Learning the basics of a new language before travelling to a foreign country can make all the difference for travellers who’d like to take their discovery experiences to the next level. Communicating with natives in their own language is an eye-opening experience, and it can truly make you feel like one of them. After all, isn’t that the most authentic way of exploring a new country?
The basics of a new language are useful and sometimes even mandatory when travelling to a new country. You’re probably asking yourself “What is the secret to mastering the basics of a foreign language?” The answer is that there is no secret. You just have to be tenacious. Choose a learning strategy and stick to it. Know what suits you best and go wild. Here are some tips that might save you some time when learning a new tongue.
1. Start with the greetings
If the basics of languages had an alphabet, greetings would be the letter “A”. Thus, greetings should always be number one on your to-learn list. It’s the first thing you’ll say wherever you are. It’s your business card and a sign of respect towards the country you are visiting and its people. It’s also how you put a smile on a foreigner’s face.
2. Use a language-learning app
This is the easiest solution we can recommend. Try Mondly for example — an innovative language learning app that helps you to literally play your way to a new language. The key here isn’t to just use it, but to use it consistently.
The world wide web is full of tips, tricks, and shortcuts on how to learn the basics of a foreign language quickly, but language learning apps are probably the best way to reach your goal faster. Their content is already based on a learning strategy backed up by research and algorithms. Your only job is to kickstart the learning. Furthermore, language learning apps usually offer carefully-crafted gamified experiences that make you always want more, so this should be super fun.
3. Watch movies in the target language
You’ll enjoy every minute of it and accustom your brain to the sound of the new language in the process. That, of course, is applicable if the country you want to visit is known to produce good movies.
4. Listen to some traditional music
As we all know, traditional music is defined as “songs and tunes which have been performed, by custom, over a long period (usually several generations) in a certain country or geographical area”. Traditional music will both help you accustom your brain to the sound of the new language — the same as movies — and give you some insight into the country’s culture and customs.
5. Discover cognates and mnemonics
This may sound complicated but it’s actually really simple. A cognate is a foreign word that has a very similar form in your own language; like elephant in English and elefante in Spanish. Another good example is the Italian ‘mangiare’ (to eat) which is cognate with the French ‘manger’. These are basically words you already know. You just have to discover them first.
Mnemonics, on the other hand, are your own creations. A mnemonic device is any learning technique that involved creating connections that will help you remember stubborn words. There are many types of mnemonics you can create: music, name, expression/word, model, rhyme, note organisation, image, connection, or spelling mnemonics. Just come up with it yourself, so you’ll be more likely to remember it. Choose your words, create songs, poems or rhymes and everything will become way easier.
6. Prepare your speech muscles with tongue twisters
“Pancha plancha con cuatro planchas. ¿Con cuántas planchas Pancha plancha?” If you are struggling with Spanish pronunciation, try to say that fast. Start slowly and increase the pace with every repetition. This will help you train your speech muscles faster. It’s like sending your tongue to the gym!
7. Make lists of things you might want to say
If there isn’t much time left until your trip, try to learn whole phrases that will help you more than individual words. Analyse your itinerary and try to discover specific scenarios and conversations that might happen, like going to a restaurant, buying tickets, taking a taxi, asking for directions, talking to the hotel receptionist, and so on. Learn all the possible phrases beforehand and make your life easier!
9. Talk to yourself
Get your alter ego out and practice! Practising conversations is fundamental when learning a new language. It brings you closer to fluency and it boosts your confidence for later when you are going to do it for real. Put yourself in different situations, and discover new words and phrases that you might want to say! The key is to make the conversation feel as real as possible.
10. Be specific and don’t give up!
Don’t overload yourself — be specific with what you want to achieve and make lists. You are not going to see the results if you don’t set realistic goals. Observing real progress in your learning journey will make all the difference in building confidence and talking to the natives of the country you are going to visit.