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The Best Ways to Learn a New Language

The Best Ways to Learn a New Language

latin-man-300x225I was really terrible at Spanish in high school. My grades were pretty bad throughout the year and I thought that I would never be able to learn a new language. I had nightmares about “conjugating” verbs. My teacher even suggested that I avoid taking Spanish classes once I got to college. I just barely made it out alive…

Luckily, things have changed a lot since then. I’ve gained a lot more motivation, a lot more interest in other cultures, and I’m starting have a pretty decent understanding of Spanish. I’ve also started learning the basics of German and French, and am genuinely enjoying it.

If you’re like me and were pretty clueless in high school, don’t worry!

There are a lot of great ways out there to either start learning a new language or to refresh your existing knowledge, and most of them are actually pretty enjoyable.

Make It Into A Game Using Duolingo

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This is probably my favorite way to learn a new language and it’s also one of the most fun. Duolingo makes learning languages into a game and you “level up” as you learn more and more. The courses are broken up into manageable lessons in which you translate sentences, transcribe what you hear, and speak phrases into the microphone.

The ability to access Duolingo for free on iOS, Android, or on the web also makes it extremely easy to get started on. It’s a breeze to chip away at languages whenever you’re bored or have a few minutes of downtime.

Spice Up Your Commute With Pimsleur Audio Programs

car-in-commute-300x199Pimsleur audio programs have been around for quite a while and are a great way to learn a new language. In addition to software-based courses, some of the most popular offerings by the company are its audio programs. The audio programs come in a ton of different languages and are a great choice for people with long commutes. Why not be productive while sitting in traffic?

The audio courses guide you through spoken conversations while telling you how to respond and allowing you a chance to reply out loud. Because of that, it’s a great choice for anybody who actually needs to learn to speak a language, rather than just being able to read it or understand it.

Another great thing is that many local libraries have Pimsleur audio courses, so it’s pretty easy to just go grab one and get started for free.

Learn a New Language With Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone software is very similar to Duolingo but instead of relying on text to teach you new words it is a much more visual course. Rosetta Stone immerses you in your chosen language and teaches you through context and visual information. It’s very similar to the way children and infants learn to speak.

I’ve only experimented with Rosetta Stone during brief stints, but I actually like it a lot more than Duolingo. It can’t compete with the price of Duolingo however, as most of the courses cost around $200.

Watch Foreign Television

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Of course, one common way to learn a new language  is to immerse yourself in it by watching TV shows or movies. It’s amazing what you can understand and what words you can figure out just by seeing the context of the words and watching body language.

If you want to make the most out of this you might want to start with subtitles in your own language at first, then start watching with the native subtitles, and then take the subtitles off completely.

Also, I’ve heard of people learning completely from this method, but in my opinion this is probably serves better as a supplement to a more structured language course.

After reading this article on Fluentu.com I’ve started watching the Spanish version of a show called Extr@ on Youtube.  If you search for it on Google you can also find live television streams from around the world, like the one for the Mexican Travel Channel.

Visit a New Place

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You could also be really brave and go for TOTAL immersion. Simply visit a place where they speak the language you would like to learn, and go. Learn how to order food, ask for directions, and get to know the locals.

This method is definitely not easy, but many people pull this off. Many people travel through, or even move to new countries without the slightest knowledge of the language.

You can do a lot more than you may think with body language alone, but immersing yourself like this can really force you into understanding a new language in a pretty intense way.

You don’t necessarily have to leave the country to do this, though. You could also try going to a more diverse part of your own city and throwing yourself into a few conversations. If your city has a Chinatown or a section with a lot of Latino businesses, for example, maybe try taking a little mini-vacation and start practicing.

Take a Class

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You can also go the more traditional route by taking a class on the language of your choosing. If you’re currently in college or high school, you have plenty of options to learn a new language. But if you’re out of school, there are still some options.

Many colleges offer continuing education courses devoted to learning the basics of a new language. You can probably find other basic language classes offered in your community as well, if you search for them. There are also plenty of online courses to choose from.

Join a Foreign Language Club or Group

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Another great way to learn a new language, or to practice one, is to join a foreign language group in your area. If you’re in college you can look for a club focused on the language you would like to learn.

Otherwise, you can try Google and look for foreign language groups in your city. There are also many Meetup groups that meet specifically to practice language skills and are great for getting some practical experience.


So those are some of my best ideas for learning a new language or two. Of course, I think the best way of all is to do more than one of the above. Personally, I still have a lot to learn, but I’m trying to add more of these methods into my life so that the languages I’m learning will become second nature to me.

