A Language Course in Your Pocket Posted by Sean Young on Aug 27, 2012 in Archived Posts
If I were to tell you that you can get a complete language course that will teach you how to communicate in practically any situation in your choice of dozens of languages for less than ten dollars – you might think I’m crazy or you might want to know where to find such courses, right?
The good news is you can find them in any bookstore that has a foreign language or travel section. I’m talking about the humble phrasebook.
Although these books are written with the tourist in mind, they are great tools to begin your language learning journey without emptying your wallet. Think of each phrase as a learning unit. For example, “Where can I find a…?” already has built-in grammar. All you need to do is fill in the blank – be it a hotel, restaurant or gas station. And with the phonetics under (or next to) the phrase, you can immediately communicate your needs. It’s very easy.
Need to find a word? Phrasebooks also usually include a dictionary of 500-1000 or more words. It may not seem like much, but it’s enough to give you what you need in most general situations.
Sometimes Small is Good
Another advantage is that phrasebooks are small enough to fit in your pocket. Waiting in line? Waiting for the doctor to see you? Or waiting for your meal? Take it out, learn a few “units” for the situation you’re in and you’re done! Less than five minutes to communication.
The other advantage is you can use phrasebooks to see what a language is like before you go out and spend money on books, CDs, or other course materials. You can see how the language looks, how it’s used, and how it sounds. And when you do decide to go on with a comprehensive course, you’ll recognize some words and phrases, making it even easier to learn.
What Phrasebooks are Not
Despite all the things you can do to communicate with a phrasebook, it cannot replace standard studying. There are nuances of language that are not covered in a phrasebook. So use one until you’re comfortable enough to go on further with another language course. And if you decide not to further pursue your language career just yet, it was just ten dollars.