When I moved to...

When I moved to ARGENTINA

In June 2015, I packed my bags, bid my farewells and set off looking for an adventure with a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires.

Two years later, I can confidently say that it was a life-changing decision and the experience of living here has taught me a lot – both about myself as a person and the world we all live in. Not only have I become fluent in Spanish and fallen in love with Argentine culture, I’ve also learned to appreciate home much more as well.

Why move to Argentina?

As I came to the end of my time in university, I felt I needed a change. I wanted to see the world, experience something different and get away an unfulfilling job and a mundane routine in Dublin.

I settled on South America as my destination and decided to learn Spanish. The decision to go to Argentina specifically came later, after I met my now girlfriend while travelling in Spain. Once that relationship developed, it seemed the obvious choice to start my South American adventure in her home city – Buenos Aires.

La Boca

The unexpected language barrier

Before I moved to Argentina, I thought I spoke Spanish pretty well. Sure, I was far from fluent but in my online language exchanges and during brief conversations in Spain, I’d always been able to communicate effectively even if I didn’t speak or understand everything perfectly.

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When I arrived in Argentina, the language barrier hit me like a freight train. The way people speak in Argentina is different from any other Spanish speaking country and it took me some time to adapt. The first couple of months, I really struggled to get used to the Argentine accent and understand people.

There are a couple of obvious differences that make Argentine Spanish stand out – the letter ‘ll’ is pronounced like ‘sh’ instead of the ‘y’ pronunciation more commonly used in Spain. There’s also a unique way of conjugating verbs for the second person singular (you), which takes a little getting used to, for example, instead of saying “tú haces”, people will say “vos hacés”.

When I arrived in Argentina, the language barrier hit me like a freight train. The way people speak in Argentina is different from any other Spanish speaking country and it took me some time to adapt. 

But it wasn’t these big differences that were the problem for me; it was all the smaller things – from the subtle sounds of the accent to the amount of vocabulary that’s different. For example, if you’ve ever learnt Spanish, you’ll probably have come across the word mantequilla, which means “butter”. Not so in Argentina – the word is manteca. In a Spanish supermarket, you might buy melocotones (peaches); but in Argentina the word is duraznos.

And this is before getting into the swear words, che’s and other colourful language that Argentines use on a daily basis. All of this meant that perfecting my Spanish was a steep learning curve. I learned to communicate quite quickly, but it was much longer before I became able to truly express my thoughts and opinions in group conversations.

When the homesickness hits

I said back at the beginning of this post, that living abroad has made me appreciate home even more. The little things you take for granted at home – like being able to chat with your parents anytime you like or go for a walk to your favourite quiet places – all become a big deal when you can’t have them anymore.

In that sense, I’ve developed a kind of love-hate relationship with Buenos Aires. I love the people and the culture, but at the same time, I’m constantly frustrated by how much more difficult simple things often are than they would be at home.

How much Spanish did I end up speaking every day?

In relation to language-learning, the biggest thing I’ve taken away from this experience is that just being in another country doesn’t mean you’re immersed in its language.

You might think that while living in Buenos Aires, I was immersed in Spanish all day and that I’d inevitably become fluent, but that wasn’t the reality.

For the most part, I was fully immersed in Spanish one day a week – on Sundays when we’d often spend the day with my girlfriend’s family.

But during the week, I was working as an English teacher and speaking English in the classroom. When I came home, I spoke more English with my girlfriend than Spanish (relationships have a habit of staying in the language they start in!). And since we didn’t have a TV, most of the shows we watched were US or British productions on Netflix.

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You can easily see how I didn’t really use that much more Spanish in my daily routine that I would have if I was living at home in Ireland.

So, what does this all mean for you?

It means that immersion isn’t about living in a country where your target language is spoken.

Immersion is something you choose to do in your daily life, and nowadays, you can do it anywhere. Ironically, I’ve done a much better job immersing myself in Russian while learning it than I ever did with Spanish, even though I’ve never spent a single day in a Russian speaking country!

As I embark upon my next challenge living abroad – 3 months in Rio de Janeiro later this year – I’ve been reflecting upon what it means to live abroad. In many ways, I think it’s about people more than anything. The people you meet and the people you miss. The way life is the very same, but yet so different.


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James Granahan is a language blogger and coach from Ireland. He is fascinated by language learning and he speaks English, Spanish, French and Russian. He is also the founder of Lingua Materna.

