How To Learn Just Enough Of The Language To Get By

If you are going on holiday, then you do no need to know every word of a new language. You do not even need to become fluent. You need only know enough for your own needs and that is it. If you were going to live abroad, then learn the language, otherwise you can get by with these tips. English is usually fine in many places, and in others, German, French or Spanish will do.

Learn cognates and you save yourself a lot of remembering work

Learn cognates

(Photo credits: telaebersole)

Did you know that there are thousands of words out there that are pronounced the same in English as they are in other languages? They are called cognates, and the first thing you need to do is find a list of them. There are plenty of them listed on the Internet. Find a list and learn the list and you will find you know a lot of the language already.

For example, the world “Basu” means “Bus” in Japanese, but it is pronounced, “Bus.” This is a cognate, and if you are ever in Japan and looking for a bus, you do not need to know the Japanese word for bus because you already know it.

People learn words such as, “Thank you for lunch,” but how often do you say that per day? Look up words such as “But”, “Was”, “And”, “Is”, “There”, etc. When you speak English, you say those words hundreds of times per day, so learn them in your new language.

Language videos

When you watch the language-tutorial videos on the Internet and when you buy the DVDs, you are watching a video meant for people learning the language, but you are not learning the language. You are learning just enough to get you by, which means a lot of what they are showing you is useless to you.

You need to sit down and consider all the phrases you are actually going to need. Write them down, and then find out how to say them in the correct way. More importantly, learn what sort of answer you are looking for. It is pointless learning to ask how much something is if you do not know what numbers mean when translated into your own language. Check the current currency conversion rate and remember it in your head. For example, 1 euro is about 0,9 dollars, so its pretty much the same unless you are planning to buy something very expensive.

Language phone apps

This is going to make it easier for you to converse with people in another country in simple terms. You are not looking to start a love story; you are just looking to get by. Keep the phrasebook app on your phone and you can look up the questions as they occur, such as where the nearest toilets are. Use a written translator app on your phone if you can find a good one. It is a translator app that turns your written word into spoken word for the other person to hear. They may be able to help you, or at least they will be able to understand you, though they may not be able to reply unless you hand them your phone (beware of that if you ever want to see it again).

One last tips: Spoken language is not everything. If you are in Berlin and want directions to the Brandenburger Tor, simply ask someone for “Brandenburger Tor” and they will probably point you in the right direction. If you have a map, they can probably point out a) where you are and b) where you are going, without using too many words.


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