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How To Pick Up The Lingo Quickly

There are few places in the world with so much cultural diversity in such a small space than Europe. But all the countries speak a different language, and many travellers find this intimidating. Don’t let this put you off though as it can be really easy to pick up the essentials of any language. Have a look at our quick guide to learning the local lingo.

1. Carry a phrase book if you are only going to one or two different countries. It is probably easier to take a phrase book or dictionary for each one. This can be a problem if you are planning a grand tour though.

2. Get an App. There are apps for everything nowadays, if you are taking a smartphone or tablet this is probably the easiest way to learn the lingo. Remember you have to put it away to actually talk to people!

3. Practise makes perfect. Learn a few whole sentences and key phrases from your phrase book. This is especially handy if you have any particular dietary requirements, see our article about travelling as a vegetarian (link?). Make sure you are saying them correctly and then practise, practise, practise!

4. Go online and find a few forums that speak the language you are trying to learn and try to join in. Although this won’t help you with pronunciation it will bring you into contact with local slang terms and words.

5. Get over grammar. We know that at school grammar was drummed into us but often it is not that important to get it spot on – especially if it’s quite clear you’re a confused, but well meaning, foreigner! So don’t worry too much about which past tense you are using or if you have the right gender for ‘table’.

6. Cut out the mother tongue. Whatever your native language try to stop using it as soon as you enter a new country. You will find it easier to let the words flow if you start to think in another language than if you try to translate everything in your head first.

7. Sign language if you pick up the lingo quickly, awesome but remember that hand gestures and pointing are a great way to make yourself understood as well. Just look out for offensive gestures that change from country to country.

8. Hand gestures to avoid. For example a thumbs up, generally positive, in Italy can mean “up-yours”, an “A-OK” sign in Germany can mean you think the other person is a zero and giving someone the “V’s” (two fingers up palm facing you) is bad but if your palm is out it is good. Another one to remember the “corna” or “horns” symbolising rock music in most cultures means your wife is cheating on you in Spain.

Good luck out there, it’s not so scary, just remember to relax and have fun along the way.

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