Every time I make my way to a new country, my mind wanders around the lines of “Oh god, what are they saying? Does anyone speak English? I am going to be so lost!” along with the silly rule that ‘If I can’t master the language, what’s the point of wasting all that time learning it?’ Don’t be that person. No matter how many weeks, days, or even hours you have before you take your trip to that exotic land, here’s how you can know the basics to learn a new language of your choice. Read on!
Be clear with your goals and try to avoid vague phrases like “I want to learn Spanish” or “I want to be fluent in French”. Chalk down the level of difficulty you’re going for, and concentrate on learning just that.
The most common ones being ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘could you help?’, ‘do you speak English’, ‘directions’, and so on. Think of learning the language from the perspective of gaining knowledge on your surroundings and venues, and not as learning to be able to write an academic thesis in the language! Here is a list of free online dictionaries that you can start with, for your journey.
French is a beautiful language, and if you’re looking to be quite the charmer, carry with you a copy of the Oxford Essential French Dictionary for Rs 211.
When you don’t have too much time on your hand before you leave for your trip, it’s unwise to spend all your time to rely solely on guidebooks. Skim through the pages and highlight or mark phrases that serve the most purpose to you such as ‘Is there a washroom?’, or ‘How much is this priced?’ etc. Take a look at this online list of basic phrases you can use for your conversations.
If Italian is your cup of tea, get yourself a copy of Vittoria Bowles’ Get Started in Italian Absolute Beginner Course for Rs 790.
All languages have variations in verbs and tenses when you’re using the words in context to the sentence you wish to speak. You will need to learn whole sentences in order to ask your question, especially in languages like French and Spanish where pronounces, prepositions and articles are extremely important so that you don’t end up changing the meaning of the sentence altogether!
Pro tip: Use websites like Forvo for a handy guide to learning pronunciations.
For easing into conversation with strangers you meet, write down an introduction that you can break the ice with, and translate the introduction in the language you’re studying. For example, if you’re a travel blogger, you will need to look up specific words like ‘blogger’ (your job), ‘Indian’ (your nationality), and ‘vegetarian’ (your lifestyle choice) etc., which will help people assist you better.
Listening to languages is as important as reading words and phrases. Cut out all the noise and learn skills on audiobooks even on your daily commute using the Chkokko Noise Cancelling Stereo Earphone for Rs 799.
As a traveller, note down all the possible scenarios that you will be needing to converse with the natives of the country. Apart from the basic ‘excuse me’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’, you may need to brush up on words for ‘church’, ‘police station’, hospital’, ‘food and beverages’, ‘cafe’, ‘room service’, and so on. Use Memrise for fun and handy mnemonics on your phone, even on the go.
Jot down your vocabulary, practice words, and get your verbs in order by organising them all in this cute Pinnacle White Kantha Work Journal for Rs 375.
Once you have a basic idea of what the language entails and how to go about it, jot down a couple of pages of phrases and practice using them in your conversation. You can also send them over to Lang-8 for the community of native speakers who can guide you on certain nuances and depth of words when you bounce ideas off of them and you can be on your way to charm fellow travelers with your knowledge!
Pro tip: Websites like RhinoSpike allow you to submit sentences you want to hear that is then sent back to you as spoken by a native speaker of the language.
For those of you are more aural learners than visual, understanding Spanish will be an absolute breeze with Claudia Orea’s Learn Spanish with Stories for Beginners (with audio) for Rs 965.