What is the best way to learn a language while traveling? What are the best apps for learning languages and what are the best techniques to practice and memorize new words? Here’s a list with great methods for language learning.
Speaking the local language completely transforms your travel experience. Learning languages while traveling as a nomad expands your worldview and is a vital skill to have in your nomad toolkit.
This article will explain why you should learn languages while traveling as a nomad, how to decide which language to learn first, tips on getting started with learning languages while traveling, and methods to maintain your language level after moving to a new location.
Why You Should Learn a New Language
More Business Opportunities
With remote work, you are more than likely communicating internationally. Learning a new language can make business faster and more efficient across large and complex markets because not only is it about ease of communication but also about understanding a culture.
This can help you understand your international clients’ challenges and their way of working. Particularly important for digital nomads is that by knowing the local language, networking becomes much easier.
Learning languages while traveling also makes you more flexible as it opens you up to possibilities to work in more than one part of the world.
Save Time and Money
The more you know the local language, the more travel savvy you will be. Learning a new language also comes with becoming familiar with the culture and way of life.
This is useful for navigating your way around the local transportation system, shopping hours and the accommodation scene. If all else fails, at least you will be able to communicate with the locals for directions!
Knowing the local language acts almost like a safeguard against tourist traps and allows you to shop around, compare and bargain for better options. A sense of achievement is therefore often felt, along with feeling more independent and in control of your decisions.
Expand Your Horizons
Learning a new language is the first step in creating a wider and more diverse social circle. It allows you to communicate with more people, hear more stories and connect with local people on a deeper level while traveling.
Taking your language learning to an advanced level broadens your opportunities to make lifelong friends worldwide rather than leaving it up to having random encounters with locals during your travels.
If you are looking to put your learnings into practice and connect with native speakers, then check out the Tandem app. Tandem is a global community of language learners and avid travelers where you can connect with native speakers anytime, anywhere.
You can make connections before your trip, find members near you once you’ve landed or search for language exchange partners in the next city you’re heading to. Tandem is not just about practicing languages but also learning about new cultures and having meaningful conversations with people from all over the world.
Show Respect to the Locals
Even if you are not aiming to become a fluent speaker, the bare minimum that is expected from travelers is to know a few basic words and phrases such as hello, please and thank you.
It doesn’t take very long or very much effort to learn the basics but it makes a very positive impact on the locals to see that you took the time to learn their language.
What Language Should I Learn First?
If you are already nomad-ing, it would make sense to start with the local language followed by the language spoken in your next destination. However, if you are just about to set off on your new nomad lifestyle, here are some of the factors you should consider.
The more connected you are to a language or the country where they speak it, the better. Whether you have business connections, family or friends abroad, this would be a good reason for you to invest your time into learning the language with the goal of gaining proficiency.
Choosing a language which is widely spoken and spoken in multiple countries will keep your options open for future travel and business opportunities.
Knowing that a language is popular and widely spoken will, therefore, increase your motivation to learn it. A good example of such a language is English.
Spanish is also another great option since it is spoken in many countries along with Chinese as it is spoken by over one billion people.
Deciding on a new language to learn can also be based on which language or languages are most similar to your own. Languages come in families and share the same origins as others, so picking a language that already builds on existing knowledge makes perfect sense.
For example, if you are a native Italian speaker it might be easier for you to learn Spanish next. This will help you advance faster and motivate you to continue learning.
Tips for Learning Languages on the Road
Language learning is not an easy endeavor, and the constraints of constant travel only make it more challenging. However, below are some tips that will help you make as much progress on the road, as you would have from the comfort of your permanent home.
As a digital nomad, you, of course, don’t have the space for dragging around hefty language textbooks. Apps are a great way to learn a new language because you’ll always have them at your fingertips and they are either free or a more affordable option.
However, they are intended as study aids and should ideally be used in combination with other resources. Here is a list of our favorite language learning apps to help you learn any language, anywhere (there’s really no excuse now).
1. Tandem – Put your language skills into practice by speaking with natives worldwide.
2. Duolingo – For basic language skills in grammar and vocabulary.
3. Babbel – Language lessons to teach you real-life dialogue.
4. Drops – Word games with mnemonic associations to build vocabulary.
5. Memrise – Learn vocabulary and basic phrases.
If you want to throw yourself into the deep end and not rely too much on your smartphone, the most effective way to learn a language is by speaking it. The best way to do this is to avoid major tourist destinations and instead spend time in smaller, more rural locations.
This may sound daunting but having no other choice than to interact with native speakers will have such a positive impact on your confidence. Communication is at the heart of any language so use every chance you get while traveling to practice the language.
You also need to be willing to make mistakes because practice is really the only way to advance.
Audio resources are really useful for language acquisition. Podcasts, for example, are a great way of incorporating language learning into your daily activities and when you are en route from one place to another.
There is a podcast for almost everyone about almost every topic in almost every language, so you should have no problem in finding one that suits you.
Taking part in an activity such as a local exercise class is an effective way to learn a language in a non-classroom setting.
Although you might need to get used to being shouted at in a foreign language, the experience pays off as you get an opportunity to converse and connect with local people.
A useful resource to find events or classes near you is Meetup.com and the Meetup app.
When figuring out the best way to learn a language remotely, it’s important to remember that we all learn languages differently. There is no one method that is most effective.
Some like learning by listening, others like reading, or prefer writing or speaking. Keep an open mind by trying out various different types of resources to see what method suits you.
How to Maintain Your Level After Returning From Your Travels
Losing your fluency is a very real fear for those who are constantly on the move. However, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be so difficult to maintain your fluency level.
The key is to swap your usual native language activities with the language you want to maintain. Here are some examples and helpful tips:
- Keep in touch with your travel connections by connecting with them on social media.
- Live with natives of the language to completely immerse yourself.
- Read an online or printed newspaper in a foreign language.
- Listen to music and the radio in the language.
- Re-watch your favorite movies in the language or switch on the subtitles.
- Re-read your favorite book in the language you want to maintain.
- Change the language on your mobile and laptop device.
- Keep using the apps mentioned above.
Languages are an incredible skill to know and learn, which are well worth venturing outside your comfortable native tongue for.
Learning languages while traveling as a nomad is an enriching experience so don’t miss out on the plenty opportunities it opens you up to.
Read more of our language learning tips:
Tips and tricks to learn the different languages I speak:
Tips and tricks to learn languages: