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14-02-2018 by Linda

You have just booked a language course abroad! Congratulations: what a party, fiesta, feestje or fête! Maybe you have no idea what to expect. Chances are that this is the first time that you're going abroad to learn a new language. In s series of three blogs we give you tips to leave well prepared for your language course.

Here you find part 2 for a good preparation: throw foreign sentences in conversations with friends and family, find out what the 100 most used words and phrases and befriend native speakers in your area.

3. Focus on the most used words and phrases

When you were in high school, have you ever wondered during the French, German or Spanish classes why the makers of the textbooks thought that you wanted to ask so many boring questions to friends and family? Questions such as: 'What is the color of your couch?', 'How many bedrooms does your house have?', or 'What kind of pets does your sister own?', 'How many children does your brother-in-law have?', often dominated during these classes and tests. But we have good news for you because practicing these sleep-inducing topics wasn't for nothing .. So called spot-conversations form very useful language lessons because they are a great way to practice question and answer exchanges. They help you understand how grammatical structures are used in context without consciously focusing on the dry grammar rules.

So, it is useful to study a number of those standard phrases before you leave for your language trip. You will notice that if you already know a number of sentences, you will pick up the grammar much faster during class. Besides that it is also nice if you are not completely lost in translation on the day of arrival. Focusing on some basic sentences help you when you have to ask for directions or when you want to order a coffee. You can learn standard phrases through free language-learning apps that we discussed in the previous blog. But you can also buy a small pocket guide for a few euros with the most frequently used words and phrases. LonelyPlanet sells fine and cheap language guides. This is a good investment anyway, because they are always good to carry with you once you are at your destination.

Did you know that most languages only use a few hundred words for the vast majority of spoken communication? In addition to standard phrases, it is handy to study some of those standard words before leaving. Do not lose yourself by looking for 5 synonyms of 'please' and 'thank you' but instead learn the words that everyone uses the most. You can find these words and phrases in language pockets but also for free at www.youtube.com. Type '100 phrases in ...' in the search bar and you will find a wealth of instruction videos with the most used words and phrases in all kinds of languages.

EXTRA TIP: Try to use some of these words and phrases as often as possible in conversations with your friends and family at home. In the beginning they may look a bit weird at you, but if you explain that you are already practicing, they probably can enjoy it: something different, right?

2. Meet with friends who already speak the language

In the first blog we talked about becoming familiar with the new language at the moment that you are still at home by practicing with free language apps and watch movies and television series in the new language. Another way to soak up the language and culture of your upcoming destination is to find people in your hometown who already speak the language and have a cup of coffee or a beer with them. By practicing with native speakers you quickly get a good idea of how you apply the language skills to real situations. In addition, you will quickly run into parts that you find confusing and difficult, and find out quickly that these are the parts you have to focus on most during class.

If you live in a medium-sized or large city and are about to learn general language (such as English, Spanish, French, Italian or German), there are probably enough native speakers in your area that speak the language that you are about to learn. Although these people are not trained teachers and may not want to use their free time by planning language lessons with you, there is certainly someone willing to chat with you about (or better: ín) the language. Think of this not only as something that is nice for your language trip preparation, but also as a nice opportunity to meet up with that Spanish old classmate or nice English colleague and catch up on each other.

If have not one person in your area that you know to be a native speaker, you can search on the internet for local cultural centers, communities or even a couhc-surf-group. These meetups can be a perfect way to make contact with people who already speak the language but you didn't know beforehand. Besides that this way you can also bump into people who are also interested in learning the language. Should it happen that you have found a number of people who speak the language as a native language and a number of people who want to learn the language, you could even organize a language exchange evening or study group. If you do this in an informal environment as a bar or coffee shop, it promises to become a cheerful event

EXTRA TIP: Are you planning to learn an obscure language that literally nobody speaks in your area? Even then you can still practice with native speakers. Programs like My Language Exchange, iTalki en InterPals help you to get in contact with native speakers from all over the world.

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A1

A2

hearing You understand... • Some words and basic-sentences • Common words and sentences
supervisor_account You can... • Briefly introduce yourself
• Give answers to some simple question
• Introduce yourself (shortly)
• Give answers to some simple questions
mode_edit You can... • Fill in simple forms • Make short notes
• Write a very simple personal letter
 

B1

B2

hearing  
You understand... • The thread of a story • Different opinions • Usually the whole story
supervisor_account You can... • Join a conversations about everyday subjects
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mode_edit You can... • Write down experiences and impressions in a general way • Write down experiences and impressions in a detailed way
 

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C2

hearing You understand... • Complex stories and opinions • Literary and academic texts
supervisor_account You can... • Effortlessly take part in a variety of conversation • Effortlessly have complex conversations and discussions
mode_edit You can... • Write down comprehensive text
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