When I first arrive back in Italy, after months, if not years away, I instantly become a tongue-tied mess. I’m trying to speak the language that I labored over in college, but the initial introduction into Italian could be smoother. After a few too many blank stares at people mumbling Italian to me, I decided that I needed to brush up on my Italian before touching down in the boot.
If you are traveling to a foreign country or in need of a brush up on that language you mastered back in school, there are several things you can do to avoid being that tourist who just gets louder in English in hopes that the puzzled café owner will understand your foreign shouting. Here are a few tips to improve your foreign language skills before you touch down in the tongue-tied chaos.
Listen to music in the language: Whenever I am off to Italy, I drive around listening to Italian music. If I’m getting ready in the morning, I blast the Italian pop songs. By listening to catchy songs in another language, you are already training the mind to get used to the sounds and pronunciations. As the words are set to music, it can make it easier to remember words and phrases you might have forgotten after all those years away.
Watch the news at your destination: Perhaps you had no time to cram on your destination’s language before you arrived. You can still get a nice helping for your ears by turning on the news wherever you may be. Many countries also offer news feeds online where you can watch and listen to the news before you take off. One of the best ways to understand a place culturally is by getting to know what transpires daily and how those events are phrased. The news can help you get back into the swing of hearing a language, probably at a faster pace than a language program you may buy.
Label household items you use daily in the language: If you are planning on traveling through a country that doesn’t speak your language, an easy way to prepare for words you might use is by knowing all of those items you use daily in the other language. As memory and language go hand in hand, you can master vocabulary words by labeling items in that language around your house. That way every time you pick up your toothbrush, you are reminded what its corresponding foreign word is. Also, when you are in search of some headache medicine in Berlin, you will know what to ask for at the foreign pharmacy because you had it labeled in your medicine cabinet weeks before your trip.
Practice Hello, Goodbye, Please and Thank you: You might be a little rusty on French or Spanish, so much so that everything you learned five years ago has left the mind’s system. Even if that were the case, if you are off to a country that doesn’t speak your language, you should also study how to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you. It is amazing how far these little words can take you when you travel. Write these words down on a notecard and always keep it with you. A good old thank you in German can go a long way.
What are some of our language tips to prepare for travel to foreign countries?
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