What do you think? Did I miss anything?

If so, feel free to leave me a comment down below.

Small Instruments for Musicians Who Love to Travel

Small Instruments for Musicians Who Love to Travel

beach-musician-300x199Backpacking with a large instrument like a guitar, a keyboard, a bass guitar, a tuba, or heck, a cello, can be difficult. Although guitars are fairly portable, they can still be a bit too bulky for the constant traveler. Luckily, there are many small instruments that are perfectly travel-sized and ready for any journey. Not only that, many of them are also super cool in their own right.

I’m preparing to take some trips of my own over the next few months and although I’m pretty darn sentimental about my guitar, I’ve decided to leave it behind for now and track down a small instrument to call my new best friend.

This is a great list for guitar players who are looking to scale down, but it’s also worth a look for other musicians who are looking for a more portable option. A lot of skills transfer over between instruments, so don’t be afraid. Many instruments can be easier to learn than you may think.

Whether you’re brand new to music and looking to learn an instrument for the very first time, or you’re looking to travel light while doing some street performing, or you just want to jam with your many hostel-mates and Couchsurfing hosts, one of the below instruments may just be the perfect fit for you.

Ukulele

The King of Small Instruments

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The ukulele is one of the smallest stringed instruments out there, and is great for traveling musicians who want to carry light. Many ukuleles are also available at great prices, many for under $50. On the other hand, if you’re a singer/songwriter who is accustomed to singing emotional ballads you might have some adjusting to do. It’s pretty difficult to make any song sound too sad when the ukulele is backing you up.

Mandolin

The Folk-Lovers Ukulele on Steroids

The mandolin is another small instrument that’s a great choice for travelers, especially if you’re into folk music. The instrument has one of the most unique sounds you’ve heard and works great as a solo instrument or as accompaniment for your voice. Compared to the ukulele, the mandolin has a lot of versatility and can create a much more diverse array of sounds.

Harmonica

The Classic Travelers Sidekick

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If you don’t have any interest in singing while playing, then the harmonica is a great choice for you. It’s also probably the easiest small instrument to carry around. On the cheaper side you can get a harmonica for under $10, but if you’re looking for something that’s higher quality you’ll probably want to go with something like the Hohner Marine Band harmonica.  The only drawback is that you’ll need different harmonicas for different keys, which can become an issue if you want to do a lot of jamming with your hostel-mates or anyone you meet on the road.

Melodica

A Piano Lover’s Strange Mistress

The melodica is a little less well-known, but is a really cool sounding instrument that kind of sounds like a cross between a harmonica and an accordion. This also happens to be one of the best small instruments for piano players who want to keep playing while on the road. Believe me, it’s going to be a heck of a lot better than carrying a keyboard, or god forbid, a piano around.

Violin/Fiddle

For the Cultured Professional

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Depending on how you play it, you may either call this a violin or a fiddle, but regardless, there’s no denying that it can be one of the most beautiful sounding instruments in the world when in the hand of an expert. However it can also be one of the most terrible sounding if you’re not quite up to par. The learning curve for this instrument is a bit higher than many of the others on this list,  but if you’re up to the task, a violin (or fiddle) may be a great small instrument to carry around with you while you trot around the globe.

Backpacker Guitar

For Guitarists Resistant to Change

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If you’re a guitarist and REALLY can’t stand to leave your guitar behind, you do have the option of getting a Martin backpacker guitar. They’re portable, lightweight, and a perfect way to get your guitar playing fix while on the road. Although truth be told, they are a little funny looking.


How have you guys dealt with carrying instruments while traveling? Any tips, methods, or interesting small instruments that you would like to share with the class?

Let me know in the comments below.

7 Unconventional Hotel Alternatives for Cheap Travel

7 Unconventional Hotel Alternatives for Cheap Travel

If you’re anything like me, you probably love to travel and discover new places.

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BUT… your wallet doesn’t always have the same aspirations.

Luckily, over the past few years all kinds of new options have sprung up around the world for sidestepping expensive hotels and seeing new places on a budget.

Whether you’re a broke college student and HAVE no other options or you’re just looking to save a few bucks, here are some of the best cheap travel alternatives, both new and old, for seeing a little of the world while avoiding expensive hotels.

1. Airbnb and VRBO

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Airbnb is one of the best and most well-known hotel alternatives for people traveling on a budget. VRBO works the same way. Users can post a space that can be booked, while other users request to stay.

