An interesting aspect of travel is the fact that you can learn a new language while having wonderful life experiences. However, how do you prepare to dive right in and get proficient ? It’s difficult to converse with people in a foreign language if all you know is ‘hello’. Traditionally, most travelers take a stop somewhere and go to a language school for a few weeks. (Hello Spanish learners in Central America ;)).
However, with modern technology, I don’t really believe this is necessary any longer. A few weeks ago I came across this really awesome language learning system called Duolingo. They’re using some fancy crowd sourcing tricks to train their language teaching system and at the same time are able to keep their service entirely free. The interface is pretty well designed and takes you through the basics quickly. It’s a more hands on approach to learning a language and so far they offer Spanish, English, French, Italian and German. All the learning activity is very hands-on so it’s like “Translate this line”, “Type in this phrase”, “What is this called ?” and things like that.
Their business model is quite interesting and often completely invisible to the user. They make learners do professional translations but it’s part of the learning process so it keeps the service free and helps you learn better!
What’s more, duolingo has an app for the iPhone so you can pretty much learn on the road if you aren’t doing anything else. I started doing the Spanish course on duolingo a few weeks ago and found it quite fun and addictive! I’ve already blazed through Basics, Phrases, Food, Animals, and Plurals. The best part is that you can start learning a new language, or several, even before you get on the road! I wish I’d have found this before traveling through Latin America.
So get savvy and start using Duolingo if you want to learn a new language, especially before you get on the road :) It’s totally free!