Although learning to speak Chinese fluently while on a ten-hour flight to China isn’t going to happen, such a large chunk of concentrated study time will at least get you through some simple greetings and basic grammar.
I’ve brought language textbooks along with me on flights before, but I have to admit I wasn’t the most dedicated of students while being distracted by in-flight movies and a handful of magazines to read.
But now some airlines are making it easier for aspiring linguists. According to Travel & Leisure, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Continental, and Singapore Airlines offer language lessons via personal viewing screens. The program, in conjunction with Berlitz International, offers 23 languages at a beginner’s level. Simply plug in a pair of earphones and start repeating uno, dos, tres… By the time you land in Madrid, you’ll be able to order dos cervazas without any problem.