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Inside Memrise

Meet Chiara and Ángela: our Italian and Spanish language specialists

5E0A3149_1Chiara – Italian Language Specialist from Brescia, Italy

How has your experience of life at Memrise been so far?

In a word, interesting! The first week was like being caught in a tornado of information, with all the new things I learnt and the new people I met, but this only made it more exciting!

What got you into languages?

Well, I started studying languages in high school. The school I chose (Liceo Classico), had Latin and Ancient Greek in addition to all the usual subjects, so that’s when I started getting into translation and languages.

We also had English, and one day, I just decided I wanted to be as good at speaking languages as my English teacher was. So I ended up studying English and Spanish at university!

Which languages do you speak?

Obviously Italian, then English and some Spanish, plus the dialect of my province, Bresciano, which is a variety of Eastern Lombard!

When we Italians talk about dialects, we don’t refer to accents of Italian, but to various local languages that evolved from Latin alongside Italian itself. Most of them are not officially recognised by the Italian legal system, but they are still spoken pretty much all around Italy. Cool, right?!

Which languages are you learning at the moment?

At the moment I’m learning French, but I also want to start learning Japanese soon.

What is the most interesting thing about your language?

I would say the number of gestures that accompany (or even replace) spoken language. Small changes in the movement of your hands could mean a lot of different things!

italian hands

What would you recommend to someone learning your language?

Find songs, films and books in Italian. This will make learning words and understanding rules easier and more fun. It worked for me in English!

If you had a language superpower, what would it be?

Be able to quickly memorise huge numbers of words (and their spelling) and, above all, not mix them when I speak different languages. “Sugar” in Italian is “zucchero”, and I once asked my mum to pass me the “sugero”.

 

5E0A3192_1Ángela – Spanish Language Specialist from Palencia (with a “P”, i.e., not Valencia), Spain

How has your experience of life at Memrise been so far?

I’ve been working at Memrise for over a year now and my experience has been quite a ride! My role has been evolving in many ways since I started as a Spanish language specialist. This is something that makes Memrise a great place to work for because you have the opportunity to grow in your role and learn new things constantly.

What got you into languages?

My father! He started teaching me French and English since I was a kid and I got addicted to learning languages and decided to study translation and interpreting.

What is the most interesting thing about your language?

Although it originally comes from Spain, Spanish is now one of the largest languages in the world, spoken by over 400 million people and is an official language in more than 20 countries, in Europe, South, Central, and North America, and Africa.

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What would you recommend to someone learning your language?

Immerse yourself in the culture. Watch soap operas and movies, read, listen to different genres of music (there’s much more to it than just Despacito), and of course, travel! People in Spain and Latin America are extremely open and warm, so they’ll be more than happy to help you practice!

Which languages do you speak?

Spanish, English, French, German and some Portuguese.

Which languages are you learning at the moment?

I am currently focusing on improving my German and French, and in the future, I want to continue learning Arabic, Chinese and Polish.

If you had a language superpower, what would it be?

I’d be able to pronounce Chinese well and be understood easily by native speakers!

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The joy of languages

How are apps revolutionising language learning?

Ever felt like taking up a new hobby? Ever wanted to skate, paint or perhaps learn a new language?

The problem that we all face is time. When you leave home for work at 8 am every day and don’t get home until 7pm, how can you possibly find time to fit these things in? And let’s face it, who really feels like heading out for an evening of activities after a long hard day at work?

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However, things have changed. These days we are surrounded by ever advancing technology, available to us on the smartphones in our pockets. Here’s how we can take advantage of that to pursue our dreams.

OK, so maybe an app can’t teach you to skateboard (do tell us if we are wrong!), but there is one thing that you most certainly CAN do – learn a new language.

You no longer have to fret about being late for evening classes. You no longer have to lug heavy textbooks with you everywhere. Now that you can learn a language with an app, you can do it anywhere and anytime. All you need are a spare few minutes.
We’re spending more time on our smartphones than ever at the moment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re using that time efficiently. We spend hours checking social media, the news, and playing games.

Just imagine what would happen if instead, you spent just some of that time learning some Italian, picking up some Portuguese, or diving into Japanese?

Ben Whately, COO of Memrise explains that our phones can open up a window of learning opportunities to potentially billions of people worldwide:

“We can create networks of other people who are learning, and networks of native speakers. These can be used for motivational systems as in games, but also for judging the quality of language output in social game experiences.”

Our aim at Memrise is to make learning a new language completely achievable for everyone.. By learning with Memrise, you’ll feel like everyone is learning with you. We have scoreboards that let you compare your progress with your friends, and an adorable, motivational learning mascot in Ziggy, who’ll evolve as you do and gain more linguistic superpowers.

