Making the most of your ‘staycation’: Learn a foreign language

With high gas prices and a low dollar the idea of “staycations” is all over the place. Go over to Urban Dictionary and there’s even an official definition of the term that has come to define Americans’ 2008 summer travel season: “A vacation that is spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and one’s home environs have to offer.” But as Jeremy pointed out, the whole thing feels rather lame. He came up with some good tips on how to cut down on travel costs so that getting away from home can still be possible, but what if you really only can afford a staycation? What then?

If summer 2008 is going to be the summer of staying close to home then it’s high time to do something productive with your time off, and just because you can’t travel to exotic lands doesn’t mean you can’t brush up on your foreign language skills. Adding to your foreign language repertoire is a great staycation activity for two main reasons:

  • Thanks to the internet you can do it from the comfort of your own home
  • You might be staying home, but you are still increasing your knowledge of other cultures

Here’s the quick and dirty guide to incorporating learning a foreign language into this summer’s staycation:
Getting started:
Check out websites like 101 Languages or Language Guide. 101 Languages has basic guides to vocabulary and grammar for everything from Polish to Tagalog. Although it offers less languages, Language Guide is a personal favorite of mine because when you move the cursor over the words and expressions you hear the native pronunciation. For a small daily dose of language, sign-up for Travlang’s Word of the Day which selects one word and translates it into over 80 languages.

Using your new skills:

Sitting in front of your computer is all well and good, but if you really want to improve your language skills you are going to need to use them in a conversational setting. A great place to start is Craigslist, where you can search for people that are looking for conversation partners or even post your own ad.

Visit the local library:

If you’re working on a common language like French or Spanish, take advantage of your local library and check out some children’s books. If picture dictionaries are a little too elementary, try tracking down a children’s book translated into your language of choice. When you’ve already read the likes of Harry Potter in English you will have a much easier time diving into it in the foreign language, plus you won’t have to deal with complex sentence structures found in your foreign language college literature class.

See, there’s really no excuse for having a lame, un-educational summer, even if you can’t travel abroad. What are your tips for learning a foreign language when you don’t have the possibility of traveling to the country where it is spoken?