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Travelling and language-learning


anna3101
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Has travelling helped you in any way with your language learning? I don't mean going to some country to live there or study but just a short travel experience (from several days to several weeks).

Have you already been in the native country of the language/languages you are interested in? If not, do you plan to go?

As for me, I'm not a big time traveller. I've visited only a small handful of European countries - the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain and Greece. Being, even a very short time, in the countries where people speak the languages I'm learning - French, Spanish, German, Dutch - has been very beneficial for me. However, not in terms of practice, because you can only get so much of that during a week or two (although still it's much better than none). It has given me a lot of motivation to further learn about the language and the culture. Also, it has been either a confidence booster (wow, they can really undestand me and I can understand them) or a kind of wake-up call (hmm, seems like there's a lot I don't get and a lot I need to work on).

I've never been to an English-speaking country, and also, haven't been to Italy yet. I would really like to visit UK and Italy in the future. For now, I just don't have enough money for that but I hope to earn more in the future and be able to afford the trip.

What about you?

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Nope, not at all. It depends though, because most people travel to vacation, so their mindset is obviously set to relaxing and having fun, not learning the language. It also depends on whether the guy travelling have some sort of knowledge about the language of the country he's visiting in the first place. But either way, I don't think it's very effective. When you travel, you're usually in the country that you're visiting for a very short time, a few days to a week at most, and that's not enough time to really try to better your language comprehension/fluency.

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As for me, I'm not a big time traveller.

I wish I could travel in time, but I leave that to HG Wells. :tongue:

I travel extensively, and improving my languages is often one of my main goals. I rarely spend less than a month in a country, so all that immersion really helps. For example, 3 years ago I took a vacation around the world. I was in Kiev for a month where I studied Russian, Taipei for a month where I studied Mandarin, the Philippines for 3 weeks but didn't study Tagalog, Vietnam for 3 weeks but didn't study Vietnamese, and finally Thailand for 3 months where I studied Thai. I've done 4 or 5 of these big trips, and dozens of smaller ones.

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This is a hard question for me. 

When I immigrated to America, I didn't know any English. They dropped me in a class and I was able to learn English by myself. So in that sense, yes, traveling to a new place helped me learned a language.

But now I'm living in Japan and I don't feel like it's helping me much. In fact, I think my Japanese has gotten worse because everyone tries to speak to me in English (I'm an English teacher). Everyone wants to learn English so I don't have a Japanese partner to speak with. So now, I would probably say no. Traveling to a new place didn't help me improve my language skills.

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Yes, I do this quite a bit!

It's the best way to learn I think. being able to speak in the local tongue in a country on the other side of the planet...very rewarding! It's awesome positive reinforcement for me, helps me stick with the language!

If you're studying language of some other country and you haven't been there...well...get off your butt! I mean unless it's a country where the crime rate is through the roof it will be at least a little bit of fun, right?

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When I travel internationally I pick up a few words here and there, but there is never enough time for me to really learn a language; instead just a few phrases.  I think the only way to really learn a language is to immerse yourself in their culture by living in the country.  I know that many schools offer study abroad programs for language majors in which they live in someone's home.  My cousin did this and she came back speaking the language fluently.  Although she will say she learned more slang then proper Spanish.  

 
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 I think the only way to really learn a language is to immerse yourself in their culture by living in the country. 

So are you saying that people who claim to have learned languages in different ways are liars?

 

 

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Well, what happened to me was before my family and I went to France, I had never learned its language. I only knew Bonjour! :sad: My daughters have been taking French classes in school before that trip and until now. And so it was really a good practice for them to speak French to the French men! My eldest talked to an old French lady to ask for street directions. I admired her for doing so and following her directions accurately. We got to the place without any hassles!:)

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  • 1 month later...