 

Modern technology has been extremely successful in enabling those who traditionally have felt less comfortable about going out into the world

Do you remember Pokemon Go?

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The Nintendo game brought to our phones using augmented reality has been praised by many people from the autism and neuro-atypical community. From relieving anxiety to helping people have conversations and feel confident about leaving the house.

This is one of the incredible benefits of technology today. Technology is revolutionising the world, and in particular, the way in which we learn languages.

With powerful mobile devices and networks streaming high-quality media, it’s now possible to access highly engaging visual content at the tap of a screen. Technology is bringing learning languages alive in a way that is not possible in the classroom.

Memrise’s algorithm, its big data analysis, and predictive statistical modelling allows Memrise to help learners understand at what point in time what they have learned is beginning to fade and how to reinforce those memories most effectively. This is infinitely more efficient than traditional forms of learning.

“Training perceptual skills such as listening. When learning to recognise right vs wrong pronunciation, the key is to give you input at a level that you can just distinguish the right and wrong. Tech lets us give you huge numbers of samples, and tune the difficulty to just the right level. A human teacher can’t give you that quantity of input, and can’t tune it as subtly”, says Ben Whately.

So next time you reach for your phone on your train journey to work… why not take advantage of the amazing technology and learn a language?

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The joy of languages

How to read Chinese Characters in 5 minutes

Chinese has one of the oldest and most complex writing systems in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to learn. In this post, we are going to let you in on some of the wonders of Chinese characters, and share with you some little tips to help you understand the fascinating logic behind them.Aww yeah!

Chinese characters have existed since around 1600 BC, and have changed a lot since Chinese people first started etching pictures onto animal bones and turtle shells. Look at how the following characters for ‘eye’, ‘mountain’, and ‘horse’ have developed over the years, and see if you can work out which one is which.

 

Now that you’ve seen the evolution of the characters 山 (mountain), 马 (horse), and 目 (eye), you’ll have noticed that these characters are very visual and look like what they represent. But surely you can’t represent an entire language with pictures?! Of course, you can! You just have to get a little bit creative with them.

For example,  is the character for a tree. If you put two of them together , you get the character for a small wooded area, and if you add another tree, you get , the character for a forest.

Now, let’s see how Chinese gets creative with the character , which means ‘mouth’. If you add a few lines coming out of it, you get – ‘to say’, and if you add something poking out the top of the mouth, you get , or ‘tongue’. Then put it together and what have you got? – ‘speech’!

But how do you know how to pronounce these words?! Well, it might not be as simple as, say, Spanish or German, but there is some logic behind it. Let’s take a look at the following character:

包 bāo

means “bag” and it’s pronounced “bāo”. Now, you can use this character to write other words that have a similar pronunciation. You simply add another character to it that represents the meaning of the new word. For example:

扌(hand) + 包 bāo  = 抱 bào (hug)

食 (eat)    + 包 bāo  = 飽 bǎo(full from eating)

足 (foot)  + 包 bāo  = 跑 pǎo(run)

氵(water)+ 包 bāo  = 泡 pào(bubble)

火 (fire)   + 包 bāo  = 炮 pào(cannon)

ok thats clever

Too complicated! Let’s simplify!

During the years following the creation of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese government promoted the use of a new set of ‘simplified’ characters in order to increase the literacy in the country.

Nowadays, people in Mainland China use these Simplified Chinese characters, but Taiwan and Hong Kong still use the Traditional ones. But not every character was simplified – I mean, how would you even go about simplifying words like (one) and (two)?! In fact, most characters are the same in both sets, and people in China rarely have much trouble reading Traditional Chinese, and the same goes for people in Taiwan and Hong Kong when they read Simplified Chinese.

Let’s take a look at the character  speech (we saw this one earlier, do you remember that it was made up of two parts: say, and tongue?). The part on the left of this character was simplified from to when added to other characters, which means the simplified version of is .

Lots of characters have very logical simplifications like the character for “to study” where the top part has been reduced to three strokes – 学. Although, not all simplified characters can boast this kind of clear logic, for example, 歲 → 岁 isn’t quite as obvious.

 Here are some other examples:

馬 → 马 (horse)

頭 → 头 (head)

飛機 → 飞机 (aeroplane)

憶術家 → 忆术家(Memrise)

For some reason, however, some crazy Chinese characters never got simplified, just like this character used in the name of a noodle dish from Xi’an. Don’t worry too much though; most Chinese people can’t even write this character!!

