Posted by  on October 11, 2011 in Preparation & PackingTravel Tips3 comments

So you want to practice or learn a new language before study abroad but don’t have time or money for language classes? Don’t sweat it. You can start to learn a new language on your own using these three methods.

1. Rosetta Stone Language Learning Software

How does it work?

With Rosetta Stone you can pick up basic grammar and vocabulary with minimal effort. The software works by letting you naturally associate words with images, the same way you would learn as a child. For example, in the first lesson you’ll see a picture of a girl and a boy and hear the words for girl and boy. Then you’ll see a picture of a girl eating and a boy eating. You’ll easily learn and remember the words for girl, boy, and eating. Later on in the lesson you must match words or phrases to pictures and say them correctly into your computer microphone before proceeding. Trust me, it’s super easy and you will be surprised at how easily you pick things up.

Who is it for?

Even though Rosetta stone offers languages in three levels, it is a general consensus that the software is best for beginner to intermediate learners. For the average study abroad student, this is perfect.

Is it expensive?

Yes, Rosetta Stone costs a couple hundred dollars. Way too high for the average study abroad student.

Can I get it for free?

If Napster taught us anything it is this- downloading things off the Internet is illegal AND extremely easy. As much as corporations make a big stink about file sharing, our society is moving in that direction and it cannot be stopped. Free knowledge for all! Woo!

How can I download Rosetta Stone for free?

Hypothetically, if a study abroad student wanted to download Rosetta Stone for free, they easily could. For the curious Mac users out there- here is how to download Rosetta Stone for free from a torrent site.

2. Earworms Audio CDs

How Does it Work?

Earworms is an audio CD that teaches you basic phrases and vocabulary for foreign travel over background music. So the standard ‘Can you please call a taxi? Where is the bathroom? I would like another coffee with milk, please.’ For the average study abroad student, student traveler, or tourist this is all you really need. It doesn’t mess around with random vocabulary and it gets straight to the essential stuff in the beginning. Phrases and their English translations are said over music, which makes it less boring than your average audio tape. Download the files to your ipod and listen to them in the car or on the plane.

Does it work?

Since you hear the English translations too, it might not be as natural as Rosetta Stone, but it does the trick. I liked it.

Is it expensive?

Nope, the Earworms CD costs around $20. I got mine for $10.

Who should use Earworms?

Complete beginners and tourists only. With 10 songs per CD, there’s just not enough content if you’re anywhere past beginner level.

3. You Tube & Other Internet Resources

What Is Out There?

There are plenty of resources on the Internet for language learning. Just search around on Google and you will find a bunch of free lessons and tutorials. Google also has a great translation feature that you should definitely check out.

Who Should Use It?

All levels, but if you are a beginner, I would recommend that you go straight to You Tube. There are some great videos on there that can teach you how to correctly pronounce different letter combinations. Remember when you learned in first grade that the OUGH in doughnut was pronounced (oh). You can pick up all those little tricks and more on YouTube. This is especially helpful if you are learning a language with a different alphabet such as Greek.

My Overall Recommendation

If you had unlimited time and resources I would say do a combination of all three methods. If you have five minutes on your computer before you go abroad and a few hours on the plane ride over, I would say buy Earworms and watch a couple You Tube videos. Learning key phrases before you study abroad is never a bad idea and is a great way to set yourself up for some deeper interaction with locals.