How to use city breaks abroad to learn another language

City breaks abroad give you a reason to learn a language. A little language can go a long way for you professionally and personally – a few small phrases in another language can build relationships, confidence and even careers.

This blog gives a few tips to help you to make the most of your city break abroad.


If you’re a beginner:

  • Learn the basics – introductions, ordering food……. The BBC languages website is great for this.

  • Get a phrase book or a bilingual dictionary.

  • Take group or one-to-one language classes.

  • Learn some useful set phrases e.g. ‘can you speak more slowly please’, ‘please could you repeat that’, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand’, ‘I only speak a little X’.

  • Use one of the many language learning apps available e.g. Duolingo and Memrise.

If you have some knowledge:

  • Set a newspaper from your destination country as your home page. It may give you ideas for a conversation with a local while on holiday.

  • Watch Euronews TV live in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, or search for “Euronews live in X language” for other languages. Compare the story with the English version.

  • Anticipate situations and plan conversations e.g. hotel reception or restaurants.

  • Get a bilingual dictionary, a grammar book and a grammar practice exercises book.

  • Take group or one-to-one language classes, or do a language exchange with a native speaker.

  • Join a local Meetup group e.g. a German Stammtisch. Just enter the language you want to practise in the Search box on to find local groups.

  • Listen to music in the language – get the lyrics from the CD cover or YouTube, learn song words and practise singing them (excellent for your pronunciation!). For example, I always listen to Flossie Malavialle’s French CDs before going to France.

A little language goes a long way – both on holiday and in the workplace


  • Speak the language. Everyone in that country can be your teacher!

  • Take a notebook with you to write down language you need.

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and keep a good sense of humour. Laugh when you are misunderstood.

  • Noticing – notice not just what people say, but how they say it.

  • Don’t expect to understand every word - aim to get the gist of a conversation, not every word.

  • Step out of your comfort zone – do things you wouldn’t normally do, e.g. try out a local custom.

  • Be open to the different culture - see the positives, seek to understand the values behind the behaviours. Be curious, not judgemental.

  • Prepare for your next trip - bring a magazine or music CD home, so you can keep in contact with the language when you get home or as preparation for your next trip.


  • Show understanding and empathy when you meet non-native speakers of your language at home.

  • If you have the time and continued motivation to learn the language, keep it up.

  • If you do not have the time, get back to life until you book your next city break!

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” (Miriam Beard).

What changes have you experienced by using another language during your city break?

I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and I welcome your feedback.

Dawn Leggott

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn

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