When you travel to a foreign country, everything from greetings to requests to simple transactions can get "lost in translation.
Since learning the language is one of the best ways to understand a culture, why not study it while you're there on vacation? Sure, you can study in a traditional classroom, but there are other, wonderfully interactive ways to pick up skills.
In some places around the world, you can swap foreign tongues in hip urban bars. In others, learn a new language while sailing, picking up culinary tips in an ethnic kitchen or rock climbing.
And you're likely to meet some new local friends along the way. It will help you be more open to challenges back in your own country," says Williams, who specializes in intercultural communication. Here are five ways -- and five cool places -- around the world to learn a foreign language: Call it language learning-meets-speed dating.
Created by Maya May, a Chicago-area native who's lived in Buenos Aires for years, Spanglish Exchange pairs native English and native Spanish speakers for a couple hours.
Here's how it works: Instead of talking about how you love sunsets and walks on the beach, you alternately chat for five minutes about life in both languages, even if neither of you is terribly fluent in the other's mother tongue. These several-days-a-week evening events take place at hip restaurants, bars and clubs in Buenos Aires barrios such as San Telmo and Palermo and in equally cool venues in Madrid.
We're happy to have started a language learning trend," says May. Visiting the City of Light and looking for an easy way to both meet locals and brush up on your French?
Parler Parlor offers free-form chats between native English and French speakers three times a week at two spots in central Paris. Launched 14 Speed dating for language learners buenos aires ago by "House Hunters International" favorite and American expatriate Adrian Leeds along with French-language expert Marie-Elisabeth Crochard, Parler Parlor has members who sign up for multiple sessions or pay a one-time fee from 45 countries.
Equally divided groups of between six and eight English and French speakers spend 45 minutes chatting in one language, then the other. Visitors should never feel intimidated because everybody is there for the same reason, regardless of the level. Regardless of what's going on in your life, for an hour and a half you get to talk and think about something else. It can be like a group therapy session. If world-class surfing and studying is your thing, the Instituto de Lenguajes offers small-group and private instruction Spanish language lessons.
Based in a coastal village in the state of Oaxaca and about miles south of Acapulco, the school prides itself on immersion into Mexican culture.
Keep yourself challenged by learning to speak while adding surf tours -- or perhaps Oaxacan cooking lessons or salsa dancing, all in Spanish -- to your daily agenda.
Extracurriculars are plentiful, but the Instituto is first and foremost about foreign language.
Its teachers are native Spanish speakers who come from across Latin America and Mexico and all know English. Also available in a bus-accessible nearby neighborhood are studio apartments with full kitchens and ocean views. And the next-door family is happy to help guests practice their developing language skills.
For those wanting to live with and like the locals, the Instituto arranges home stays with area residents. Whether you're a beginner trying Japanese for the first time or an advanced speaker preparing for language proficiency tests, this Kyoto school is just the ticket.