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Plan a Language
Learning Trip in 9 Steps
Step 1 – Choose a Language

Plan a Language
Learning Trip in 9 Steps
Step 1 – Choose a Language

Do you want to learn a new language overseas?

Going on a language learning trip might be the perfect way for you to learn a foreign language.  In this blog post series, I will outline the 9 steps I use to plan and go on a language learning trip.

What are the 9 steps I use to organise a language learning trip?

I love combining my two passions – language learning and travel by going on language learning trips. I hope my insights inspire you to go on your own language learning trip adventures!

Read more on why I love language learning holidays here!

Step 1 – how to choose a language to studyHow to choose a language to study - plan a language learning trip

Sounds obvious right?! But… for someone like me.. this can be a challenge! At the moment, my focus language is Chinese but I have some other languages in the background – particularly Vietnamese and Japanese. The list of languages I want to learn is loongg!

What language is your priority right now?

Focussing on your current priority is a great way to determine what language you should learn. Do you have a partner or friend who speaks a different language? Perhaps communicating in this new language is your main priority right now. Or perhaps you are moving to a new country and want to have the language basics cemented before you arrive.

Initially, my desire to learn Chinese was because of a work opportunity and I wanted to be able to converse with and give presentations to potential clients in Chinese. I continued to prioritise Chinese because of work opportunities, and more recently because I had come too far in my studies (and spent too long and lots of money) on studying to just give up! Now my priority for Chinese revolves more as a personal challenge to achieve a level of proficiency I am happy with. I will continue to study Chinese as long as I enjoy it and find it challenging and a thrill to communicate.

Priorities are different for everyone, but it is important to work out yours so you know what is driving you to select the language you will study.

Next year my priorities might be slightly different as I achieve a higher level in Chinese and Vietnamese I am hoping to add a new language. Watch this space!

Do you want to learn a widely spoken language?

Do you want to learn a language spoken by many people throughout the world? Or does a more obscure or less spoken language interest you?

Again this will depend on your priorities. If you are driven to learn your new language because you are moving or travelling to that country it doesn’t matter if the language is widely spoken or not. If you are considering future employment or career opportunities because of your new language, you may need to consider how many speakers there are of your target language. A language like French, Arabic, Portuguese or Spanish is spoken throughout the world on multiple continents so these could be exciting languages to consider. Hindi and Chinese Mandarin are official languages in a small number of countries but spoken widely by migrant populations throughout the world.

The Washington Post has an article on the world’s languages with maps and statistics.

Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population speaks one of these 12 languages as their native language.

  1. Chinese (all dialects combined)How to choose a language to study - plan a language learning trip
  2. Hindi-Urdu*
  3. English
  4. Arabic
  5. Spanish
  6. Bengali
  7. Russian
  8. Portuguese
  9. German
  10. Japanese
  11. French
  12. Italian

*Hindi and Urdu are combined in this table  **This table also includes speakers who are bilingual.

Sources: The Washington Post, Ulrich Ammon, University of Dusseldorf, Population Reference Bureau

How easy the language is to learn

English is the most widely studied language in the world, with 1.5 billion learners. French is the next most commonly learnt language with 82 million learners. Followed by Chinese, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.

As English speakers, the easiest languages for us to learn is those with similar Latin roots, such as Spanish.

You need to consider all aspects of learning a language, including speaking, grammar and writing.

According to the US State Department and Fluent in 3 Months, the languages that are easiest for English speakers to learn are:

  1. Danish
  2. Dutch
  3. French
  4. Italian
  5. Norwegian
  6. Portuguese
  7. Romanian
  8. Spanish
  9. Swedish

At the other end of the scale, in the ‘super hard’ category are:

  1. Arabic
  2. Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin)
  3. Japanese
  4. Korean


Writing in a new language

WHow to choose a language to study - plan a language learning tripould you like to study a different script such as Arabic or Russian? Or would you prefer to learn a language with a romanised script such as Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia or Vietnamese?  As you can see in the list above, the four hardest languages to learn are all written in a different script. But don’t be dissuaded! It is 100% completely possible to learn one or more of these ‘super hard’ languages!

I am learning Chinese and have learnt Japanese in the past and I love the challenge of learning the new alphabets and characters.

Consider if you will need additional time in your language learning trip to learn a new alphabet and writing system.

Tones or no tones?

Tonal languages are notoriously difficult for English speakers to learn, but again it is 100% possible to learn a tonal language successfully. Languages with tones generally have more simple grammar which is a great positive if you’re a grammar-phobe like me! If you are adept at mimicry then you might find learning a tonal language easier. When I was learning Vietnamese, I used to practice in the car reading out aloud all the street signage. Music learners may also have a slight advantage as they are more practised to listening to tiny variations in a sound.

It can be disheartening to be laughed at or grunted at when you are just beginning a tonal language. Don’t give up! You will get there eventually and then it all gets easier!


Choose a language because you like the food and culture!

Would you decide to learn a language just because you like the food? Or the films? Heck yeah! Why not?

Maybe you love Japanese anime? or French rom-coms? Or Vietnamese bánh mì?

Having a knowledge of the language (even a basic understanding) could really enhance your love of the food or the culture. It could even lead you to discover new aspects of the culture you hadn’t discovered before.


Motivation to learn a language

Motivation is so important because without it you will find the hard language learning days a real drag. You have to know your ‘why’. Why do you want to learn this language? How will it improve your life?

I think wanting to learn a language for ‘work’ is not necessarily enough of a motivation. There has to be a deeper drive. Is it because getting to a certain level of proficiency might enable you to transfer to that country? Or will it make your daily interaction with customers so much more enjoyable because you can speak their language? Really narrow in on why you want to study that language so you can remind yourself when you are having a bad language learning day!

Read my next blog post here – step 2, selecting your destination!

Come back to the home page for this blog series anytime here.


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Until next time,

Lingo Mama


Penelope Wilson


  • Patricia Chiuariu

    03.07.2018 at 10:23

    Love that Romania made it in the easier language category. Well written article. Thanks for sharing.

    • pennywilson

      03.07.2018 at 10:53

      Yes I think I was surprised that Romanian made it in. Makes me consider adding it to my list?!