When you’re out there exploring the world on a different ground, language serves as your key, your bridge, your freedom. This means your ability to communicate your intentions in any place or conversation in a foreign land to fulfill your goal whether you are there for work, education, or leisure.
Learning a foreign language might not be a walk in the park but every step taken can be a milestone for travelers like you. Here are six language learning strategies you can try while on the road.
1. Bring in the words into your daily activities.
Developing your passive skills is the easiest way to learn a new language. In language learning, passive skills are attained without intentionally forming sentences yourself. You can acquire them through listening and reading, as opposed to the active skills of speaking and writing.
- Listen to music. Download songs in the foreign language you’re trying to learn, especially those with repeating phrases or words. In his study “The Use of Music for Learning Languages: A Review of the Literature”, Jon Weatherford Stansell of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign presented series of evidence showing the role of music in language, from how children’s first utterances can be influenced by rhythm to the positive impact of classical music on studying.
- Watch TV shows or movies. Nowadays, these are accessible online. Do not just listen to the words spoken by actors, observe how their facial expressions and gestures happen as they speak certain phrases.
- Keep a pocket dictionary with you. First, identify the items, places, or expressions that are common in the country you are exploring, find out their translations. There are memorization techniques you can apply without being too hard on yourself, such as being familiar with suffixes and prefixes and learning one word a day.
2. Bring out your mobile gadgets.
- Join language exchange groups online.Instead of browsing Facebook for hours, look for other language learners online and join their discussions. Share your thoughts, ask for advice, or find out the tools they are using.
- Use language learning software. Language software titles may contain interactive games, audio lessons, practice tests, word tools, and other features that allow you to learn language and have fun at the same time.
- Watch podcasts and video tutorials. There’s a plethora of video clips online that can act as alternative teachers and classrooms for you. Make sure they are offered by credible figures, such as linguists and those who have substantial experience staying in a foreign country and speaking its language.
3. Face and talk to your neighbor.
All your efforts would go to waste if you do not apply the lessons and skills you’ve gained from doing the techniques above. Being able to practice it by immersing yourself in the community or talking to a neighbor would allow you to observe both facial expressions and body movements that clarify the meaning of phrases and words.
In “Learning face to face and via a VLE, a comparative study involving beginner learners of Spanish”, Marisol de Lafuente Duff of the UK-based The Higher Education Academy concluded that despite the popularity of virtual learning environments (VLEs), not all language learners are comfortable using computers and that they learn more through interactive exercises.
Face-to-face communication is also the most effective way to discover cultural notions of a language, those that are considered offensive and those that are required to be spoken while in a certain place or talking to a tribe, an officer, or the elderly.
Although these techniques will not make you an expert of a foreign language right away, these steps can help you grasp the essentials as long as there is practice, patience, and determination.
Laurianne Sumerset is an avid traveler who loves learning languages. She’s currently based in Thailand, where she works as an English teacher while studying for a PhD in Linguistics at Chulonglakorn University. In her spare time she reviews online language courses and software for her website, languagesoftware.net. You can read her review of the Living Language Online courses here.
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