You can find all kinds of lodging spaces on these sites: entire mansions, tiki huts, yurts, an idle RV or camper, or simply an extra room in a house or apartment.

Travelers can easily sort through the available options while looking in their specific price range. Rooms can be found around the world, and prices can range anywhere from $10 a night to over $1000.

Of course it’s good to be a safe when staying with strangers in a strange locale, so both travelers and hosts leave ratings and reviews for each other.

2. Couchsurfing

Just like Airbnb, Couchsurfing lets you stay in homes of real live people. On Couchsurfing however, it’s free.

With Couchsurfing you browse through personal profiles of hosts, and then message them telling them about your trip, and requesting a place to stay. Typically all users have available is a couch, but if you’re lucky you may get a pull-out futon, or even a guest room.

The point of Couchsurfing seems to be more about facilitating a cultural exchange between travelers and locals. Travelers get a more “local-ized” experience, and hosts get to meet a cool traveler from another part of the world. It’s a win-win.

Just be sure to be a good guest. Respect your host’s property, belongings, and schedule. You may even consider cooking dinner for your host during your stay.

3. Hostels

Although this may be an obvious cheap travel choice for people living in Europe or other parts of the world, people in the U.S seem to know very little about hostels.

Hostels are similar to hotels but guests stay in dorm rooms and typically sleep on bunk beds. Many hostels also have private rooms, though.

The environment of a hostel is also very different than a hotel and is geared towards socializing, meeting other guests, and hanging out in common areas. Many hostels also lead guests out to events and activities around the area.

Basically if you can stand sleeping on a bunk bed and not having much privacy, you will have an instant social circle.

Hostels are much cheaper than hotels as well. In the U.S. most hostels seem to cost anywhere from around $15-$35 for a night.

Check out Hostels.com or Hostelworld, or Hostelbookers to find them.

4. Work Exchange: Workaway, Wwoofing, and HelpX

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For those wanting to stay in a location for a longer period of time, such as a few weeks, or even a few months, work exchange is a great way to see another part of the world and stay for free.

Workaway, Wwoofing, and HelpX all have hosts that would love to have you come stay with them in exchange for a few hours of work every week.

Opportunities include organic farming, housekeeping at hostels and guesthouses, or even helping families out around the house.

Wwoofing is focused on work exchange for organic farms, but Workaway and HelpX both post all kinds of opportunities.

5. Camping

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Camping is a pretty common method for cheap travel, and has been around since the dawn of time (Although, the cavemen probably didn’t call it camping. They probably just called it, you know, living.) Luckily, it’s now easier than ever for campers and there are many websites that make finding a good camping spot a breeze.

Freecampsites.net allows users to browse through and post free and cheap camping areas, and is a great resource for for the budget-minded traveler.

Sites like Goodsamclub.com mostly has listings of paid campsites, but is also a great resource for both RVers and tent campers.

Also keep in mind that anyone can camp for free on U.S. National Forest land. Many National Forests offer paid primitive camping sites, but go just a few miles outside of these campgrounds and you’re welcome to camp for free.

6. Stay With People You Know (Or People THEY Know)

You don’t just have to stay alone or with strangers. If you have friends or relatives across the country many of them would probably love to have you visit with them for a few days. They may have a couch for you to sleep on, a space in the backyard for your tent, or even an entire guest room available.

But don’t stop there. You can also try reaching out to your Facebook friends. Tell your friends where you’re going and they just might be able to hook you up with someone they know that would love to host you for a day or two.

You never know until you ask.

7. Car Camping

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This is probably my least favorite option for cheap travel, but it is also one of the easiest. If you’re especially lacking on funds and have no other options in the area you’re traveling through, car camping is always an option.

If you have a bigger vehicle like an SUV or a van you can probably make yourself a nice little sleeping spot in the back of your vehicle. Find a good spot and either crack open a window or load yourself down with blankets (depending on the season), and try your best to relax.

There are many public rest stops across the US, so they’re one of the best options for getting a good night’s sleep. Wal-Marts are also rampant and many are open 24 hours. Other 24 hour stores and businesses could be good options, too.

In addition to actual campsites, Freecampsites.net also lists many options for car camping.


So there you have it, several hotel alternatives that allow you to stay around the country (or world) with a minimal amount of money in your wallet. Personally there are some of these I prefer more than others, and I’m sure the same will be the case for you.

And of course all of these methods can be potentially dangerous, so be sure to travel safe and use common sense.