There is absolutely no way around it — to learn different languages and cultures as quickly as possible, go to the country itself. But even then, it is not enough just to stand back and witness life from afar. It is far better if you can fully immerse yourself. How do you do that? Well, firstly, get to know the the natives that live there; mingle with them, talk with them, listen to them, and interact with them.
Be inquisitive, without being judgemental. Learn about the history — not only the general historical background of the country itself — but also regional and local history. Many foreign areas are seeping in a unique culture. Get to know the mindset and the folklore. Go deep into the hearts of the people and then you will learn faster.
For example, I recently travelled to Scotland and was delighted to find story books based on local stories and mysteries written by a shepherd that had been passed down through generations to present day bookshelves. Similarly, on another trip through Cathar France (Languedoc), the environment was brimming with information about the historical significance of the region, with its mysteries and legends.
Never cease to be curious; if you really want to learn about different cultures quickly, then become like a child again and discover new worlds, new peoples.
In this day and age, from a language perspective, we are blessed with so many options to learn quickly. In addition, the effects of modern technology today allow us to learn from a distance. Here are a few tips regarding such technology:
- Take advantage of satellite TV and watch programmes in the target language you are learning.
- When you visit the country, buy some music that you like which is sung in that language. All countries have their own popular musicians. Try and find out who these musical artists are and see which ones you would enjoy listening to.
- DVD is also available with a choice of language. Watch a DVD and put on the target language with subtitles either in the same language or in your mother tongue.
- Read newspapers or magazines in the target language — especially the yellow press — to get native expressions and a more relaxed conversational tone than a formal newspaper.
- Try and do crossword puzzles in the target language. As difficult as that may seem in the beginning, you will be surprised at how easy it becomes little by little.
- Surf the Internet. Explore articles and news items in that language. Use online dictionaries for words that you are not sure of or translating tools like Google translator for paragraphs that you want to check the meaning of. Be careful though, because most online translators do actually translate literally and may come out with some strange translations!
- Try and read books in the other language. Now there are some wonderful gadgets out there, like the Kindle from Amazon, which in fact allow you to download books and also have instant dictionaries as optional tools. In this way, you can read and use the dictionary whenever you like.
- Use computer telephones to speak with your friends and acquaintances across the world so that you can practise the language as much as possible.
- Chat online to practise writing and chatting language.
- Work with a language coach who you can trust and troubleshoot problems with. Language coaches can give you motivation, correction and inspiration to continue learning.
As you can see, there are endless possibilities nowadays for learning different languages and cultures quickly. However, there is still one snag to all of this: you still have to put in the time and the effort to actually do all of these things. If you really put your mind to it and actually put in the time and effort, within six months, you will find that your language skills as well as your cross cultural sensitivity will be quickly and greatly enhanced.
Come on! Venga! Andiamo! Allez!