If you are planning travel take the time to learn yes, no, and thank you. These simple phrases will go a long way and no thank you is an essentially in tourist areas were you will run into a plethora of people trying to sell you things. A common solution the vendors in Vietnam employed during bargaining was to show you a calculator with their price. Then you enter your number and the two of you will go back and forth until a price is agreed on. As a general rule if some one wants your money they will communicate with you some how but it makes a good impression to use simple courtesies.
Like many Americans I’ve always wanted to learn another language but have never done so. High School, College, private lessons, books on tape…have all lost my attention teaching me barely anything useful. These first attempts were at Spanish which should be an easy language to learn for any American. There are a plethora of native speakers in los Estados Unidos to learn from. On top of that many phrases have been adopted into American English thanks to pop culture.
My trip to Mexico & the Dominican Republic revealed the key that was holding me back. My inability to speak & learn Spanish was mostly hurt by my cowardice to just do it. I had a strong aversion to being embarrassment. This is a very common problem in which I know I’m not alone. I really suggest checking out Benny’s blog about these sort of mental blocks. http://www.fluentin3months.com/ He has a lot to say about his own experience trying to learn a new language.
One silly thing you’ll hear people say is, “When I’m drunk I speak Spanish better.” Did that tequila shot suddenly give you a new super power for languages? Of course not BUT it will let you be more bold in trying to actually use the language. Children learn their first language through trial and error. Kids are bold with few reservations of embarrassment. Guess what this is how you should be too! Drinking wont help you learn a language but that little kick will loosen you up to just going for it.
A tool I’m finding extremely helpful in learning is a website called Memrise. I’m really addicted to it. Part of this is my long time gaming addiction. ^_^ Many of the language lessons have fun pictures to help you remember. The real success of this site is the repetition you’ll receive. It works some what like flash cards for the courses and many of the lessons include not just the written words but also the pronunciation. This is what hooked me over some other similar sites I’ve tried like http://freerice.com/.
After only three weeks on Memrise I can now have a basic conversation in Spanish. This excellent site offers more than just language courses. It has classes on everything from capitals to art. If you sign up follow me, cllevett.
SHORT: Use whatever language you are trying to learn immediately. For every new place at least learn yes, no, and thank you. For a great web site to learn from check out Memrise, http://www.memrise.com/home/.