4 Language Learning Motivational Tips for the Earpieceless Traveler


Your classroom could look like this: Experiencing Portuguese on the streets of Paraty, Brazil

Am I the only one who’s somewhat disturbed by the recent publicity about the soon-to-be-released translation earpiece? Everyone seems absolutely thrilled about it, and understandably so. The idea that language barriers are becoming increasingly easier to hurdle is indeed exciting. Yet the language geek in me rebels at the thought.

Certainly achieving second language comprehension the old-fashioned way will not become obsolete so quickly. I like Google Translate as much as the next guy and use it regularly to come up with quick rough drafts of documents I’m translating into Portuguese…with an emphasis on the “rough”. These drafts need a lot of refining before they can be released as a final product, and that’s where actual knowledge of the language comes in. The thought of computer translator-style gaffes being piped straight into people’s ears makes me chuckle.

Maybe you won’t necessarily be pre-ordering the translation earpiece for your next overseas trip, but you’ve struggled with language learning in the past. If so, here are some motivational tips and tricks that can help you get over the hump:

Leverage what you already know

Languages have families, just like we do. If you’re already familiar with a language, its siblings and cousins will be easier for you to tackle next. Did you study Spanish in school? Then Italian might sound vaguely familiar. Take advantage of that family resemblance when planning your dream vacation in Tuscany.


Studying Portuguese can actually make travel in Spain more fun: Detail from the portal of Córdoba’s Mezquita

Prime the pump before you travel

If you enjoy travel planning, then language learning can be a fun way to get more mileage out of each trip’s preparation. Learn the basics that will help you get around, plus some vocabulary related to a special interest. If you already know the language of your destination, give your brain some time to prepare. Go back over language learning materials you’ve previously used or review with an app like Duolingo.


Especially in the former East Germany, brushing up on your German can be helpful: Dresden’s Frauenkirche

Use your hobby as your teacher

What sort of traveler are you? Consider what kinds of activities you enjoy, and use them as language learning opportunities. If you like touring historic sites, pick up the brochure or guide in the local language and read along as you experience firsthand the visual translation of the descriptions. If you’re a foodie, focus on restaurant dialogues and resist the temptation to use that menu translated into your mother tongue.


Learning the local language gives you new insight into history and culture: University of Coimbra, Portugal


Celebrate the “small” victories

Many of us are conditioned to think that language learning must be measured by how many lessons you’ve completed or how many classroom hours you’ve attended. Where the real achievement lies is in any small, meaningful dialogue you manage to pull off with a native speaker of your target language. Every train ticket bought, every meal ordered, every hotel room reserved and every museum display deciphered in the local language is a very real victory to be celebrated. Congratulate yourself on your success, and use it to spur you to greater heights!

4 thoughts on “4 Language Learning Motivational Tips for the Earpieceless Traveler

  1. I love this post! I had mixed feelings when I heard the news about the translation earpiece. While it definitely could be a lifesaver at times, it shouldn’t put people off from learning new languages and discovering creative new ways of communicating with others. Some of my fondest memories are those moments where I managed to have an entire “conversation” with someone who could barely speak my language and I could barely speak theirs. But somehow we managed with smiles, pointing, laughing and getting by on a few familiar words 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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