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Traveling abroad in 2017? Start learning the language now.

Jess McHugh
December 26, 2016

Whether in Europe or Machu Picchu, the experience of travel can be greatly improved by having even just the basics of the native language under your belt. And the locals are sure to appreciate it.

While learning a new language can seem daunting, these tips can give travelers a basic framework to navigate their travels without the need for a constant guide.

As an added bonus, knowing a second language may just make you appear sexier, according to survey data.

1. Find the right program for you.

There are a plethora of apps, groups lessons and books that all promise to have you fluent in a matter of months or even weeks. Each language-learner is different, with some people gravitating more toward aural or visual learning, respectively.

Some of the most popular methods include Rosetta Stone programs, the Pimsleur method, and website and app Duolingo. One Travel+Leisure correspondent who tested out a variety of programs reported that the Pimsleur method gave him the most success on the ground in Italy, as it focuses on spoken phrases and audio learning as opposed to memorization.

2. Connect with a native speaker before you leave.

No matter how much time you spend memorizing flashcards or watching foreign films, there is no replacement for conversing with a native speaker. Chatting with a someone for whom your chosen language is their mother tongue affords insight in the nuances of accents, idioms, and common mistakes.

Whether you know a Brazilian friend of a friend or a French coworker, it can't hurt to ask if they are interested in getting a cup of coffee. Chances are they will be excited to share knowledge of their home country and language.

3. Practice every day. Yes: every day.

It seems obvious, but taking just 15 minutes a day to practice vocabulary or listening comprehension is one of the best long-term investments in language learning.

The daily habit makes language acquisition faster and more successful, allowing new learners to better retain the building blocks of grammar and vocabulary.

4. Add some technology into the mix.

Gone are the days when travelers would use their cassette tapes to learn how to ask when the train is arriving or where they might find a porter. New language apps on the market bring language acquisition into 2017 while making it easier to practice vocabulary and other basics on the go.

The Duolingo app serves as a good refresher both for people following along with the Duolingo lesson plan, as well as language students looking for a way to supplement their own lessons.

Other useful apps include Babbel, Memrise, and Busuu, according to Tech Times.

5. Set realistic goals.

Travelers who expect to be perfectly fluent after a few weeks of language study are setting themselves up for disappointment. If they fall short of their own expectations, they may even be tempted to simply give up and opt to muddle through their trip using gestures and translation apps.

Instead, write a list of phrases or conversations you would like to be able to retain for your trip: whether its ordering in a restaurant, asking for directions, or discussing a wine list. With specific goals, your progress will me more measurable and likely more satisfying.

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