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Why it's essential you learn to speak the local language for your holiday and how to do so quickly


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We all like to dream of travelling to our bucket list destinations, but what do we need to do to ensure the reality lives up to expectations?

Your passport and your sunscreen are not the only essentials to take on a holiday with you. Learning some phrases in the local lingo is a great way to make the most out of your holiday, and could bag you anything from a discount to a date! 

The experts at language learning app Babbel share why speaking the local language is essential for your trip, and how to quickly add some key phrases to your arsenal:

Why it's essential:

1. You could save money

Learning some quick key phrases to use while abroad is a great way to boost your bargaining power. Not only is your range of options physically widened —there are likely some stores or markets where you’ll struggle to make a basic transaction if you only know English — but you’ll also feel more comfortable pushing back against a price that seems overinflated, or asking a local where else you can look. When you’re in a foreign country and at the mercy of people whose language you can’t speak, you’re a lot more likely to settle for the first thing you see (likely sold to you by the first friendly face who understood what you were saying). Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean you’re getting the best deal.

2. You'll travel more authentically

When travelling abroad, do you want to just see other cultures, or to really experience them? It’s true that knowing English will probably get you to and from your destinations, but if you really want to experience the culture of other places without the pre-packaged tourist filter, then it’s vital to learn some key phrases in the local language. Locals are experts on their cities, and when you ask for their opinions, a world of authenticity presents itself to you. Instead of being shepherded by tour guides looking to catch you in their tourist traps, your language skills will allow you to travel without a guidebook and immerse yourself the way you always wanted to.

3. You'll avoid embarrassment

Even with all the social media platforms and translation apps available to us, language barriers are still a very real thing. If you go abroad only speaking English, you will undoubtedly have at least a few occasions where the other person doesn’t understand you, and where hand gestures just don’t cut it. Your gestures might not translate in another culture (some can even cause offence!), or you could make a humiliating faux pas with words that don’t translate well.

The international ‘ok’ sign, is a prime example because in Germany it is more akin to calling someone an a**hole, and in Brazil, it’s equivalent to the British middle finger. Learning key words or gestures in the local language saves you embarrassment and frustration on your otherwise amazing trip.

4. You'll find unexpected connections

It says a lot about you as a traveller if you take the time to learn new phrases in a foreign language. It says that you want to explore and learn, that you aren’t just there for photos and to tick items off of a list. Travel is all about the experiences and people you meet, and there’s no better way to enhance your experience than through learning a new language. Whether you’re simply asking for a restaurant recommendation, or chatting in a bar to a new friend, connections that you make using your local language can improve your trip in the short term, and can even lead to long-lasting friendships in the future! 

So how can you pick up some key phrases in the week before your trip? The experts at language learning app Babbel have some tips on that too: 

How to quickly pick up phrases

1. Maximise your time

If you’re learning on a deadline, but really want to get to grips with the language, planning is going to be your best friend. Take the moments that you’re waiting for the bus or wondering what to do with your evening and fill them with a dose of language learning. Learning in short bursts of 15 minutes a day is one way to help you learn, digest, and recall new information easily. In fact, we found that 73% of our users feel they would be able to hold a short conversation after just five hours of using the app! So why not utilise that time while you’re walking the dog or sitting on the train, and invest in making your holiday the best one to date. 

2. Learn only what you need

Learning a language in a week or less is going to be tough, but remember that you don’t need to master the whole language. Find lessons and vocabulary that matches your learning needs. This will allow you to set your own learning path, and to ensure that you can start speaking the important phrases in your new language with confidence, quickly. Take time to learn the content that will be the most useful to you, and then review it in the last couple of days before your trip.

3. Learn with a partner

Whether it’s with a friend, a flatmate, or loved one, learning in tandem beats learning alone. If you’re going on holiday with friends or family, encourage them to take up your mission with you! By teaming up you can work together to overcome struggles, and you will have a conversation partner with whom you can practice the gains you’ve made! It’s natural that your motivation to learn might sag some days, which is why a learning partner comes in handy. They will always be there to encourage you to stick to your goal, should you ever feel like skipping a couple of lessons.

4. Create a mini-challenge for yourself

Before you jet off, try putting your newly learnt language skills to the test. This is a fantastic way to motivate yourself while you’re learning; the thought of facing a real-world challenge before you go on holiday will focus your mind and help you find the discipline to prepare beforehand. Organising activities such as going to a real Italian restaurant and ordering your favourite pizza in Italian are a great way of spotting holes in your learning, and will put you in a real-world scenario that you can easily replicate on your travels!

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