Five tips for learning a foreign language

Looking to learn a language? Good call: learning the local language when abroad enables us to get more out of our trips. Of course learning a language can be both time consuming and tough, so we asked world traveller and multi-linguist, Sonia Gil - the creator and co-founder of Lonely Planet’s brand new online language learning course Fluent Road - for five tips on learning a foreign language

Don’t worry about pronunciation
Too many people panic about pronunciation and fear that they will look like a fool. Don’t fret about sounding slightly weird to locals: they will be impressed that you’re making the effort to learn their language and forgive you for any pronunciation mishaps. The most important thing is to get the basics down pat.

Focus on the words you will actually use
Only learn the words that you can visualise yourself saying. Economise your brain space - i.e. don’t waste time learning the colours of the rainbow but do spend time grasping words and phrases that you will actually use in everyday conversation (think food and drink staples that you will order in restaurants, bars and cafes). The first words to focus on, are those that you are going to use when you step out of your hotel room.

Practice
It’s a cliche, I know, but practice makes perfect so tip number three is to practice, practice, practice! Do you have a friend who is fluent in the language that you want to learn? Chat to them. If you don’t have any friends who speak the language, get them to ask you a question in English and attempt to answer in Spanish (or whatever language you are learning).

Start slowly
That said while practice is of paramount importance when it comes to learning a new language, don’t attempt to do too much in any one day. There is only so much information that the brain can take. Whatever you set out to learn, learn well in the time you have. An hour a day is ample - I’d never recommend exceeding two hours. And if you can only find 30 minutes each day, that’s fine. It’s better to spend half an hour learning and retaining a language than two hours at the end of which you aren't able to remember any words and phrases.

Soak up soap operas
Once you have grasped the basics, you can start watching soap operas and sitcoms in a foreign language. TV shows tend to be formulaic and fairly easy to follow as they are usually always over acted, so it’s easy to sense what is going on. The language tends to be repeated, unlike say in modern movies, making it a fun, feel good way to learn a language.

Thanks Sonia!

Lonely Planet’s Fluent Road can be accessed at www.fluentroad.com. Launching with Spanish, with plans to extend to Italian, French, Portuguese and German in the near future, Fluent Road offers a free trial for new users and an easy monthly subscription pricing system: the subscription-based pricing is currently US$9/month for a one month subscription, US$21 for three months or US$30 for six months for new users.