As a traveling blogger I end up in countries where I don’t speak the language. Sure, English is almost world wide accepted as a second language, but I always see it as a form if respect to -at least- pick up a few words in the lingo of the land.
I noticed that, if you at least try to speak the language spoken in the country, you receive a sort of openness from the locals. A little bit of respect that opens doors that otherwise would be shut or ignored.
Allow me to tell you how I study up on a few words of the foreign lingo while on the road.
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After you checked into your hotel room, switch on the TV. You don’t have to sit through news reports or television soap series, just leave it on in the background while you unpack or browse through your guidebook.
While visiting Helsinki in the summer, I caught up with the phrase: kasino ilman rekisteröitymistä, after hearing it a few times on a tv commercial. This was 8 years ago and it is still imprinted in my mind. Not very useful in a conversation but it did prove that this method is quite effective.
Use an app
There are many apps for Android and Apple devices that can help you out a long way. Think about: Memrise, Rosetta Stone, HelloTalk, and many more.
Personally, I chose the Android app: Duolingo. It was easy to use and it also tests your progress in a non-pressured way. Now, I am not an ambassador of this app and you don’t have to take my word for it so go and have a look what app suits you best.
Maybe a little bit old fashioned but these paperback pocketbooks saved my “behind” many times. Don’t expect to blurt out complex sentences right away, but they really come in handy trying that specific word that can clear up exactly what you mean to say.
Listen and observe
You don’t have to put yourself through a lot of strain to learn a language. Sometimes, all you have to do is relax and let the world around you sink in for a moment.
Sit back in the bus and listen to conversations from your fellow passengers. You might not fully understand what they are saying, but you do get a feel for the rhythm, the tones and the pace of the language spoken.
Like turning on the tv, you are constantly surrounded by billboards, newspapers, signs in the train station, menus in restaurants. Familiarize yourself with these influences and try and match their meaning with the words.
Don’t be afraid
To fail is the path to win. If you don’t “practice what you preach” you will never be confident enough to learn the language. Like I said; people love it when you try and speak the native tongue and will gladly correct you when you mispronounce something.
The worst that can happen, is create a humorous situation which breaks the ice.