Beirut's Arabic language highway signs threw us for a loop on our first holiday to Lebanon. Our saving grace? Memories from high school foreign language classes. Lebanon's bilingual road signs in French and Arabic gave us a reference point in a language and alphabet we recognized.
Years later we returned to the Middle East on an around-the-world trip better prepared with one travel partner who had received a free Arabic language course from his employer. His reading skills in the alphabet helped us catch the right bus on numerous occasions in Jordan.
Learning a new language doesn't have to cost a fortune. Use these budget tips to build mad language skills on your next international vacation.
Freebies: Play groups are a free language immersion experience for your child available in your destination country. Grocery stores with produce labeled in the language you are trying to learn, and products with basic ingredient lists such as canned tomato sauce provide an authentic learning experience for adult shoppers. Stretcher.com, a money-saving web site, recommends using local street signs for impromptu language lessons, and free language materials from your local library to get started. Many employers, including the United States military, provide tuition reimbursement for foreign language classes.
Virtual Immersion: No need to travel to a country first to experience immersion in the digital age. Immersion can take place virtually via online subtitled movies and games such as those offered at languagegames.org. John Scognamiglio, M. Ed (Master of Education) in instructional technology, recommends using livemocha.com to learn new languages affordably and authentically.
Libraries: The neighborhood library has a variety of new-school and old-school tools for acquiring a new language. Traditional learning aides include video and audio cassettes, which offer language lessons designed for travelers. Additionally, many libraries offer Internet-based language programs. For instance, the Miami-Dade Public Library system provides online access to children's books in foreign languages. These juvenile tales, which include audio narration, are ideal learning tools for adults and teens seeking to acquire new language skills.
Media: Radio and television programs in Spanish, French, Hebrew or other languages are available in many areas of the country. Those programs can help listeners and viewers develop vocabulary and a credible accent in a new language. Blockbuster movies can build language skills. Rent, borrow or purchase popular movies that have been dubbed into a foreign language, or watch the movie in English, but activate the foreign subtitle features.