Long gone are the days of reciting ‘Bonjour’ or ‘¡Hola!’ once the cassette tape beeps in your language class, so without going back to school, in the past it has often been difficult to find time to master a new language.
However, as we spend more time at home - learning a new language can be an activity that provides entertainment and will repay you once it's time to travel again. Here are some tips - from the traditional to the more unusual - that might help you get started. In no time you will be reaping the rewards and revelling in the friendliness of locals on holidays again, who will more than appreciate your efforts to speak their language.
There’s an app for that…
And in this digital age, there has never been a truer word said, with over 60,000 apps added to the Apple App Store every month alone.
One of the most tried and tested ways to learn a new language is through a lingo app, but with so many out there, from those offering basic lessons to being able to screenshot menus for translation on holiday, it can prove difficult to choose the best one for you.
Many of these apps are free, but some do cost, so do your research before you part with your hard-earned cash. Before you look to purchase, find previews and trials to familiarise yourself with the course programme and how it might work for your needs. Also, it gives you the chance to test the app out and make sure you get on with the narrator’s tone of voice. As there would be nothing worse than an annoying Sat Nav-style voice!
Here are some of the most popular language apps that come highly recommended:
Babbel - The free version features 40 classes which is plenty for you to get started on before you invest in the paid-for features. Available in 13 languages, it quickly builds your conversation skills up with phrases and vocabulary adapted to your learning level.
TripLingo - If you’re just looking to brush up on your skills before you head off on holiday, this free app should fit the bill and will make your stay less stressful and more authentic. Sections are divided into subjects such as ‘business phrases’ or ‘safety phrases’, plus there’s an in-built voice translator if you ever find yourself in a sticky situation.
HiNative - The beauty of travel is the opportunity to make new friends, and with this app, you can do this before you even head for the airport. Chat with native speakers in real time to answer any language struggles you’re having and it’s a handy advice tool too.
Google Translate - This free app works with over 100 languages and you can take a picture of something, such as a sign or menu, and it will do all the hard work of translating it for you. Offline support is available for certain languages.
Go back to school
If you live in the UK, your county council will be able to provide information on the adult learning language courses in your local area for you to book onto. These range from a one-day intensive session at the weekend, to those split over a number of weekday evenings so you can juggle work and words! It’s more hands on, fun and yet another chance to make some new friends and test out your conversation skills on each other.
Lingo at home and on the go
When you’re on your daily commute to work, or sitting in a waiting room for example, these are ideal times which you could use to learn a new language, either through some of the apps mentioned previously, or by downloading audiobooks from collections such as Audible. By reading - or listening - to a book you already know in English, it will help you pick up the new language a little easier.
Another tip for fast learning is to try and listen to your audiobook at night as part of your bedtime routine. Research shows that sleep has a positive impact on learning, leading to the long-term retention of information. You will be waxing lyrically with the locals in no time!
If you’re doing a grocery shop, challenge yourself by writing your shopping list in the new language, and use the produce as real life flash cards to recite the names of the items. Or you could start using sticky notes around the house to label up everyday items.
By introducing all these things as part of your regular routine, you will be surprised by just how quickly you pick up on things, and how the new language will start to stick!
Practice in your local restaurant
The best way of letting a new language sink in is a real life conversation exchange, so try and eat out at your nearest French, Greek or Spanish restaurant, or whatever language it may be of course, to learn it well.
From perusing your menu, to learning the names of drinks and ingredients, as well as talking with the waiter as you order your dishes, it will all help to build your confidence and expand your repertoire.
Also, you may find, if you visit during less busy times, the staff or owners might gladly make time to help you practice your conversation skills. As a thoughtful touch, try and bring back a souvenir for them to thank them for their help.
This will also help you with your holiday planning, as they may be able to recommend some extra-special, off-the-beaten-track places to visit.
Indulge in your favourite interests
When meeting new people - especially those who don’t speak the same language as you - finding some common ground is a good idea to establish a connection.
So whatever your go-to pastimes are, be it reading, painting, photography - the list is endless - look out for local groups and go along to share your interests. Chances are they will be really enthusiastic, and might even be eager to learn your language and help you master theirs. It’s a win-win situation, and your mutual interest will put you at ease.
Make it a language learning holiday
The beauty of RCI membership is it opens up a world of languages for you to learn, so why not make the most of it with an Eat, Pray, Love encounter? While you’re by the pool, checking in at reception, ordering a drink at the bar, these are all ample opportunities for getting to grips with different cultures and dialects.
Research local language groups or expat social gatherings to navigate your way to fluency while on holiday.
There are also some language schools available which are combined with activities to make learning more engaging, such as learning Spanish and how to cook paella at the same time, or take a dance class to learn the moves to a traditional Flamenco. Or how about mastering Arabic while rustling up a spicy tagine?
Whatever style of language learning approach you choose, it all makes for an enriching experience that you’ll treasure forever. Adios!
If you're looking to learn a new language, or brush up on skills you picked up in school, then why not put it into practice on your next getaway? Click on the RCI Resort Directory below to pick your next holiday destination.
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