Studying a new language

I take a look at the countries on my itinerary over the next six months, and I realize that I’m in desperate need of learning some Spanish. No, I realize I don’t need to be fluent to travel through Central America, but a few phrases will certainly be helpful. Still, I’m trying to get past the usual “¡Hola! ¡Adios!” Here are three things that I’ve found that could help you grasp a language before you leave on your trip.

1. YouTube

This is a great place to look up people giving tutorials in the language you’re trying to learn. I’ve found entries in Spanish, French and Russian. Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Sr. Jordan’s videos. He has several free and advanced lessons his Web site. I would highly recommend at least glancing at his videos before journeying through Latin America.


The only way to retain a language is to practice it. Run a search on, and you’ll find several foreign language speaking groups in your area. In Louisville, there’s French Louisville Meetup. When I went, it was a great experience. I met some friendly people who were quick to make sure I was speaking only in French. It also served as a reminder to continue to practice languages that I learn (I was embarrassed by how much I forgotten).

3. Library/iTunes/Textbooks

Have a library card? Go use it. Find an audio book or a language book in your local library. Alternatively, you can find some free language materials on the iTunes store under iTunes U. You can also use your social networks for people who have old language textbooks lying around. My roommates have let me borrow their flash cards and textbooks to study.

Granted, I realize that these tips won’t make you fluent. I think the best way to do that is full immersion without speaking English. In the meantime, just make sure you take a little time each day (even 10 minutes) to go over the basics. It’s better than nothing!

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