Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Trips Are Short: Make Language Learning a Life-Long Hobby

Paris Eiffel Tower, La Giralda in Sevilla, Rome Colloseum, Li River in CHina, Fribourg in SwitzerlandRecently, a New York Times article on language learning has stayed on the most e-mailed list for several days. It's called Inventive, Cheaper Tools for Learning a Language.

This goes to show that plenty of Americans strive to overcome "monolingualism" - and are looking for tools to do so.

I posted the New York Times article, adding: "Language learning for adults has become easier than ever!" and shortly thereafter got a comment by a fellow language teacher.

He didn't deny that fun, inexpensive tools are a boon to language learning, but simply said: "Although, being immersed in the language as it is being lived is still the best way. And it is easier due to the ease of travel!"

Prepare for Language Immersion

Can't argue with that one. Acquiring a language through immersion by being in a country where the language is spoken is the ideal setup for learning. I learned two languages that way as a child (Dutch at age nine, English at age eleven), and three more as an adult, during prolonged stays in Rome, Paris, and Barcelona.

But the experience of language immersion reaches a new level when you've done some preparation beforehand. It goes without saying that if you're planning a stay in another country, you'd enjoy arriving there with some basic knowledge of the language - before soaking up a lot more during your visit.

Afterwards, you may want to continue to learn your new language, just as I have maintained my languages, by reading foreign newspapers, watching films, and sitcoms, participating in social media, and using various online language learning tools.

Short Trips, But a Life-Long Hobby

The point is that trips are short, though they provide vivid experiences that deepen our understanding, as well as allow rapid learning of a language. On the other hand, learning another language can become a wonderful life-long hobby that we start before a trip and continue long after. With the new, free or cheaper, inventive tools available online, it has become easier than ever to continue learning a language, forever.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend wrote me: "Language learning is definitely on top of my list. I especially want to learn Spanish. But life is too hectic!"

My reply to him: "Ten to fifteen minutes a day can boost your Spanish significantly. Just use the time - that you would otherwise waste - by jumping on Duolingo (gamified lessons); or Memrise, Anki (flashcards); or Digital Dialects, Mindsnacks, Gamesforlanguage (language games); Tunein (foreign language radio stations).

So, plan that next trip for language immersion, but add some preparation and follow-up with online tools, a language exchange partner, a tutor, or a local class. Not only will you enjoy the pleasure of communicating in your new language throughout your life, you brain will also thank you. But that's another story.