In my experience, short term travel definitely helps in language learning! Not as much as total immersion, of course, but you pick up important words and phrases used in the country itself (instead of just what you'd learn in class). I traveled for three months in Central America three years ago, and my Spanish improved immeasurably. I wasn't living somewhere were everyone speaks Spanish, I was on the go the whole time and staying in hostels where a lot of English was spoken. And still, I learned so much Spanish! There are also people who spend time in countries and don't learn a lick, but that's because they don't try. You just have to get out there and practice a bit. 

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I don't really know how short term travel can help to be honest. I know that if I don't have a good base, I would have a lot of trouble. Case and point, my trip to Spain. I studied Spanish for three months before the trip in order to enjoy it more and I wouldn't say I was great at it, but I could understand quite a lot. My problem was I went to Barcelona and everybody spoke Catalan. I even got a few nasty looks when trying out my Spanish. My ex-girlfriend studies French and she was able to go France and she had a much better experience. Although, she did have a much stronger base and has stayed in France a lot longer (a couple of months).

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've only been to neighboring Asian countries in the past, and mostly for leisure. Thus, it didn't cross my mind to study the local languages. I guess, I just believe that English is all I need to get by. But travels to those countries have made think the importance of picking up phrases or two of the local language prior to the visit. My friends and I had this incident while we were in Ayutthaya, Thailand where we separated from our tour group. We had trouble getting back to our meeting place, and sadly the locals we met at that time spoke no English. One of my friends ended up acting similar to the game of Charades just trying to communicate that we wish to go to The Elephant (Park?). The locals couldn't understand us at all. We were only saved when another local came by carrying a box with a picture of an Elephant and we pointed to it, and finally the locals knew where we want to go. Thinking about the incident now it seems hilarious, but at that time - it was desperate time as our tour bus will leave if we are late in returning to the meeting place!

Anyhow, I wish to return to Seoul, South Korea and hopefully with at least a bit of knowledge of Korean as I encountered some difficulty during a trip there because of the language barrier. I noticed that though they know English, some were hesitant to speak as their peers seem to make fun of them.

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I have been travelling a lot, but I never used it to learn languages.
I didn't have many opportunities for this any way.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, I have traveled quite a bit but for some reason the only language I could practice was English ;)   I will try to practice Dutch as much as possible once I move there, but other languages? Well, when I start with french and we visit Paris I might give it a try, but I am kind of shy when I am just starting to learn a language.  I used to be way more outgoing and open when I was younger, and I think that is what helped me learn English faster and better. 

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As an American traveler, I think that the key to improving language skills while traveling is to spend time away from touristed areas.  The areas with the most tourists will also be the areas where English is most likely spoken.  While convenient, this is obviously a hindrance in terms of picking up language skills.  A language learner's best bet is to spend some time in less-traveled areas and stay among locals - shop at small markets, eat at small eateries. This will encourage (ok, force) you to practice what language skills you already have, and perhaps you'll be able to learn a few new phrases, as well.

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I travelled to Hong Kong in 1989 or 1990 and Thailant in 1991. My trip lasted for five days in Hong Kong, while my Thailand trip was for a week.  Since my stay in those countries was only for a brief vacation, I haven't had the opportunity to learn the countries' languages, as I spoke English most of the time.  We also had a tour guide who spoke English, so we didn't have any language problems..  

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I have never really tried learning the language of the country or place I'm visiting in. Like, when we went to a province here in our country, Pampanga, we didn't really understand their dialect or even bothered to try to learn it. Because when we're traveling, we're more likely to enjoy the sceneries and go to the different tourist locations. But I think that if you do spend a long enough time in one place, you're bound to at least get some idea of their language or dialect. Alas, our travels weren't that long so we didn't really learn their dialect within that time frame.

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  • 4 months later...

Whenever I travel, I try my best to learn some of the language before going, and then insist on trying to speak it as much as possible while I'm there. I "refreshed" my Croatian when we went to Croatia (3 weeks!) and it certainly helped. Same with Gaelic when we went to the Outer Hebrides and Cornish when we went to Cornwall. 

