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How to learn a language on your own before traveling

Ways to learn a foreign language
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There are a couple of good reasons to learn a bit of the local language before moving or traveling abroad. It helps you to get around easier, fit in better and feel more independent (from your dictionary) and less 'lost' in a foreign country.

Learning a language requires time and dedication. These are the two key ingredients in language learning. One of the most effective ways to teach yourself a foreign language is through immersion. This means you have to surround yourself with topics and items that remind you of your target country. As a beginner, you want to focus on the listening aspect of the language and leave the reading and writing for a later stage, when you feel more comfortable in understanding what other people say.

There are many good methods and materials available to help you learn a practical language for everyday use. These include books and movies that can help you study on your own.

Traditional textbooks suffer from their limitations. They are great for teaching reading and writing, perhaps even ideal. However, they are counterproductive for learning the spoken language because they distract you with spelling, while you need to focus on pronunciation. With modern tools like the iPad, we can create interactive books with little text but lots of spoken phrases and words. It is still a new field of learning with lots more to come. Here's an example:

If you want to learn a bit of Portuguese, 'Recipes for Visiting Brazil' is an interactive guide/language book. It comes with integrated audio so you can hear how the words are pronounced.

Apps are very practical, since you can learn anytime, anywhere. The only thing you need is a smartphone. They are, however, often limited in the vocabulary they teach. Clearly they will improve in the future. Duolingo is an example of an app that engages learners through gamification.

Movies and TV series are a great way to learn a language based on a story. Watching a movie or a TV series with subtitles is very useful as you're working both your listening and reading skills. Moreover, they tend to use a more natural conversational language, unlike most textbooks. 'Les Choristes' is a great movie suggestion for French learners.

There isn't a one-size-fits-all method when it comes to language learning. While many of these tools won't provide you with enough content and ways to reach total fluency, they certainly are a good start in making you feel more confident in your new language.

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