Last week a friend thinking about their upcoming trip to France asked where they should begin in their pursuit of French. They were starting from zero but wanted to finally begin to learn the language and at least have a solid base before their time in France. I came up with a list of 50 things for them to learn. The list is not exhaustive and is only mildly in the order of which learning them would be most useful. There is of course much that you might add and perhaps more than a few you might not include (please add your two cents in the comment section below).
Before we get to the list, I should explain that I see language learning along parallel tracks of learning both the immediate (survival) needs and the foundational needs. We need to always be learning both of these but our individual situations may dictate that we focus on the immediate needs more heavily if we have a pending trip planned.
I also think that the best way to travel is as a language learner. When you head to a country with the language learner mindset as opposed to the tourist mindset, it greatly enhances your travel experience. Because of this, I have included in the list below a host of phrases that will help you be a language learner, actively engaged in the language learning journey even as you see the sights.
Here is my list of 50 things to learn before traveling to the country:
- Hello and good bye
- Yes, no and maybe
- Please and thank you
- I don’t understand.
- Please speak more slowly.
- Could you please repeat that?
- What is your name?
- My name is . . . .
- I am learning . . . . Can you help me?
- Where is . . . the bathroom, restaurant, museum, hotel, beach, embassy?
- How do you say this? (pointing at an object)
- How much is this?
- Learn to count from 1 – 100
- Can I ask you a question?
- I am from . . . .
- [the country] is very beautiful.
- Can you help me practice [target language]?
- Please, only speak [target language] with me.
- Can you please write it down?
- What does this work mean?
- I am hungry.
- I am thirsty.
- I am cold.
- I am feeling sick.
- How do you use this word?
- Did I say it correctly?
- I don’t know very much [target language] YET. (yet is the word of hope)
- What time is it?
- This food is amazing!
- I need to go now.
- Would you please correct my writing?
- Today, yesterday and tomorrow
- Can you give me an example?
- Please wait a moment.
- Learn the days of the week
- How do I get to ….?
- Today I learned some new things. Can I share them with you?
- Can I tell you what I learned yesterday?
- Learn how to order food at a restaurant
- Learn to give directions to a taxi driver
- Learn how to check into a hotel
- Learn how to make simple present, past and future tense sentences with: go, come, bring, take, buy, eat, sleep, see, talk and walk.
- Learn how to express basic needs.
- Do you have wireless Internet?
- Where do locals go for fun?
- What is the best local . . . food, dessert, beer, wine, cheese, fruit?
- Is there another word for this?
- Learn how to get off the bus
- I have an emergency. Please call for help.
- When we meet again, I will speak like a native!
Feel free to add to the list in the comments below!
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