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Multiple languages..... OR ..... My Overloaded Brain....

I not sure this is a question per se, I guess I'm just looking for a bit of feedback on how other people have handled this situation. I'll be traveling to Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic in September. Whenever I travel to a non English speaking country (well, a country where English is not the first language anyway) I try to learn a bit of the local language out of politeness and also out of genuine interest. Thus, I've been listening to German language tapes and while obviously nowhere near fluent, I have picked up a reasonable amount. The problem is, with so many different languages spoken in Europe, it becomes more difficult having to continually switch from one language to the next when crossing the border to another country (in this case from German to Czech and then back to German again since Austria is the last stop on trip). The local library has a few basic Czech tapes (in addition to the German I am currently using) but I wonder essentialy, how much is too much.

Throw in the fact that I had decided to learn Spanish in a bit more detail since it is obviously the most useful second language here in the United States and have had to temporarily put my Spanish study on hold while preparing for this trip.

I'm just curious how anyone else has handled this or any tips you may have.

Oh, my poor overloaded brain. :)

Posted by
160 posts

I'm trying to brush up on Spanish, French, and Italian for my Euro trip next month. Spanish is easiest for me, since I took two years of it in high school (so there's still some lodged in my brain). French and Italian are another story, though.

I started a couple of months ago with the Pimsleur basic Spanish and French CDs. They seem to work OK for my learning style, but a couple weeks ago I realized that I'll never become fluent at French w/out lots more practice.

So, I decided to focus on the down & dirty travel lingo and get a couple of the "One Day" programs by Elisabeth Smith. They consist of one CD and a small booklet. The idea is to quickly learn 50 words and some useful phrases.

So far I've gone through the Italian and French lessons. The lesson consists of a conversation on an airplane to the respective country, where Elisabeth is trying to teach basic tourist-helpful lingo to Andy, a hapless Englishman on holiday. They seem OK & usefully realistic.

Posted by
138 posts


I am right there with you - I mean on the overload.I am currently taking lessons from three different teacher on three different languages; well, almost different: German, Swiss-German, and French. German is the easiest for me as I had it at the university as a second language (the first being English; my native tounge is Russian). Swiss-German because I am going to visit relatives in Switzerland; knowing German is helpful, but still Swiss-German dialect is its own language. French because well, it is French and I always wanted to learn it, and since I'll head on to Paris after Switzerland, I decided it is a good time to start. I take lessons from people who are profesional language teachers as well as native speakers. I listen to all sorts of CDs in the car, watch videos at home, and work with college-level textbooks. I am not complaining because I LOVE foreign languages. How will it all work out when I am there? I guess I can always fall back on English and Russian;)

Posted by
389 posts

Speaking as a non language person I learn real basics: Please, thank you, good-buy, how much (does it cost), where is the WC? I do speak a bit of German which I took when I was 28 after my first trip to Europe. Since I can't grasp answers to most questions (even in German) I try to be polite, show I understand I'm the outsider and learn what little I can while there. I learned 13 words of Hungarian, 5 of which are useful and the others are just fun to know, but the Hungarians appreciated the attempt at politness.

Posted by
683 posts

One of the best language sites is the BBC. They have sites to drill you in listening in Spanish,French,Italian,German,Chinese and a host of other languages. Just typt "BBC Language" into your search.

Posted by
83 posts

Hi Paul and Sara,

Yes, I've used the BBC site before (and I still use it) for drills etc and I've found to be quite good. I also listen to Pimsluer tapes which are the best I've heard as far learning to "speak" a particular language goes. I just have a bit of trouble bouncing back and forth. Though I suppose it is a bit humourous hearing me listen to a sentence in English and repeat it back in German but with an accidental Spanish word thrown in. :)

Posted by
683 posts

Vis-a-vis languages, we were in 10 differnt countries during our last Eurotrip. Bounced from German to French to Italian to Czech to Hungarian to Polish. No fluency but fun using each language, at least for basics.
In Vienna,, our landlady for the apt we had spoke only Hungarian (which we had only slight knowlwdge of). We used signs alot. In Poland, in Zakopane, our hotelier spoke Polish and we spoke English. When we couldnt understand each other, we reverted to using German!