Cookies

At Journey Latin America we use cookies to give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on our website.
Find out more


There's no getting around the fact that picking up a new language requires hard work, dedication and time, but it is equally undeniable that mastering the local vernacular has the power to take your travel experience to another level. Guest contributor James Tennet, currently in Argentina on a trip which began almost a year ago in Mexico, has picked up Spanish along the way and offered to share the following tips for anyone hoping to learn the lingo before heading to South America. You can track the progress of James's travels at www.tennetstravels.com

1. Pre-Trip Preparation

Obviously, the earlier you can begin the language-learning process the better. Taking private lessons is the most sure-fire road to success, and even a short, intensive crash course can arm you with the basic skills: a convenient solution if you are short of time. If it's the financial aspect that puts you off however, the modern world offers a number of high-quality, low-cost (sometimes free!) downloadable options. Look online for audio guides or podcasts: perfect for bite-size learning during the work commute or any other spare moments you can muster.

Suitcases

2. Avoid Other Tourists

Once your trip is underway, make a conscious effort to spend less time with other English-speaking tourists if you are serious about learning the lingo. If everyone around you is conversing in your native tongue, you're unlikely to get many chances to put what you've learned at home into practice. There's no need to ignore your fellow countrymen completely, but try to maximise your chances of exposure to local people and businesses. Avoid big chain hotels; instead look for locally-run lodgings or perhaps even a homestay as part of a language exchange programme.

Bolivia

3. Ignore Your Inhibitions

It takes a lot of courage to strike up a conversation in unfamiliar vernacular, especially when the person with whom you are conversing is a native speaker, but this is undoubtedly the best way to learn. There are sure to be many mistakes, but once you can accept this, overcome the embarrassment and approach things in a light-hearted manner, your confidence will increase greatly with every attempt you make. Confidence is half the battle and once you realise that the locals don't expect you to be perfect and actually appreciate the fact that you're at least trying (rather than just talking louder in English and using exaggerated pointing), you're well on the way.

Rosemary Morlin on the Andean Lodges of Peru trek

4. Immerse Yourself

Once you're abroad, opportunities to learn will be endless, so make the most of them! Avoid the temptation to take the easier route in terms of tourism and media; buy a local newspaper, take a foreign-language tour. Many museums have exhibitions and artefacts labelled in a number of dialects. This is especially useful, as you can try reading the exotic option first, using the translation into your native tongue to help when you get stuck – a great way to learn new vocab.

Puno

5. Don't Be Disheartened

Even with all these techniques and a strong desire to learn, a lot of time and effort is required and there will be plenty of frustration and failure before success. However, it's vitally important not to become disheartened. Don't lose sight of why you are putting yourself through this; being able to converse in a newly-learnt foreign language – that is, not only speaking the words but being fully understood, as well as able to comprehend the response – is immensely fulfilling and will open countless new doors on your holiday, giving you access to experiences that have previously been obstructed by a lack of shared dialect. Try to reflect daily on how you've improved and anything new you've learnt. Perseverance is required, as is a lot of practice, but keep plugging away and you can only succeed.

Sacred Valley, Peru

Post a comment

Tailor-made holidays

We specialise in creating bespoke holidays designed according to your specific requirements.

Our tailor-made holiday service includes:

  • • A dedicated and friendly specialist to guide you through the planning process
  • • Our unrivalled knowledge of the region based on over 36 years' of expertise
  • • Access to the widest range of accommodation and activity options
  • • Your perfect itinerary, crafted exclusively for you

Speak to an expert 020 8747 8315

Journey with the UK's NO1 specialist in travel to latin america

The Leading Specialists

  • Since 1980
  • The original pioneers in travel to Latin America - the first and still the best
  • Award-winning holidays, crafted with care
  • Nobody knows Latin America better

Travel with the Experts

  • All our staff are in-depth Latin America specialists
  • Our team shares  a unique insight into Central and South America
  • Get the inside track with expert advice based on first-hand experience

Choice and Flexibility

  • The widest range of options
  • No limitations on how you can travel
  • A genuinely personal service geared to understanding your needs
  • The journey you'll love, in a style to suit you
Wanderlust

Food and Travel Magazine Readers' Awards - Tour Operator of The Year 2016

Selling Travel Agents Choice Awards - Best Tour Operator to Latin America 2016

Sunday Times Travel Magazine - Editor's Award 2013

Guardian and Observer Travel Awards - Top Ten Small Tour Operator: 2012

Sunday Times Travel Magazine Awards - Best Value Tour Operator 2011

Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Awards - Top Ten Specialist Tour Operator 2016

Wanderlust Readers' Travel Awards - Top Ten Tour Operator 2015

British Travel Awards - Best Small Tour Operator to Central and South America 2012

Latin American Travel Association - Award for Customer Service 2012

Sunday Times Travel Magazine Awards - Best Specialist Tour Operator 2011

Page Full Path: /sitecore/content/JLA/Home/travel-inspiration/travel/language-learning-tips

Page ID: {45436CF6-26D5-4891-9B69-E0F5C9690550}

Page Name: language-learning-tips

Page Display Name: Languge Learning Tips

Page Template Name: T030-PapagaioTop5

Page Template ID: {DF2F0A84-D83C-4714-AE10-FCC9CC8CD117}

Parent ID: {DC65CFB2-D81C-4A04-A7F8-0A1B3D88E7EB}

Parent Name: travel

Parent Display Name: Travel

Parent Template Name: T029-PapagaioCategoryListing

Parent Template ID: {4D163066-ED7E-48E6-AF31-34B6C47536CD}