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Learning a New Language During a Trip

Ready to learn a new language before (or during) an upcoming trip? This complete guide has everything you need to know about where to go, how to choose a school, and how long to study for.

There are many reasons to learn a second (or third or fourth) language. Whatever your motivation, the best way to learn is to travel and immerse yourself in the new language and culture. If you are thinking of learning a new language before or during your trip, there is quite a lot to consider.

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  ##Start learning and practicing the new language before you leave Take it from someone who traveled to Guatemala only knowing how to say “My name is Claire”, “Please”, and “Thank you”. You will save yourself a lot of stress by learning some basics before you arrive in your new country. Download an [app]( on your phone and practice for 10-30 minutes every day. Another great option is signing up for some Skype lessons with a tutor. Many language schools offer classes by Skype for a reasonable price. By learning the basics before your trip, you won’t be as overwhelmed when you arrive at your destination. It will also make your first week in language school much easier. ![person holding a cell phone]( “cellphone”) ##Be Clear About Your Needs Before you make any decisions, you need to be really clear about why you want to learn the language as this will affect everything from the country you choose to the school you choose. Here are some questions to ask yourself: – Why do you want to learn the language? Is it just for travel, for conversation, or is it for work or studying in a different country? – What level do you want to get to? Do you just need the basics, or do you want to be fluent speaking, reading, and writing? – What kind of learner are you? Do you prefer to learn in a classroom or in a more informal setting? – How serious are you about studying? Do you prefer something more relaxed and social or do you want a serious, intensive course? It is important to be clear about all of these things before searching for and contacting a language school. Some schools only offer 1-2-1 training, others have group classes and many different social activities. For those serious about reaching a high level of learning, it may be better to take a university course for a longer period of time. If you are just learning for travel, then a smaller school with a more informal, conversation-based way of teaching will be better for you. ##Deciding Where to Go to Learn a New Language Where you study is going to depend on three things: 1. Your learning needs – For example, if you want to learn Spanish to communicate with Spanish speakers in Europe, then learning Spanish in Latin America is probably a bad idea. 2. Your budget – The cost of classes is going to vary from country to country and city to city. Decide how much you want to spend and do your research to find the best deal. It’s not always best to go with the cheapest option unless you are on a super tight budget. I have studied Spanish [in Guatemala]( and Colombia and although the cost is extremely low in comparison to other countries, Colombia was twice the cost of Guatemala. However, my experience of learning [in Colombia]( was incredible. 3. Where you want to visit – The whole point of learning a language while traveling is to go somewhere you’ve always dreamed of visiting! Before you do anything else, think about the countries you want to visit and factor that into your decision. Check out [Skyscanner’s Deals Under $100]( ) for inspiration. ![man sitting with papers smiling in cartagena]( “cartagena”) ##How Long to Study a New Language As someone who has quit language school not once, but twice, take my advice: only book and pay for 2 weeks at a time. If they have an offer where you save money by booking 4 weeks, then check if you can take a break if you need one. In my experience, after 2 weeks, I need at least one week off to absorb and put my learning into practice. Even if you are planning to study for a long period of time, I would strongly recommend factoring in some rest weeks between your studies. This will give you the chance to do some sightseeing, rest, and most importantly, practice your new skills. ![girl wearing a hat writing in journal on the beach]( “mexico”) ##Full Immersion or Partial Immersion Full immersion normally includes a “homestay” and this is when you actually live with a host. They will feed you and give you a room in their home, but it’s unlikely they will speak your language so you will need to speak with them using what you learn during the day at school. This can be a fantastic way to learn. Not only will you be fully immersed in your new language, you will learn about local culture, meet some new people, save money and you will be helping provide some extra income for a local family. On the other hand, this can be really intense, especially if you are a complete beginner, so think carefully before deciding on this. ##Practice, Practice, Practice… This is so important! If you don’t use it, you will lose it! Talk to taxi drivers, new friends, bus drivers, everyone. Don’t be shy! People are generally understanding and patient and will appreciate you wanting to learn their language. As a learning tip, it helps to download the country’s top songs and listen to local radio/watch local TV whenever you can. Once you return home, try not to go right back into what’s comfortable for you and avoid speaking your new language. Look for a local language exchange where you can go and talk to people in that language. [![Download our free app]( “Download our free app”)](

About the Author

Claire Summers// Claire’s Itchy Feet

Dancer, artist, and street food connoisseur, Claire began her travels during her time in the Royal Navy, and is now a full time adventurer. Check out her travel blog to learn more about her adventures and travel tips.