ExpertFlyer Hot Topics – Where the Rubber Meets the Runway
In many foreign countries, Americans have helped generate a stereotypical image, and it’s usually not very pretty – especially when we get called out on our loudness or chubby appearance. Unfortunately, we are also known for our limited language skills. Did you know that 53% of Europeans speak at least two languages, as compared to only 18% of Americans? To help American travelers shake this dull distinction, this month’s Hot Topic series features expert advice from top linguists, so you may quickly attain simple conversational skills before traveling to non-English speaking geographies.
Benny Lewis, international language hacker and author of Fluent in 3 Months—the top language blog in the world, agreed to help us with this effort. When we asked Benny why he thought foreign language skills were not pursued by more people, he said most folks don’t think they can do it or just don’t get around to it. “I tell would-be language learners, there are seven days in a week and ‘someday’ is not one of them, so start learning and using a new language today.”
Known for his take-no-prisoners approach to language learning, we got Benny to share some of his top tips for conquering the basics. Obviously, Benny wrote a whole book on this, so summarizing an entire language learning process is tough in a few simple tips, but he does a pretty good job of it in this blog post chronicling his intensive experience with Polish – He was able to carry on a simple conversation in about two hours!
Benny’s top pre-trip language cramming tips:
- Get a phrase book and cram the essentials in a couple of hours
- Get on italki.com and set up a spoken exchange with a real native speaker, practice what you know immediately so you hit the ground running later
- Make your learning process about making mistakes and not perfection. Practice communication, not perfect sentence structure. Tarzan-ese is absolutely acceptable
- Use memrise.com to cram vocabulary through clever mnemonics.
Next week, we’ll talk with Lorraine Way, president of The Language Way, an onsite language training service. The company specializes in helping professionals, like social workers, lawyers, HR workers and other professionals working with people, learn to do their jobs in Spanish.
53% of Europeans speak at least two languages, as compared to only 18% of Americans; Forbes, “America’s Foreign Language Deficit,” http://www.forbes.com/sites/collegeprose/2012/08/27/americas-foreign-language-deficit/