May 04 2015

Learning A New Language For Travel

Category: ThoughtsNancy Whitman @ 10:07 pm

mexicoIt’s a great option to learn a new language if you’re going to be traveling.  I went to Mexico a few times for surf trips and I found that having even a basic understanding of the Spanish language is a huge asset in terms of being able to get around comfortably and understand common things like food and asking people where the bathrooms are.  And you don’t need to kill yourself to learn that level of language – you can often do it from home.

I learned Spanish in a classroom setting at the University of Michigan.  It was grueling and I feel like I spent a lot of time on it and while I learned a lot, I felt that it wasn’t enough compensation for the time I felt that I was putting into the class. I had 4 one hour classes per week plus a ton of homework.  It was a lot!  And while I got pretty decent with reading comprehension I was lagging in my spoken and conversational skills.

I think that if you do a learn at home course that you should definitely do a bit of research into the ones that are available out there for you to choose from.  I highly recommend looking into the Rocket Spanish courses that have been well reviewed lately in places like the New York Times.  They are computer based but you can also take them with you on your smartphone or tablet.  I found this Rocket Spanish review over at Little Language Site to be very informative.

The best thing that I did to improve my Spanish learning and comprehension while I was in college was to get Spanish magazines and watch Spanish movies.  This bit of extra stuff was not only fun, but it reinforced what I learned and gave me a fun way to practice.  So I definitely recommend that people do those types of things as well.

Another great thing would be to learn a bit of travel vocabulary.  Sometimes language learning courses are rather general, so if you can supplement and learn some travel words then it would benefit you quite a bit.

Also, getting tutored by a native Spanish speaker is a great way to go – you can easily find people online or you can even advertise for lessons from a local college student who would probably be happy to earn a few extra bucks on the side.

Whatever method you choose to go, there are a multitude of different resources out there for you to take advantage of.  It definitely enhances a trip to be able to speak at least a little bit of the native language, and people will be impressed by your desire to learn and immerse yourself in the culture.  Sure, some places have many English speakers, but don’t you want to go above and beyond?

I can definitely say that my surf trips to Spanish speaking countries were much better given my knowledge of Spanish.  When I went to Japan and knew almost no Japanese I felt very lost and helpless –even though it was a very fun trip.  I would have been happier if I could have read some of the Japanese.