a few options for you. Let’s dive right into the resources that could help you decide where you learn your next travel language!
Apps that help you learn languages for travel are many and varied. In this digital age, these are easily available online – for a low cost, and most of the time, no cost. Pros include that they can help you learn languages on the go, and are quite easily portable. You don’t need to sit down in one place and focus – however, if this is your go-to method of learning, then it is possible to switch to the desktop versions of the app. This gives them the added advantage of being customizable. Lessons are often short, so you don’t have to worry about being overwhelmed.
However, with any kind of device, the screen time might be a bit overwhelming – learning languages for travel might take up a few hours of your day, and staring at your phone continuously for this time is not advisable. It is also a more self-sufficient approach, as you have pre-set lessons that you will need to push yourself to do. This also means that you can go at your own pace. They do offer a daily notification reminder that you can customize, so this should be a prompt in the right direction. Commonly used apps include Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel and Mondly.
2. Online Courses
As with both apps and online courses, the platform is digital. This brings along the same pros and cons that an online space has, such as easy portability and screen-to-eye damage. You will easily find those courses and apps that cater to a language for travel facility – you will learn for the sole purpose of travelling. These are mostly conversation-based, so you can pick up the accent and stringing of words necessary for a short trip.
Some online courses have an in-person teacher, with whom you will learn and interact with in real time. Others have a video-based format, as well as a community of learners and teacher – you watch the video, do the exercises and can ask the community questions/track progress. This is a more self-learning based approach, as compared to the first option. The group learning may help you motivate and inspire yourself (as you will be aware that other people are in it with you) to gain more progress, so this is an added bonus. It also allows you to learn in a more structured manner as compared to an app, since there are usually course deadlines and a real person as a teacher.
Many well-known travel websites have online courses, such as BBC. Other language learning websites give you personalized plans for specific languages – these may not contain a large variety of languages compared to the former, but are often more in-depth.
Everyone knows of YouTube – it’s a free video streaming platform with everything from cooking videos, travel vlogs, entertainment shows, and our necessity – languages for travel. Since it is free and usually comes in-built with all Android phones, it is very accessible. It also allows all kinds of creators to make videos, so it is more likely to find a video that caters to your style. It also allows for a plethora of related food, culture and travel videos (about the country of language) to help you diversify knowledge before your trip. For example, it has online course videos, TV shows in the local language (with English subtitles) and vlogs as well. There are even videos with reading material – a text-with-audio format that helps with learning the text of the language. You can even slow down videos to match your pace of learning!
Commenting on videos is also a learning option. This opens up conversation for bonding with other language learners, and also helps you practice what you’ve learnt in real time. The only downside to the YouTube approach is that it is largely video based. This means that it may not be as effective for those of you who learn better through other ways, e.g. Kinesthetically.
4. Language Exchange Apps
Language exchange apps include Lingo, BlaBla, Hello Talk and Hi Native. The context behind language exchange apps is that you create a personal account that you can then chat with other people with. All of the other people are also, theoretically, on the app for the purpose of learning languages. You can select the languages you are fluent in, what you want to learn, and even add extra details about yourself. This could include that you are learning languages for travel, so that the people you chat with know that this is your purpose.
This really improves your native conversation skills, as you will be chatting with people who know the local way of speaking. It may not improve your vocabulary or sentence structuring as easily, but you will gain access to native slang, and even the accent cues – as well as possibly new friends! You can share cultures; get to tell them more about yours and learn more about theirs.
Although it doesn’t preface this, it still needs to be noted that you will not be learning with professionals. These are not people who are qualified to teach (although some might be). If you want a more structured, professional approach, we suggest the other options. The time differences between your country and theirs may also contribute to a mediocre experience, as fluidity in conversation is lost. Another – more widely known – fact is that people often use language exchange apps for purposes other than language exchange. You will have to be cautious f whom you speak to and how much you share. Often, online personas will use this as a way of ‘dating’ foreigners, which might sour your experience.
5. Local Classes
These, as compared to our last few picks, have been around for way longer. A face-to-face teacher, as well as possibly students is what you’ll see here. The USP of this is that they’re usually done for professional tests, so these are the most organized you will get. You learn from professionals, and you learn thoroughly. The lesson plans are organized and in-depth, you can track your progress and mistakes in real time.
They may not be as convenient as apps or online classes, and you may need to dedicate more of your time and physical space to go through with this effort. However, the in-person community of learners encourages you to be more curious and competitive. It may be easier to pick up the language around them, as you have your teacher to correct you the minute you make an error. It is also easier to pick up the native accent because it is being spoken directly to you.
Although, if you are going for a short trip and want to know the languages for travel purposes, you may end up learning more than required. The way to work around this (to avoid overloading) is to inform your teacher, so they can customize a well-worked plan with you. Some local classes even have courses just for this, so take advantage of that. Local classes also depend largely on the popularity of the language you want to learn. The more popular that language is, the more likely you are to find a class that teaches it in your area. Therefore, if a language is not so popular, you may not find it close-by, or even at all. Also, compared to many apps, the cost of these are definitely much higher.
Last but not least, books. These are for the traditionalist, who connects the feeling of turning pages to acquiring knowledge. If you learn better through reading offline, there are many books that could help you. Local libraries may lend these books to you, which significantly reduces cost compared to buying the book yourself. They often have interactive exercises, which act as a physical mark of progress. Pros also include that you don’t have to learn the languages through the medium of English. There are many books, eg. “Learn Hindi through Tamil”, or a similar ‘learn ___ through ___’ format that may allow the language learnt to make more sense in your brain. Other popular books that help in learning languages for travel include Lonely Planet’s Phrasebooks and Dictionary series.
The downside to learning languages through books is that they’re not as portable. Books tend to be heavy, and maybe we’ve been spoilt for choice, but it is harder to search for a certain topic in books compared to apps. Self-learning may not be the best choice for all, so books cannot help you progress by yourself. They will, however, be very helpful as a supplementary guide – physically writing down alphabets may allow you to ingrain this information more easily.
…Ready to start learning?
And there we have it! These are some of the cool options out there for learning languages for travel! Learning s language can be an empowering experience in itself, so we’re glad you’re taking that leap. It is also a good first taste of what the culture and heritage of a country is like, so trying out new things is always good. Speaking of trying out new things, check out our Visa2Fly page for your SIM card and travel insurance needs today! Also check out our blogs on solo travel and surviving a long-haul flight – we’re sure you won’t be bored!