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Feeling inspired to learn more Chinese?

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Memrise Company Culture

Meet 佳奈 Kana and 艺 Yi: our new Japanese and Chinese Language Specialists

5E0A9963佳奈 Kana – Japanese Language Specialist from Ōsaka, Japan

How has your experience of life at Memrise been so far?

It is like being a kid again! You need to jump outside the box and liberate your creativity. I’m a free kid in a playground again, playing with different ideas, and it feels great!

What got you into languages?

I was thrown into a local British school when my family moved to London when I was 5. Learning English was out of necessity rather than a personal choice, but I quickly started to enjoy it! My first experience of confusing English words took place at the dinner table. This was at the house of a boy I fancied back then. Now, I was a very greedy kid and finished my pasta dish very quickly. I went over to the boy’s mum and tried to ask if I could have some more. She asked me if I wanted “another helping”. I understood that to mean if I wanted to help the boy finish his dish. I was embarrassed by the idea of nicking food from a boy I fancied, and immediately replied with a strong NO, and so, I spent the rest of the evening feeling embarrassed and hungry.

What is the most interesting thing about your language?

Japanese is a very productive language; we are constantly making up new words and phrases, blending different words together to create new ones (like ‘chillaxing’ and ‘hangry’ in English), or abbreviating a whole sentence into a single word. My favourite at the moment is ハゲドー (hagedō), an abbreviation for しく意 (hageshiku i (meaning “I cannot agree with you more!”).

What would you recommend to someone learning Japanese?

I suggest learning one of the local Japanese dialects. My personal choice is the Ōsaka dialect – you’ll love how fun and melodic it sounds! To say “is not”, you would say “ちゃうちゃう” (chau chau), like the dog breed: Chow Chow.

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Osaka person 1: あのチャウチャウチャウチャウちゃうか?/ Ano chau-chau chau-chau chau ka? / Isn’t that chow chow a chow chow?
Osaka person 2: ちゃうちゃう、あのチャウチャウチャウチャウちゃうで!/ Chau chau, ano chau-chau chau-chau chau-de! / No, it’s not; that chow chow is not a chow chow!

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艺 Yi – Chinese Language Specialist from Henan, China

How has your experience of life at Memrise been so far?

Tasty! Seasoned dehydrated grasshoppers, gluten-free, high protein crickets (I’m not sure if that’s some kind of strategy called “a bug for a bug”), funky Chinese peanut butter, full on flavour Marmite biscuits, etc. Memrise knows what to eat to keep productivity high.

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Do you like working at Memrise? Why? 

YES! Previously when asked if I liked my job, I used to ‘play tai chi’ (to ‘beat around the bush’ in Chinese) and say there’s part of it I like better than the other because, deep down inside, I knew the answer was no, but I didn’t want to admit the fact that I still needed it. But at Memrise, I’d say, without any hesitation, that I love my job because everyone here is so engaged at work and you just can’t help joining that fun adventure. And when we are really putting our efforts into making something great, it’s not just ourselves, but also our users who can tell the difference, and they genuinely appreciate our work. It made my day when a user wrote to me saying that what we are doing actually makes a difference to his life. The other day, we even got some fans visiting the office to take selfies with the Memrise team – so sweet!

What got you into languages?

My earliest memory of learning a foreign language was when I was still at kindergarten and my mum, who happens to be an English teacher, tried to teach me, or more accurately, nagged me with the English for “apple”, “pear”, “banana” etc. So I guess that’s how it all started.

Which languages do you speak?

Only Mandarin and English. I’m so jealous of those multilingual European people! I also speak the dialect of my hometown if that counts 😬 I also learnt a bit of Spanish at uni but I’ve forgotten a lot over time.

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Which languages are you learning at the moment?

I’m still learning English by reading and using it more, and to be honest, I found one foreign language already has enough to learn if you want to master it at a higher level, but I’m also using Memrise to learn Swedish because I want to visit Northern Europe at some point.

What is the most interesting thing about your language?

That’s probably the confusion regarding the name of the language. Normally there is just one way to describe a language, for example, Korean, Russian, French etc. But when it comes to Chinese, there are many different spoken dialects, all with their own names, such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Minnan, etc. And when it comes to the written form, there are Simplified Chinese characters (e.g. 飞机 – aeroplane)  and Traditional Chinese characters (e.g. 飛機 – aeroplane). Once I had a client concerned about the fact that we were translating a document into Simplified Chinese because they wanted the document to be at business level, not just ‘simple Chinese’. I know it can be confusing!

