In many situations, the quality of your travel experience is directly affected by your ability to understand the new language. For some travelers, the challenge of learning a new tongue is one of the joys of travel, and as a result, they spend much of their time in conversations with local citizens. Others will find that just learning to read the most common signs and use everyday salutations will greatly enhance the visit overall.
Before You Go
Take some time to familiarize yourself with some of the simple phrases of the new language. One way of accomplishing this task is by listening to language tapes. A phrase book can help expand your vocabulary, but hearing the sounds of the different spoken words is an excellent preliminary activity that can be done right in the comfort of your home. Just spending 15 minutes a night will improve your language skills and make your first days abroad more enjoyable.
Enroll in a conversational language class. Most community colleges and adult education programs provide basic classes in the major languages. Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese are the most common languages that are taught for conversational use, though it is not uncommon to find offerings in German, Chinese, Russian and Arabic. A large metropolitan area might have a language school that includes more languages than those previously mentioned.
Practice Is Learning
When you arrive in your new land, begin by greet new acquaintances in their own tongue. This may come easy or it could take some time to learn. If progress seems slow, then it only means that you will need more practice and patience to learn these very important words.
Go out during the day and begin one-on-one conversations with shop owners, merchants and clerks that are located in close proximity to the place, where you are staying. This should not be done until after you learned the numbers and some of the common phrases, but once you begin making purchases in a second language your communication skills will start to improve rapidly.
Go to the movies or watch the local TV. The best scenario is to find a foreign movie with English subtitles and attend the movie with one or more of your traveling buddies. This exercise will also help with the vernacular, plus you might get to see an entertaining film.
Listen to the radio. Some travelers will bring along a small, portable radio, just for this purpose. The most helpful part of the radio dialogue may be the commercials, which will help you recognize the correct pronunciation for local streets and landmarks.