It's always good to pick up at least few words or phrases spoken in your upcoming destination before you get there. Multiple options are now available for broadening your vocabulary before you leave in a variety of styles and budgets. Varying in price and format, here are six fun ways to grasp a new foreign language.
Don’t want to learn alone? Then consider language exchange groups that meet virtually and/or in person. Interpals, an online exchange site, virtually bring users together with pen pals to start up conversations with a language partner. Likewise, The Mixxer enables users to connect via Skype with native speakers all over the world, while Italki schedules one-on-one, over-the-computer lessons with a personal language teacher. Polyglot Club, an international community of students and teachers, provides lessons on language and culture through world events and online practicums. Plus depending on your location, Meetup has various in-person learning, language and ethnicity groups that can provide one-on-one or group interaction – and new friends.
Hearing what to say and when to say it is a great study aid. Versions of podcasts can extend to focusing on single languages, like Spanish Obsessed, Slow German, or Melnyks Chinese for Mandarin, to a full catalog of audio courses. Language Pod 101 ranges from Afrikaans to Vietnamese. Survival Phrases reflects its title with travel tips and sayings in 27 languages like Italian, Hebrew, Bulgarian, Cantonese, and Hindi. Coffee Break and Open University on iTunes serve up lessons in French, Spanish, German, and Italian. For linguistics, The Actual Fluency Language Learning holds a fun chat on the science behind the spoken word.
Websites remain a collective resource for language learning, encompassing audio, video, and downloadable materials. Some may require registering an account, while others have their content free for viewing. On the BBC’s website, BBC Languages features various guides and visual aids on everything from Arabic to Urdu. Open Culture puts together outside links to sources for learning over 45 different languages, while Memrise takes a memory card approach to teaching. Duolingo provides instruction in primarily European languages, while Babbel extends to choices like Turkish, Indonesian, Russian, Portuguese, Norwegian, and Danish.
Visual learners can turn to sources like YouTube or accompanying videos from websites to be self-taught. For multiple choices, Easy Languages features man-on-the-street interviews in local settings as a teaching tool. On both its YouTube channel and website, FluentU delivers entertaining videos on using phrases for different situations. The Travel Linguist gives the 101 on a language roster featuring Mandarin, Hebrew, Indonesian, and Tagalog along with traditionally taught languages like French. Plus single language videos are available like Learn Arabic with Maha and Farsi Wizard. Or go old school by watching a foreign film with subtitles or changing the language settings on a DVD of your choice.
As some of the previously listed sources also come in app versions, here are some additional mobile language aids. MindSnacks has educational games to play in Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, and Italian. Google Translate lets users speak, type or write words or even snap an image to be deciphered; it also works without a data connection with a few languages.
It’s a non-tech approach, but incorporating a different language into your everyday life is a good way to learn. Seek out various ethnic neighborhoods in your city, or visit supermarkets and restaurants featuring your "target" language. Also be sure to look for popular foreign musical performers or TV shows. Or take a phrase book and add stick-on labels to everything from food to clothes or anything else you want to include in your new vocabulary. Have fun with learning your new language!
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As a kid flipping through the pages of National Geographic magazines, Michele Herrmann became hooked on learning about new places and cultures. As an adult, she's turned her love for writing and passion for travel into a career that's been full of adventure and surprises. Her work has appeared on Yahoo Travel, The Lost Girls, The Points Guy, ShermansTravel, Epicure & Culture, and Budget Travel. She also posts about travel from her own perspective on her blog, She Is Going Places. Follow Michele on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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