ConfusedJackie

Even in Chinese, people rarely agree on what to call it, for example, in China, Mandarin is often called 汉语 (hànyǔ; the ‘language of the Han people’) or 普通话 (pǔtōnghuà; ‘common speech’), and when you’re referring to the written language, you can just call it 中文 (zhōngwén; Chinese). As if that wasn’t confusing enough, in Taiwan and Hong Kong, people often refer to Mandarin as 國語 (guóyǔ; the ‘national language’), and in Singapore and Malaysia, people call it 華語 (huáyǔ; the ‘language of the Chinese people’).

If you had a language superpower, what would it be?

To be able to speak foreign languages more fluently in argument mode, so that I could avoid painful experiences like this one:

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Feeling inspired to learn a new language?

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The joy of languages

Cockney: the story of going down the rub-a-dub with the cows and kisses

The Memrise office is situated in the heart of the East End of London where, for the past few centuries, a curious dialect of English has been spoken. This dialect is characterised by its unique accent and rhyming slang.

Of course, we’re talking about Cockney. The word “cockney” first existed as far back as the 1300s CE, coming from the words ‘coken’ + ‘eye’, meaning ‘a cock’s egg’. Over time, people living in the countryside began to use this word to describe the “effeminate town-dwellers” of London, and by 1600 CE, the word was often being used pejoratively to refer specifically to ‘those people born within earshot of the Bow Bells’ – the bells of a church in East London called St. Mary-Le-Bow.

The typical Cockney accent has many features that make it stand out from other varieties of English, such as the dropping of ‘h’ and ‘t’ sounds, which makes ‘a happy cat’ sound more like ‘an ‘appy ca'” in Cockney.happy cat

London has long been a melting pot of different peoples, cultures, and languages. This meant that Cockney was able to borrow many different words from other languages that the East Enders came into contact with. Some examples are the word “shtum” meaning “quiet” from Yiddish, and “wonga” meaning “money” from the Romany word for “coal”.

And if that weren’t confusing enough, the Cockney dialect often makes use of its famous rhyming slang. Many words and phrases are regularly replaced with other words that rhyme with them, for example, a “tea leaf” is a “thief”, a “dog and bone” is a “phone”, the “cows and kisses” is the “missus (wife)”, and the “rub-a-dub” is the “pub”.

All this can make understanding Cockney a difficult task, but if you can master it, you will be sure to earn yourself lots of extra brownie points with the locals, as this Chinese tourist recently found out.

For a long time, the Cockney dialect has been perceived as the language of the working classes, and as such, many Cockney people have often felt the need to change the way they speak and adopt a different accent in order to give a good impression to those they meet and improve their job prospects. London’s house prices are constantly rising and many Cockneys are having to leave the East End in search of a cheaper place to live. This has unfortunately meant that it is becoming increasingly less common to hear the familiar sounds of the traditional East Ender accent spoken in London.

However, the fall of one dialect has also made room for a new version of English to arise: Multicultural London English. This new dialect is not only spoken in the East End, but by young, working class people of all ethnic backgrounds all over London.

So where has this new language come from? MLE is often referred to by the name “Jafaican” due to the fact that many people believe that it comes from the vernaculars of various Jamaican and Carribean communities in London. The truth, however, is that the roots of MLE are not as simple as that.

In the years following WWII, many people immigrated to the UK from Britain’s ex-colonies, and a large number of them settled in London, creating hugely diverse communities of people from every corner of the world, notably from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Carribean, Hong Kong, and various African countries.

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Memrise’s office is in ‘Banglatown’, the heart of London’s Bengali community

 

All of these people brought with them their own different cultures, cuisines, and languages. This diverse mix of languages and accents, along with London’s native dialects, such as Cockney, has come together to make Multicultural London English. See this video for a great example of MLE.

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Guest Post

5 Unexpected Things Traveling Teaches You about Language Learning

Quit my job. Check.

One-way ticket to Buenos Aires. Check. 

Backpack that’s way heavier than it should be. Check.

Spanish knowledge.  Zero.

I was about to fly to South America for 4-months. I was going to explore the places in my dreams, and of course, I was going to learn Spanish along the way.  But little did I know, there were other lessons in store for me:

1. People want you to succeed

One of the first things I noticed is that I would barely muster a word or two in Spanish before someone said to me “Hablas español muy bien!” (You speak Spanish very well!).  It was a clear exaggeration, given my speaking ability at the time rivaled that of a 2-year old, but it really showed that they appreciated the fact that I was trying.

