Living abroad is one of the best ways to truly experience a different culture. It’s an amazing feeling to wake up in a new timezone with new food options, scenery, people, and a completely different way of looking at the world. When you move to a new country it can be a little frightening, and very intimidating–especially at first. However, after you learn the ropes and get adjusted to the differences, the experience takes on a completely new feel.
When you move to another country, everything is fresh and new. It feels great to learn and explore unfamiliar territory. However, the terrain is the only thing that should be completely new to you. This is because having a preliminary sense of the culture and knowing a bit of the language is expected.
If you’re thinking of going to a new country, or are looking to learn how to speak a foreign language while you are in a different country, the tips in this article will help you to find the support you need. Below are 10 tips to help you learn new languages easily, just in time for your next global adventure.
- Listen for phrases that get said in passing conversation throughout your day. Keep a notebook or cell phone with you to make and maintain list of words that you aren’t familiar with and need to learn.
- Try to find an employee at a local restaurant or department store to help you with languages. When restaurants or stores aren’t busy, employees are being paid to make sure that you are finding everything you need. When it’s slow or there aren’t many other customers, it may be appropriate to ask a few questions about the language, or brush up on a few verb tenses. However, don’t abuse this privilege. While most employees are polite, they aren’t paid tutors. This is a great technique for learning a phrase or two, and having someone who is a native speaker correct your pronunciation.
- Carry a pocket dictionary with you. This is one of the most important things that you can do because it will program you to listen for words you aren’t familiar with. Always wait until after your conversation to look up words–unless it is an emergency. You don’t want to spend five minutes thumbing through a dictionary while having a conversation about the weather.
- Work with a language teacher online. This option doesn’t require you to wait until you arrive at a new place, since you can do it anywhere in the world. The good news is, you can continue to learn with your language teacher even if you move to a new location. Check out websites like Rype, which offer unlimited access to handpicked professional language teachers for 1-on-1 language lessons.
- Speak to the hotel/hostel staff about friendly areas that speak the place’s native tongue. Usually the staff on-hand are trained to work with people from multiple countries and have a process to assist them. However, you shouldn’t count on it in every country you visit. Before you leave to go on an adventure, make sure to ask the front desk if they have any recommendations for places that will speak the place’s native language.
- Join Facebook Groups, online forums, or other virtual places. You can learn more about people living in your intended destination who are from your home country. More and more frequently, groups of people all around the world are sharing their travel tips thanks to a boom in what is known as digital nomadism.
- Practice with the bartender. It’s the best way to feel like you’re the one calling all the shots! Plus, you can lose your inhibitions over mispronouncing a word or two and in the meantime, develop a confidence for a language you might not be very comfortable using.
- Look for Meetup groups. If you are new to a location or looking for new things to do, Meetup.com has organized meeting groups all around the world. Meetups occur at coffee shops, bars, and other public places every week for just about every passion, interest, hobby, or activity that you can think of. It is very likely that you can either find or start a local meetup group that is devoted to learning your chosen language.
- Live with a host family. There are certain advantages to staying with locals. Whether it’s getting home-cooked cuisine or learning the local slang, it’s always great to meet other people in a new country, rather than journeying alone. Local host families may be free, but working out those arrangements is up to you. If you want paid accommodations that are guaranteed, try Airbnb.com or homestay.com.
- Find someone who needs to learn your language. This is by far one of the most rewarding aspects of going to a new country: meeting new people and forming new relationships. When you form a friendship with someone who needs to learn your native tongue, you can bond at a deeper level and help them while they help you.
Language learning is a lifelong skill and ideally is something that happens before you visit a country. However, if you really want to go somewhere don’t let a lack of language knowledge stop you. Cut down the barrier by expressing yourself more amicably and make sure to smile a lot–at least until you get a better handle of what everyone else is saying.
Most importantly, use your lack of knowledge to your advantage. In many cases, people will be willing to lend a helping hand. Who knows? It could become a fantastic way to make new friends.