I have visited Spain intensely in the last couple of years. Why? Because I love their way of life, their climate and their fiestas. But most of all, I got to love Spain because I learned their language. And it became easy and comfortable to live in a place where I could understand people and they could understand me.
However, I know that I must learn to overcome this bubble of comfort and start traveling and living in countries whose languages I do not know. This sounds like a New Year’s resolution but it is the best one I could think of so far. What are the best tips to learning a new language while traveling or living in a different place?
Top 5 Tips for Language Learning
Listen to music and read aloud whatever you can – music is the funniest and easiest way to develop one’s listening skills and learn new words. What can be better than listening to your favorite songs and actually extending your vocabulary and improving your pronunciation? You can either opt for the radio or ask a friend to help you. And by reading aloud you can get used to the language and familiarize yourself with the new sounds.
Don’t be afraid to try – learning how to speak a new language can be very frustrating because of the accent. You hear yourself trying to get words out your mouth and you can feel people trying to stop laughing at you. But you have to go pass that and keep trying. In time your accent will become a bit better or at least people will manage to understand when you ask for food. When I first lived in Barcelona I refused to speak Spanish because my grammar was poor and I didn’t want to embarrass myself. But then I understood that if I don’t practice, I will never manage to learn. And I took this leap of faith and kicked ass.
Talk like a child – you don’t hear children using complicated Freudian phrases. Take their example and when speaking in a new language use simple phrases and words. If you can’t remember a specific word for something try describing the concept as accurate as possible. For instance the other day I was trying to buy an inflatable mattress because a friend of mine came to visit me and I had forgotten the Spanish word for “mattress.” So I explained to “el senor” that I need something similar to the one we sleep on in our beds, but that can be inflated. And we made things work!
Make friends – everyone needs a bit of interaction no matter how solitary they might be. Making friends is the best way to speak a new language, meet new people and have some fun while doing it. Bonding over a big glass of beer and eating some local dish makes language learning easier and tastier. Locals are usually pretty happy to help foreigners wherever you go so don’t miss the opportunity to talk to them.
Resist your language – even if people speak your language, resist the urge to speak it. People will be more responsive if you address them in their own language and if they see you make an effort to do it. Not to mention that you will also have the opportunity to learn straight from natives. Take the example of Scott and Vat, these amazing guys who did a wonderful project in which they learned 4 new languages in 1 year of living abroad.
Happy learning people!