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Phileas Fogg and Passepartout approach the Swiss Alps

Language Topics
Language Primer
Here are some tips for learning a language using a combination of traditional and online sources and methods. Learning a few phrases of the language of the countries you visit will enhance your travel experience. Yes, some travel experts say that you will get along just fine only speaking English, especially if it is a place that caters to tourists. 

But experienced travelers know you will also have many wonderful experiences if you can speak even a little of the local language.  It is called being polite and friendly when out and about the global village.  So ,what are you waiting for?  Have
The Language Experience  You only need from 5 to 50 basic words and phrases
Online Resources
Free Go to our Language Section and select a language.  If there is a free online language lesson available for the language, we will link you to at least one of the sites.
If you don't know the languages spoken where you are going, use our City Search or Place Search to quickly find them.

Download our Free Language Sampler Pocket Module with 10 phrases in five languages (French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.)
Commercial Direct To Books on Australia Clicking the Amazon logo will take you to their Foreign Language section.
This company has the world's largest selection of language products.
Go to the Explore Languages product catalog of downloadable Pocket Modules with 50 words/phrases in a language spoken by native speakers plus printable pocket-sized PhraseCards.  Also available on CD-ROM.

Before You Go

1.  Local Classes. If you are planning to spend a month or more in other countries, you might want to consider taking a language course.  The yellow pages will probably have a section under Language Schools you can check out.  And if your city or town has a college or other higher learning institute, ask them about continuing education courses.  Other local resources include cultural organizations that may offer classes or you may be able to get a private tutor.
2.  Travel Guides.  Many paperback travel guides include a section, typically in the back of the book, with some basic phrases in the languages of the country or countries that are covered. Of course you don't want to pull out the book every time you need to say something.  That is too cumbersome. Some people copy or tear out the pages with the phrases and stick them in their purse or wallet.  They need to be handy.
3.  Phrasebooks and Dictionaries. There are thousands of phrasebooks and dictionaries available in bookstores and at online websites like Amazon.com.  Some of the phrasebooks include a dictionary section.
  • Phrasebooks. One language or Several Languages  A Phrasebook will either cover one language or several languages.  If it covers several languages, it will typical be for languages for a region of the world, like Europe. 

    Sections for Everyone
    .  Almost all phrasebooks are divided into sections (e.g., basic phrases, shopping, dining, transportation, etc.)  This is based on the assumption that you will become familiar with the content before you need to find something.  Otherwise, your vacation may be over before you find the phrase you want! (Make sure to find the page with "Where is the restroom?" before you need it!  They may have hidden it somewhere other than in the Basic Phrases section!)

    . Almost all phrasebooks have the English text, the text of the other language and a phonetic pronunciation. The phonetics are usually either a transliteration, some other phonetic pronunciation approach, or they will use the International Phonetic Alphabet.  If phonetics are used, some may be easier to understand than others.  A phrasebook will typically have a section up front with an explanation of their phonetic codes. Check this out and thumb through some pages to see if you will be comfortable with their approach. Otherwise, you will probably not be able to use them to get the sound right by merely looking at the phonetics. Then you will be reduced to just using the phrasebook in an emergency when you need to point to some word in the native language to get your meaning across.
  • Dictionaries.  You will most probably want a bi-directional dictionary.  Some dictionaries include phonetic pronunciations as well.
4.  Software and Electronic translators.   Software  There is language software available for PCs, laptops and PDAs and range in price from under $10.00 to many hundreds of dollars.  Features to look for are your ability to find any word or phrase you want quickly either because they have a search capability or because there is only a small list of phrases and they are arranged in alphabetical order such as in a scroll list. You will want to listen to a native speaker.  Most only have normal speech, but some products also include slow speech. Slow speech is further divided into a natural slow speech where the native speaker has a slight pause between each sound and artificial slow speech where the software electronically slows down normal speech.  The natural slow speech is almost always better to listen to.    Electronic Translators.   You select or type in a word or phrase and a translation is displayed.  Some expensive models let you speak the word or phrases and it is translated on the display and spoken in the native language.  
5.  Take a little pocket-sized spiral notebook and pen.  You can buy these little spiral notebooks at any drug store.  Use this to write down new words and phrases you want to learn once you are in the country.
6.  Don't Be Afraid.  It is our experience that people will not embarrass you by laughing at you if you mispronounce something or use the wrong word or expression. If they laugh, they will be laughing with you and will help you pronounce it correctly.  If they are laughing when you speak a a lesser-known language, like Mongolian in Mongolia, it will usually be that you are saying the phrase correctly but they have seldom or never heard a foreigner speak their language.  They are laughing with happiness at your friendliness!  (Of course, always try to practice with a native speaker you have gotten acquainted with before you want to speak the language to someone else.)
7.  Good Things Do Happen.  Yes, knowing a few words and phrases will not only bring a smile to the faces of those you meet, but sometimes other wonderful things will happen. Like they will be more helpful or friendly towards you and make a little extra effort to help you out.

When You Are There

1.  Practice With A Native Speaker.  Try to practice whatever phrases you want to learn with a native speaker before you actually need to use them.  Your first opportunity may come at the airport while you are waiting for your overseas flight in the gate area. Then once in the country, at the hotel, a bar or while having lunch with the tour guide.  Don't overwhelm them.  Just say you would like to try a few phrases (4-5) on them at first.  Always approach a stranger and ask in English if they speak English. If they do, they will say "yes".  If they don't, they will probably shake their head no or say something in their native language.
2. Make Up Your Own Phonetics.  The easiest way is to find English words or made-up words to match the sounds. Don't be afraid to use a single letter of the alphabet either. Many languages have an "A" sound. No, not "ah" but the letter "A".


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