How Does Travel Boost Your Language Skills?

Esmar Abdul Hamid/Flickr

Esmar Abdul Hamid/Flickr

When it comes to language fluency, quality beats quantity.

Everyone loves a good adventure story! One of the world’s most intrepid travelers, Chris Guillebeau, recently conquered an incredible challenge. Over the course of ten years, he journeyed to all 193 countries recognized by the United States.

The logistics of such an enormous undertaking boggle the mind. Great travel experiences comprise an incalculable number of cross-cultural interactions. Even the simplest task at home becomes quite arduous when, for instance, a language barrier prevents you from clearly communicating with the people around you.

These linguistic obstacles, although potentially daunting, provide a unique opportunity for language learners to grow their skills and interact with native speakers. Many university students even study abroad specifically to increase their foreign language exposure. How, then, would an extended expedition as impressive as the one completed by Guillebeau impact foreign language acquisition?

What Are Your Goals?

He went all over the world, but Guillebeau did not gain fluency in every locale’s language. As detailed by Nerd Fitness, his primary motivation for travel was to record as many meaningful experiences as possible, observing life all around the globe. There is a limit to how much new language can be gleaned exclusively from exposure.

Benny Lewis, the author of Fluent in 3 Months, states that learning a new language has more to do with your mentality than with your location. Lewis would know – also an avid traveler, he has lived in the US, France, Brazil, Ireland, Germany, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Belgium, the Netherlands, China, and Taiwan! Over time, he has become fluent in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Esperanto. On top of that, he can comfortably converse in Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch and Irish.

According to Lewis, there is no magic trick to become a polyglot, not even while traveling. The key to language learning is not skill or location – it’s the willingness to make mistakes.  A little bit of effort can go an extremely long way.

Similarly, Guillebeau writes, “as long as I made continual, logical progress toward the goal, I knew I’d eventually make it to country #193 of 193.” The same, positive attitude translates excellently to language learning. When you travel, treat each conversation as a single step in a longer journey. Every moment of frustration will be rewarded by learning something new.

The Importance of Immersion

If you are committed to picking up a new language, immersion can certainly help. Some people find that visiting a new country provides the best opportunities to just start talking, learn from your mistakes, and improve.

For those learners who are not able to gallivant across national borders for extended periods of time, immersion can also take place right in your home. Start by watching foreign-language TV in your free time, and look into high-quality instruction by a native speaker, like the education offered by Language Trainers.

Daily conversation and feedback is guaranteed to lead to progress, according to Forbes.

Finding your learning style will hugely improve the process. Language Trainers can help you identify what you know, what you need to learn, and the best way for you to master it. Contact us and start today. Research shows that once have nailed your first new language, the second, third, or even tenth one will be significantly easier.