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Ways to Learn a Language before you Fly

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Excitement is building. After thumbing your way through armfuls of travel magazines and tour brochures, and scouring the web, you’ve chosen your next destination.

Now is when the trip really begins. Preparation is an unavoidable part of travelling and sometimes requires skillful planning. So, there’s always a never-ending list of things to do – booking tickets, organizing visas, buying weather-wise clothes, booking in for immunizations, and buying currency. Yet, how many travellers factor in language lessons as part of their preparation? Some buy a guide and hope for the best. Others don’€™t even think about it.

One way to maximize your travel experience in a non-English speaking country is to:

Learn some basic words and phrases

Learning the basics obviously gives you groundwork to help you navigate everyday scenarios such as ordering food or finding a bathroom. Yet, learning some basics can also reward you with respect from locals, and may lead you to a more immersed travelling experience. Garnering the respect of locals helps you overcome cultural barriers, and you may also experience a rite of passage into local life. By showing locals respect as a traveller, you can gain the respect of a community.

Learning and implementing a second language is also linked to health benefits too.

Studies into the use of language, conducted by Canadian cognitive neuroscientist Dr Ellen Bialystok for example, have shown that by regularly using two languages individuals can delay the onset of symptoms linked to Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, Dr Bialystok found that those who were bilingual and aged normally exhibited better cognitive functionality when compared to their monolingual counterparts. Later, Dr Bialystok examined medical records of 400 Alzheimer’€™s patients and discovered that bilingual patients exhibited symptoms five to six years later than monolingual patients.

There are many ways a traveller can learn the basics.

Buying a language book or an app is the easiest way.

Though, there are a few, more encompassing options on hand before you fly out.

Many educational institutions offer short courses.

Many language classes are offered at different skill levels, from basic to advanced, and students can participate in on-campus classes for a couple of hours a week. Students can gain a lot from lessons such as alphabet, simple sentence structure and conversation, simple words, phrases and tense. Short courses are also a good option for those who are travelling through a country long-term and require extensive tuition.

If you’re only travelling for a few weeks, then online language services such as Mango Languages and Livemocha  are alternatives.

Mango Languages offers ‘Passport Journey’€™ lessons in up to 28 languages for a reasonable price. Online tutorials are interactive, and can be completed any time online, anywhere and on any device. Mango Languages focuses on practical conversation strategies for accelerated learning.

Livemocha offers basic language courses online for free in over 35 languages, though advanced or ‘Active Courses’€™ in languages such as Italian, German, French and Spanish attract monthly or annual fees. Livemocha offers these structured lessons and courses, or even private tutoring depending on students’ needs and budgets. Livemocha also provides students with an environment for chatting to other students around the world via instant messaging. This ‘€œlanguage swapping’ is ideal if you’re trying to tailor your learning for a specific dialect.

Regular conversation can accelerate your progress. is one site where you can try and locate language conversation groups in your local area. Or, do you have a friend or relative who is fluent in the language you’re planning to study? Perhaps ask them to share some conversation tips and phrases before you jet off on your trip.


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About the author

Like many Australians, my childhood was crammed with long-weekend getaways, school holiday camping trips and rough journeys packed up in the back of a four-wheeled drive. Yet, unlike many Australians, I spent half of my life being pulled from one side of the country to the other. I have lived in three major capital cities, two gold-mining towns and one seaport. You could say I was born to travel...and write about it! Not only have my travels taken me throughout Australia, I have also experienced Canada, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Jordan, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, United States of America and Vietnam. I love writing about my travels and experiences over at my blog Fire & Tea.

6 thoughts on “Ways to Learn a Language before you Fly”

  1. Thank you, Krista! Learning a language is so much fun.

    Mango Languages can sometimes be accessed for free in some Australian libraries if the library has signed up with them. I’m not too sure if this is the case for Belles residing outside Australia, but I’d love to hear from anyone if they discover this option at their local library!

  2. Some great ideas I’ll definitely be checking out! I’ve also used Duo Lingo – it’s perhaps not great for travel phrases, but good for understanding the basics of a language, and it’s free and easy to use.

  3. A fabulous suggestion Kate. I’ll have to look into that one. Which language have you learned using Duo Lingo?

  4. Great tips, Justine! Meetup groups are a brilliant way of finding language groups and exchanges! I’ve been part of a few 🙂 I have tried to use Duo Lingo, but failed. I think for me speaking to real people in a class, in a group or in the country is necessary to learn the language. Maybe if I used it just before going somewhere I would be more motivated to stick with it!

  5. I totally agree with you about being around people and finding the motivation sometimes. I’ve been learning Arabic on and off for the past two years and my goal is to become fluent. I think I need to live in an Arabic speaking country for at least a year before I achieve that goal! 😉

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