With lots of us jetting off to exciting places over the summer, here are some of my top tips for developing your language skills on holiday!
- Give it a go! It doesn’t matter which country you are visiting, there’s always a good selection of videos, websites and apps for learning a few useful phrases before you go. Even using just bit of language makes such a massive difference to how we experience other countries and cultures. Instagram and Facebook are also great resources for language learning, so I would recommend searching for or following accounts and hashtags which share some of the language and culture of your chosen destination country!
- Don’t worry about getting it wrong. Making mistakes is a key and inevitable part of learning a language. The most important thing is not to worry about it too much and just go for it. People will always try to help and so making mistakes is really just an opportunity to learn.
- Learn the numbers – numbers are a great way to get an early grasp on a language and are surprisingly useful on holiday! Even being able to recognise the word for how many (e.g. combien in French or cuántos in Spanish) and then responding with a number is a useful skill!
- Choose a few useful phrases which you can then practice on repeat. This might include:
- Transactional phrases like, “the bill please”, “I would like…” or “that one” / “this one”
- Social language such as greetings, polite language e.g. thank you, you’re welcome, please, no thank you etc.
- High frequency phrases such as, “Let’s go!” or excellent, great, super etc!
By having a few phrases which you are focusing on, you can work out some strategies which help you to remember them and practice them as much as possible. Don’t worry if this takes a long time – it took me practically an entire month in China to finally remember how to say goodbye!
- Engage your family or your travel partner in the language learning experience! Share what helps you to retain new langauge. Work out strategies together such as adding a gesture or tune to a phrase or finding words or phrases which sound similar in other languages. By playing around with techniques for retaining new words and phrases, you are actually developing your very own meta-linguistic strategies and working out for yourself what helps you learn best!
- Read the language wherever you can! We use a huge range of skills when we’re reading: decoding words and phrases, referring back to our first language literacy, forming predictions and creating visuals of meaning. It’s a hugely powerful way of exposing yourself to new language almost subconsciously! Reading whatever you can e.g. names of landmarks, shops signs, food packets, menus, street signs, newspapers headlines, TV subtitles etc. are all a great way of building up your familiarity with the language bit by bit!
- Listen actively to the sounds of the language. Do you recognise any words you are hearing? Can you make connections to your own language(s)? The more you listen, eventually, bit by bit, words and regularly repeated phrases start to emerge from the blur. Listen out for the little phrases people use when you’re leaving shops, for example, or are chatting with each other e.g. exclamations. Listening just takes time but you can start to pick things up quite quickly when you listen consciously and carefully.
- Don’t be put off by other people’s language skills! We’ve all been there when we’ve psyched ourselves up to use a well-rehearsed phrase only for someone to reply in perfect, fluent English! Please don’t let this stop you from trying – it can be difficult, but my advice is just to plough on regardless! After all, there’s no reason why you can’t talk in two languages at once! People generally appreciate you trying but even if they don’t, it doesn’t really matter, just go for it regardless!
- Lastly, there are loads of great language specific apps which are often free and can help with holiday language. These quite often come with audio files and are a great support if you’re looking to build up a bank of useful phrases. They can also be a lot of fun to practise with and a great way to surprise people with your quickly acquired skills in their language!
Wherever you go, we hope you have a fantastic holiday and enjoy practicing your language skills! We’d love to hear about it so please get in touch to let us know if this was helpful to you!