No one becomes fluent in seven days. Nor can you really trick anyone into thinking you’re capable of long conversations, or even proper pronunciation. But you can learn to communicate enough to get you a brilliant meal, nicer service, and even make friends with the locals. Here’s how to learn the basics in a week, starting from scratch.
Step 1: Set Your Priorities
The first thing you need to do is outline what’s most important to you on this trip. Are you going on a city tour of historic landmarks? Identify the places you want to see and keep a note of them on hand for your trip. Traveling to a seaside destination to scope out the incredible diving there? Jot down the name of dive sites on a piece of paper. Ideally you should learn them by heart by the time you get to your destination, or at least feel comfortable saying them since they are the focal point of your trip.
Step 2: Learn How to Conjugate Basic Verbs
Since you’re learning a language within a week, don’t waste your time buying books and CDs, because the time it would take you to buy them would be better spent practicing. The Internet offers an array of ways to learn languages in quick practical lessons. Try Memrise, a free platform that gives you an overview of pronunciation, the most common words and basic verbs in your language of choice.
Step 3: Know How to Order Food and Get Around
No matter what you do, you’re going to need to go places and you’re going to have to eat. Learn how to order something in the polite form — you don’t want to be the rude American. Make sure you can say the following phrases:
“May I have?” or “Can I order?”
“To Go” or “For Here”
“Yes, Please.” Or “No, Thank You”
For directions have these memorized:
“How do I get to?” and “How far is it?”
“Left”, “Right,” and “Straight”
You can learn these basic phrases on various translation apps such as Translator, websites such as Omniglot or can even ask Siri on your phone. Jot them down and repeat as needed.
Step 4: (Very) Basic Conversation
Once you get there you’ll want to be able to fit in and possibly befriend the locals. Sure, you won’t be able to have hour-long chats with people, but you can at least respond if someone strikes up a conversation with you. Make sure you know these phrases:
“Hello,” “Nice to Meet You,” “Excuse me,” “Thank You,” and “My Name is…”
Another important sentence is “Do you speak English?” If the answer is yes, you might be in luck and can switch back into the language most familiar to you.