Learning a language for travelling has many benefits. You’ll be able to understand locals, express yourself, and appreciate a culture on a whole new level. But before you dive into your first lesson, there are some important things to know and avoid to successfully learn a new language.
There’s no bigger motivation to study than for an upcoming trip. Unfortunately though, there are many pitfalls in language education today. But if you know what they are and how to avoid them, you can learn a language effectively before you jet off.
Avoid boring drills
Language learning shouldn’t be about boring linguistics and repetitive grammar. Outdated teaching methods have been the downfall of generations of language learners. So forget dry vocabulary repetition and anxiety-filled speaking exercises. Because these methods simply don’t work.
Language acquisition is most effective through “Comprehensible Input”. This language learning theory focuses on making the material easy to understand. If you grasp the meaning of your material, you’ll have an easier time committing key phrases and words to memory. By including Comprehensible Input in your lesson plan, you won’t just progress faster, you’ll also have more fun.
Throughout your studies, you’ll encounter unfamiliar words. Don’t panic when that happens. If you can understand the meaning of those words based on context, you’re on the right track.
The core of Comprehensible Input is being able to understand the overall message. By using explanations, visual cues, and synonyms, you will progress in your language learning.
Aim for the right level
Language learners often make the mistake of trying to tackle levels and exercises before they’re ready. So if you’re punching above your weight, you won’t prepare well before any journey.
Try to keep your material challenging, yet understandable. You’ll progress much faster if you aim for a level slightly above your current knowledge. Challenge yourself to continue learning new words and phrases steadily. If exercises become too comfortable, raise the difficulty just enough to keep you engaged. This way you’ll be well prepared before your trip.
Avoid useless vocabulary
Studying useless vocabulary is like packing a winter coat to the Bahamas. You won’t need it. Focusing on high-frequency phrases is the perfect strategy to learn before you travel. You’ll acquire the language more effectively, and you’ll also have more fun.
Did you know that 80% of the language you use every day comes from only 20% of your vocabulary? It’s called the 80/20 principle. This applies to every language. Practicing high-frequency words and phrases will get you speaking faster. Knowing everyday writing and speech will make communication with the locals easier.
Think about the phrases you’ll need the most when you’re travelling. “Where’s the bathroom?” or “How much does it cost?” will be extremely useful to know when you’re navigating in a foreign environment. Many language learning programs will try to teach you names of colors or animals that you will never use on your trip. Avoid these if you want your language learning to be practical.
Don't waste time
Procrastination is a very common student mistake. Your deadline is your plane departure. If you leave your language learning to the last minute, you won’t be able to communicate with the locals comfortably.
Instead of trying to cram all the lessons in right before you leave, give yourself time to commit your material to memory. You may have noticed how hard it is to recall something a day or two after you've tried to memorize it. That is because your brain is always trying to forget. In order to trick your brain into remembering key lessons, use the “Spaced Repetition” technique to your advantage.
Give yourself time between studying sessions. You may forget some of the material you tried to memorize while resting. That’s ok. By strategically reviewing it, and repeating parts of the lessons you forgot, the information will slowly be stored in your long term memory. Periodically revisiting the material will help you study the language much more effectively.
Don’t risk forgetting words and phrases when you need them the most on your trip. Use Spaced Repetition to your advantage. Just make sure you don’t put too much resting time between lessons or you may forget everything.
Never give up
This is the most important advice. Language learning has a variety of benefits. It keeps your brain engaged, enhances your memory skills, and opens up a new way of thinking and understanding of the world. And travelling makes it even more beneficial.
If you ever dreamed of being able to comfortably speak with a local in their native language, it’s a goal you can achieve. Everybody acquires languages the same way. That means that no matter what method you use, you have the ability to learn a second language. No talent or skills are required for it. Only dedication.
It may be hard at times, and you may hit learning plateaus as you go. But by diligently continuing with your lessons, you’ll enhance your knowledge and reap the benefits. You’ll be able to speak without anxiety, understand speech and writing, and embrace the culture of your target language.
Entrepreneur and linguist, Jonty Yamisha created OptiLingo while trying to save his native language, Circassian, from extinction. Using scientifically proven strategies such as Spaced Repetition and Guided Immersion, OptilLingo has helped thousands achieve fluency.
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