As a beginner who doesn’t have much confidence speaking in a foreign language, it’s normal to have a knot in your stomach every time you have to say something.  But after hearing people tell you again and again how “well” you speak, it encourages you to come out of your shell a little bit, and just go for it.

2. But…they will “switch” on you

I quickly realized that most native Spanish speakers I met spoke English much better than I spoke Spanish.  As soon as they figured out that my Spanish wasn’t great, they would instantly switch the conversation to English.

Waiter: “Hola, listo?” (“Hello, ready?”)

Me: “Si, me gustaría…uhhh…tener…hamburgesa?” (Yes, I’d like…uhhh…to have…burger?)

Waiter: “Sure, do you want fries with that?”

Generally, people think they’re doing you a favor by switching to a language that you’re more comfortable with.  But it can be pretty frustrating when you are a learner who needs practice. So what do you do when this happens?

Fight through it.  I’ve had whole conversations where I’m speaking broken Spanish to someone, and they are responding to me in English.  Better yet, just tell them that “Quiero practicar español” (“I want to practice Spanish”), and most of the time they will happily play along.

As you improve over time, you’ll notice that fewer and fewer people will switch on you like this, and eventually, when it stops happening altogether, that’s when you’ll know that you’ve made it!

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3. Beware the tourist bubble

Travel is a great way to meet some outstanding, like-minded people.  However, most of these people will be travelers, just like you.

I had made a great group of friends in Peru; they were Australians, Brits, and South Africans. We traveled together for a month and it was some of the best times I had on my trip.  But at some point, I came to the realization that I had not spoken a single sentence of Spanish in weeks!

This can easily happen when you’re on the tourist trail.  In many destinations, every hotel, restaurant, and tour agency speaks English.  And sometimes, one of your travel companions will speak the local language well enough to communicate on behalf of everyone.

In my case, I was off the hook. I didn’t have to speak Spanish.  All the logistics were taken care of and I could just relax and enjoy myself.

But I couldn’t help but feel that as a result, I didn’t develop a real connection with the place I was visiting, and the people who lived there.

4. A bit of extra effort brings amazing rewards

To try and break out of the tourist bubble, I decided that I needed to set off on my own.  I hopped on a minibus to a small, out of the way town in the Colombian coffee zone.

Walking through the town square at night, I passed by a bunch of teenagers who called out to me (apparently they had never seen an Asian person in real-life before).

“A single word can turn into a conversation.  A single conversation can turn into a friendship.”

Every day, we come across social situations where we could potentially say “Hello”, make a joke, or ask someone how their day is going.  But too often, the little voice inside us says “Nah. Maybe next time.” and we go on about our business.

I ignored that voice.  I walked over to the group, clumsily introduced myself and told them where I was from. Next thing I knew an hour had passed, and through a lot of mumbling, smiling and hand waving, I managed to learn a bit about them, and apparently had amused them enough that one of the boys invited me to his home.

The following day, I rode on the back of a jeep, weaving through the lush rolling hills.  When I arrived at the boy’s farmhouse, the father gave me a tour of their plantation, where they grew coffee plants, bananas, and fruits I had never seen before.  The mother grabbed one of the chickens from the yard and proceeded to make us a traditional home cooked meal.  I was treated like an honored guest, and they wanted nothing in return.

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5. Learn now and reap the benefits later

After returning home and feeling inspired by my trip, I finally became fluent in Spanish by studying for 9 months and taking online lessons with a Spanish tutor.

But my biggest regret was not spending that time to learn Spanish before my trip.  It had crossed my mind, but as the trip got closer, and with so many things left to do, I never got around to it.  Part of me naively believed that I could just pick up the language as I traveled, and simply being immersed in the environment would be enough.

It wasn’t.

If your goal is to learn a language for travel, then start today.  If you’re a beginner and want to become conversational then start at least 6 months before your upcoming trip.  Every hour you spend learning will pay off multiple times during your travels.

Review your Memrise decks every day, study up on grammar, and start practicing while you’re at home.  So that when your trip starts, you can enjoy the rich experiences that another language brings you.


Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.35.35Chi Fang is an entrepreneur and language enthusiast who speaks Spanish, Mandarin and is currently studying Polish.  He lives in Canada but frequently travels the world as a digital nomad.

He is the Founder of Verbalicity, a leading online Spanish school.

 

Feeling inspired to learn a language? Check out Memrise!

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