I've never officially traveled specifically for language reasons, like to attend an immersion or something like that, although I'd love to. ;)

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When I traveled to Paris, I spoke zero French.  I was not worried about it because my cousin lives there and I expected her to be my translator.  Well, she works a lot and I was on my own in a country I do not know the language.  I listened, observed, and learned.  By the end of my month there, I spoke enough to be polite and get me where I needed to go.  

I also lived in Japan.  However, this did not help me.  They all speak English and they look forward to practicing so I never learned any Japanese.  But in general, yes travel is a wonderful way to learn language. 

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1 hour ago, brooklyn218 said:

I also lived in Japan.  However, this did not help me.  They all speak English and they look forward to practicing so I never learned any Japanese.

Oh?
I heard a whole different thing from friends and family.
More like "only some Japanese speak (broken) English".

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LIving in Japan has definitely accelerated my Japanese linguistic ability. I mean, yes, I did indeed enroll into a Japanese language school and attend a Japanese vocational college, so I'm quite immersed in the culture. However, even before school had started, just living day-to-day presented wonderful learning opportunities. A lot of people do speak English (or at least attempt), and they want to try out their English with you. But I'm the stubborn butt that keeps responding in Japanese no matter what. Unless I'm tutoring my Japanese friends in English, then that's a different story. 

But yes. Living abroad is one of the best methods of learning a language, because you're forced to adapt. The only times I've witnessed someone having a hard time getting the language skills is when they resist. As in, they continue using English exclusively, don't attempt to study, and don't put themselves into situations where they'd need to utilize another language. 

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I'm learning languages which I'm hoping I'll get to use someday when or if I get to travel to the countries of origin. I would love to be able to live in Japan or France for a while and get to use the language but to be honest I'd also be happy just learning the languages even if I wasn't able to go to those countries. I just find these languages very appealing and understanding it could help me appreciate their media and entertainment a lot more, though of course, it would be great to also be able to just use it for everyday conversations with the locals and being able to travel and transact freely without much trouble. 

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On 11/6/2015 at 8:45 PM, KimmyMarkks said:

When I travel internationally I pick up a few words here and there, but there is never enough time for me to really learn a language; instead just a few phrases.  I think the only way to really learn a language is to immerse yourself in their culture by living in the country.  I know that many schools offer study abroad programs for language majors in which they live in someone's home.  My cousin did this and she came back speaking the language fluently.  Although she will say she learned more slang then proper Spanish.  

 

I am the same way, I am only able to isolate a few words enough to learn what they mean, and then I get back home and find out they are mostly slang or local words anyway.   But here is a challenge, just to shock yourself.  When you are home and the next time you have a conversation with someone in your native language, listen to how much of what you and they are saying that is either slang, or proper nouns.  It is very high usually.  We do not speak in proper sentences nearly as much as you would expect.

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48 minutes ago, petesede said:

I am the same way, I am only able to isolate a few words enough to learn what they mean, and then I get back home and find out they are mostly slang or local words anyway.   But here is a challenge, just to shock yourself.  When you are home and the next time you have a conversation with someone in your native language, listen to how much of what you and they are saying that is either slang, or proper nouns.  It is very high usually.  We do not speak in proper sentences nearly as much as you would expect.

You're quite right in this observation. When we speak in the vernacular, we rarely do speak in proper sentences. Grammar and structure seems to be prevalent when studying things on paper, but in actual practice there is the tendency to veer away, and yet we all still understand each other. I guess that's why they say writing and speaking are generally different skills set. In writing, there seems to be strict observance of form, while in speaking there is more flexibility. Truth be told, I have more difficulty writing in the vernacular than writing in English. I guess that's because, we really didn't study our 'own' language. But just acquired them through observation, imitation, and a whole lot other methods. So, yeah chances are we do not speak in proper sentences when speaking our native language. :)

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