What is important about a travel language course?
A language course that is intended to prepare you for a trip or holiday must be one thing above all: effective. The aim here is not to internalise the language with all its structures and facets, grammar and syntax rules, but to master a conversational vocabulary and the most important everyday phrases as quickly as possible. The aim is to be able to greet and introduce oneself, to get along in hotels and restaurants, to ask passers-by for directions (and to understand the answer) and to be able to hold a reasonably confident conversation with the "locals".
So a language course for travelling or for holidays should:
- Teaching the most important basic vocabulary
- Cover the most likely speaking situations
- Include pronunciation and listening comprehension
Vocabulary - How many words do I need?
Building a vocabulary with which you can have a successful conversation is easier than you might think. A study by Mark Davies (Brigham Young University in Utah) found that in many languages such as Spanish, English or German, the 1,000 most common vocabulary words are already enough to comprehend between 80 and 90 percent of spoken conversation. That is a vanishingly small vocabulary by native-speaker standards, but it is very useful. A language course that wants to prepare you optimally for everyday conversations in the destination country should therefore provide you with at least this basic vocabulary.
Let's assume you learn 10 new vocabulary words per day; then you have already mastered the most important basic vocabulary within around 3 months, and can thus start learning at relatively short notice before your trip. Many of the language learning apps compared by trusted have exactly this goal. Mondly, for example, teaches the 5,000 most common vocabulary words (plus/minus, depending on the target language) in its standard lessons. And Babbel also focuses strongly on a safe standard vocabulary in its beginner lessons.
Speaking situations - Which conversations do I prepare for?
A travel language course should also be situation-oriented. It is of no use to you to just memorize dull vocabulary and sentences if you cannot apply them. The context is crucial here. Important vocabulary and phrases for typical holiday situations should be at the forefront of your language course - along with, of course, basic conversational situations such as talking about the time of day, how to get to or from a place of interest, etc.
Many modern language courses offer lessons and learning games for exactly these situations. With Babbel, for example, the first two lessons of the beginner's course "English" do not consist of boring basic exercises, but are oriented towards real-life speaking situations; here you learn to introduce yourself, to make appointments with others, to order in a restaurant or café, or to chat about your hobbies, your origins and your family. Similarly with Mondly, Lingualia or Busuu; here you also learn mostly situational sentences and vocabulary.
Pronunciation / listening comprehension - How does the language actually sound?
Last but not least, the language course you choose should not only contain grey theory, but also train your pronunciation and listening comprehension. Having crammed vocabulary only on paper is a wasted effort for everyday conversation. You also need to know how the vocabulary sounds and how to pronounce it correctly. This is especially important for languages whose pronunciation is very different from the written word - such as French - or for languages whose pronunciation cannot be derived from the written word because they have a different alphabet.