5 Fun Ways to Learn a Foreign Language Fast

by Nancy Mueller
( May 17th, 2011 )

Bonjour!

Right after posting my last blog in which I shared my desire to brush up on French this summer, my travel plans changed. Instead of visiting a French-speaking country perhaps, I’m off to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands instead.

Sooo I’ve decided to put my French on hold and switch language gears fast, not that I’m complaining! Since I’ve never studied Spanish and want to acquire a little of the local language before my trip, I’ve come up with a plan to maximize my learning time without stressing myself out. My goal is not to gain fluency, but to show appreciation and respect to  people in the local community. Here’s what I intend to do to get ready:

Listen to CD’s in the Car

This is the perfect place to practice, especially when no one’s in the car with me. I can see my daughter nodding her head in agreement right now. In the sanctity of my car, I can listen to the native speaker and repeat to my heart’s content without worrying that my pronunciation may obliterate any hopes for world peace.

Plaster Flash Cards Around the House

I’ll learn basic vocabulary by putting flash cards on my refrigerator (the first place I thought of), the bathroom mirror, the furniture, and the hamster cage, though I admit the odds are slim that I’ll have any opportunity to throw that last one into a conversation with my local hosts.

Eat in Latin American Restaurants

First, the refrigerator, and now restaurants. Are you sensing any theme here? But really, what better way to experience the local culture than through its food? And to be certain I know how to order, so that I end up with something close to what I think I’m getting, I’ll practice reading menus here first.

Play Latino Music

My love of music is eclectic, but this trip will give me a good excuse to pull out my opera, Florencia en el Amazonas, by composer Daniel Catan, as well as pop music by Marc Antony. See what I mean by eclectic?

Download an App for That

I’m still investigating which apps will serve my language learning needs best. For sure I’ll look for one of Latin American Spanish, though, to avoid the experience I had traveling in Brazil. I had purchased Portuguese tapes before my trip and had practiced diligently. But after seeing the look on my host’s face when I said a few of the phrases, I knew something wasn’t quite right. He asked where I had learned my Portuguese.  After I showed him my phrasebook, he replied: “Ah, but that is Portugal Portuguese, not Brazilian Portuguese!” Wouldn’t you know?

For me, the key to making this work is to seamlessly integrate my Spanish language learning into my daily routine – and have fun while I’m doing it.

How about you? Before you head off on your next world adventure, why not learn a few words and phrases in the local language to get the most out of your trip?

What tips do you have for learning a foreign language in a hurry?

6 comments
 
Comments
1.
On May 18th, 2011 at 9:39 am, pamperspakhlava said:

Who knows, maybe el Hamster will prove to be a useful thing to yell at other drivers when you’re on the roads in Ecuador. I love your sense of fun for how you approach this. When I lived in Amsterdam, my host “grandma” taught me a kid’s song. She said that long after I forgot everything else, I’d remember that song. She’s right, I can still sing it 30 years later!

2.
On May 18th, 2011 at 11:39 am, nancymueller said:

Thanks, Beth! So true – we never know what language skills will come in handy on our travels. Anybody out there know any good songs in Spanish to help me learn the language fast?

3.
On May 19th, 2011 at 8:42 am, Komal said:

Wonderful blog! I loved your tips. I think one good way is to watch their local television channels, since listening retains better than reading in foreign language guidebook.

4.
On May 19th, 2011 at 7:34 pm, nancymueller said:

Thanks, Komal! That’s a great idea. My Japanese college roommate told me that she had learned English from watching films and TV. And when I was in Brazil I really got hooked on the novelas that aired on television nightly. It was a fun and almost effortless way to absorb Portuguese.

5.
On May 21st, 2011 at 10:07 pm, hammockinparadise said:

I love the flash cards around the house!! Have you considered an online class?

6.
On May 22nd, 2011 at 12:02 pm, nancymueller said:

Hi, Lisa! I’m enrolling in an on-line Spanish class with Livemocha. I only have 5 weeks to get up to speed on the language basics so wish me luck!

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