Learn a Foreign Language
Nice and Easy, Really...
Learning a foreign language can be one of the best reasons to travel.
It's a triumph of the mind and soul.
Understanding another culture is a whole lot easier when one can talk their talk.
For me my first "second language" was German. I learned it in high school and ended up taking a high school tour of Europe in my junior year. It changed my life. I've traveled ever since.
Learning a new language was the first step for me to enter a whole new world.
It allowed me to travel fearlessly and travel well.
Two years later, I was back in Germany. I owned an old 1959 Volkswagen, and was having the time of my life.
All this happened because I learned German.
The funny thing is, I'm not particularly good at languages.
I find I have a visual mind, not a listening mind. So I have to really work at learning a new foreign language.
But with persistence and a little good luck, I found some tricks to help me out.
Here they are...
Best way to learn a language is to simply do it.
Total immersion in any idiom is best, such as grabbing a phrasebook and going to a country itself.
Learning English as a second language is a lot easier than learning, say, French, since English is everywhere in the world. It's in pop songs, movies, books, magazines, radio, TV, technology, hip slang, and world history.
English is fearless in stealing words from other languages. So many foreigners already know some English without knowing it.
Likewise, you know many words and phrases in other idioms without know it. If you can learn how to pronounce those words correctly, you can be well on the way to speaking another language.
Before visiting a new country, I learn as much as I can about their language. I purchase an audio course to learn it. I listen to the CDs as I drive my car. That's how I learned some Portuguese before leaving for Portugal.
Another trick I learned from a Mexican coworker was to listen to a radio station in the language of choice.
He listened to an English-speaking radio to learn English. One day he was very surprised that the host had started to speak Spanish, because he understood everything. He was wrong. He had learned English enough to listen like a native. It just took time.
A Swedish friend told me to watch Swedish children's cartoons to learn that language. It worked, since they kept the dialog simple and straight forward.
The first step learning another language is pronunciation. You can't understand if you can't hear what being said.
That's why the closer you can get to total immersion, the better. That is, learning another language without help in your own language.
Don't stop to think, just talk. Mimic what you hear. Speak, just to speak. That's how a baby learns to speak, and so should you.
My biggest problem now is that I get Portuguese mixed up with Spanish as well as Italian. They are very similar.
As I said, I'm not that great at languages, but I do get around...
Next take a foreign language course, below, that uses these principles to learn a new idiom.
I've used many of them, and lent them out to friends and relatives. They are a big hit.
Here they are (they're fantastic):
French course - French in Action - This groundbreaking, critically acclaimed teaching approach helps students use real, unsimplified French in the context of actual communication. It works!
German course - Guten Tag - Unfortunately I haven't found the link to this excellent language course. I will.
Spanish course - Destinoes - This video instructional series for college and high school classrooms and adult learners teaches Spanish speaking and listening skills.
Other Languages - Pimsleur Approach to Foreign Language - The Pimsleur Approach to speak any language in as little as 10 days! Pimsleur courses took over 40 years to develop and perfect.
Chinese - Finally, here is my Introduction to Chinese Characters.
I'm sure that other foreign languages will also have their own courses based on total immersion. I will add them to this list is as I find them.
So don't be shy, dive right in.
A new foreign language skill might just be the best thing to take with you on your next trip abroad.
How to Teach English in Japan
The straight story on getting a greatteaching position in this exotic country. Photo by Richard Baladad
Here are some important road skills:
Go to page on Safety First
What to do about Lost Travelers
Motion Sickness and Sea Sickness
Diarrhea and Its Cures
Travel Tips for Europe
Useful Travel Tools
Electronic Travel Applications
Audio Tours for museums and cities