Learn a Language Before You Go

Travel allows us to tap into unlimited possibilities and experiences. We can explore new destinations, meet new people, make new friends, learn about new cultures and try new foods. Travel also allows us to learn new words and phrases, which is particularly fun when your native language is not the language spoken at your destination.


Obviously, it’s impossible to learn a whole, new language before you depart. However, learning some of the basics will ensure you can enrich your experience in a non-English speaking country while connecting and garnering respect from the locals. Here are my easy tips for learning some language prior to your departure.

Go back to school

OK, so this idea might spark a little fear or reluctance in some. Though, education methods have changed incredibly over the years and going back to school can actually be a fun and rewarding experience. If you have a few weeks or months to spare before you go, consider taking up a short, introductory language course. Tertiary institutions now offer many short courses at reasonable prices. Not only can you learn words and phrases, you can learn about alphabet (handy for reading street signs) and correct grammar. Courses like these are generally taught by native-speaking teachers so there are many opportunities in class to ask questions, gain feedback on your progress and gather advice on pronunciation.

Learn a language online

You can find a plethora of language courses online. It’s a matter of just typing a language into a search engine and away you go. You’ll find hints, videos, curriculum-based worksheets, interactive activities and more. If you want a more structured learning experience then Mango Languages offers many courses for a small fee. If you’re on a budget, then you can find basic courses for free in 35 languages at Livemocha. More advanced courses and tutoring is also available to purchase. You can also “language swap” with native-speaking students through video link-ups or instant messaging. This is particularly helpful if you’re trying to tailor your learning to a specific dialect.  

Talk the talk

There’s no question that practice makes perfect. So, why not find a local language group in your area? Local newspapers are a good source of announcements from community groups offering conversation and instruction. Or, you can find a group in your city via Meetup.  If you don’t feel comfortable conversing with strangers, then a friend or relative (who might be fluent in the language you want to learn) might be able to help you practice.