Widening My Worldly Vocabulary


I can’t believe that in less than two weeks I’ll be half way across the world soaking up some rays in The Philippines! Until then however, I have a lot to do. Between saying ‘see you laters’, laundry, and packing, I’ve been trying to widen my worldly vocabulary by brushing up on some other languages. I don’t like jumping into countries only relying on English as I feel like one of those dumb tourists, so I try to learn a phrase or two before I go. Luckily for me most Filipino natives do speak English, but I still would like to have a few phrases up my sleeve.

The Filipino people speak Tagalog (pronounced tah-gah-low), and I wasn’t sure where to start as it’s not an overly used language. I have a few phrases under my belt as they’ve been interjected into everyday conversation by my German-born-Filipino, however they’re mostly phrases like (I’m writing this phonetically because I have no idea how to spell in Tagalog haha) ‘hai na koh tah leh gah’ which means something along the lines of ‘oh my goodness, really?’ and of course ‘ma ha la kee tah’ meaning ‘I love you’ because we’re cute like that. As this would be useless in regular conversation since I’m not going to be shaking my head in disbelief or telling the Filipino people I love them, I took to Google.

As always, Google knows all and I’ve found a few free sites online that have the basics. One that appeared was Fluent in 3 Months and it offers a fair variety of languages. It’s Tagalog page didn’t offer much into learning the language itself, but it gave insight into the Filipino culture saying they’re extremely encouraging. Phew! It also said that because there are so many dialects within the country, there being 7000+ islands and all, that even between each other they speak English a lot. Another site is literally called Learn Tagalog and it offers a number of free lessons for greetings, numbers, etc so you can get a handle on the basics. Between these two I’m feeling a little more confident about learning the language, and worse comes to worse I’ll pull out the English and we’ll be a-ok!

The second part of my trip however is another story.

Come July I might be having a little more trouble as I hop over to Germany. Now you’re probably thinking ‘Why? A lot of Germans speak English, you’ll be fine!’ A lot of our time in Germany will be spent meeting Robin’s extended family (yikes!) but a good chunk of them only speak German. Aaand, there goes the stress meter!

In my first and second years of university I took some German courses, which helped me learned some of the basics and sentence structure. For me though, I find my biggest problem is vocabulary as I often get words jumbled and only by repeating them to myself over and over do I remember. Unless it’s related to food, then I guess my gut takes over and I have taste memory backing me up. That or if it’s in a game-like scenario. I’ll do anything if you make it into a game, honest. Even when I go to the gym I use an app that gives me points that you level up with and what not.

SO! Thanks to the wonderful free website/app Duolingo, I’m able to work on my vocabulary while catering to my competitive inner child. It’s easy, fun, and I’ve found it has helped a bit as there’s a nice variation between speaking, writing, and reading. Another great feature is that you can load exercises ahead of time if you know you’re not going to have an internet connection so you can practice while offline. Like many sites, they don’t offer every language under the sun, but they’ve added quite a few to their arsenal recently bringing their language count to over 20!

Easy and fun to use, Duolingo definitely helps keep my German up!

Easy and fun to use, Duolingo definitely helps keep my German up!

So I ask you readers – how do you feel going to a country where you know nothing of the language? Does it bother you at all (aka am I just a wee bit crazy)? If so, do you find learning a bit before you leave helps, or do you wait until you’re fully immersed once you get there? What do you do to overcome the language barrier, and how do you stay focused to keep it up? I’ve tried every reminder I can think of and I still tend to slack off more often than not!

Any thoughts and/or tips would be greatly appreciated, or if you’re also looking to learn German/Tagalog/More German Than Anything then let’s be pen pals! Or, well, email/Facebook message buddies. I don’t want the message to take 2 weeks to get there!

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