Having some basic language skills before arriving in a new country is great. It is not necessary for traveling since there are plenty of ways to get around it but it definitely helps. I took Spanish in High School and College and I can usually get by in a lot of countries because of just knowing the basics. It is not realistic to learn an entire language every time you are about to travel to a new country but there are some great ways to brush up and improve on what you may already know.
First of all, you aren’t going to learn a language from sitting around reading books and studying flash cards. You need to engage yourself in the language by speaking and hearing it regularly. Since most of us can’t just move to a country and immerse ourselves in a new language we need to use methods we can use at home.
1) Watch a lot of foreign films. If you are trying to brush up on your spanish, for example, or expand your vocabulary then try watching a lot of movies. Check out the foreign films section in Netflix and load up your queue. Put the subtitles on and watch the movie but don’t just watch it once. Watch it over and over until you can watch it without the subtitles.
Once you have memorized the story you will be able to follow the movie without subtitles. Its a pretty cheap alternative to language class and you get to watch awesome movies while learning a new language.
Here are some of my favorite Spanish language films:
2) Speak the language whenever you can. This may seem a little more difficult and will possibly annoy some friends. But encourage a friend, coworker, or maybe your girl/boyfriend to learn with you so you can practice together. You could set away some time over lunch once a week at the office and only speak the language you are working on. Just like working out it’s always better to have someone there working and learning with you.
If you do not have anyone you can work with check out the site Verbling. They say it is the instant way to practice and learn a language. The site will pair you with a native speaker so you can discuss topics such as food or nightlife together via webcam. Who knows you could even develop a new friendship in a foreign country.
3) Rosetta Stone. This is an expensive option unlike the other two but I think it is a great one. I was skeptical of all those airport kiosks but I finally got Rosetta Stone and really like it. It has been really useful for brushing up on Spanish before trips and expanding my vocab. If you are willing to put in about 30 minutes a day I think it’s worth the money. Then you can always buy new language packs along the way. This is the most expensive option but I really like Rosetta Stone and recommend at least giving it a try.