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How to learn


Language CDs fall into two basic categories:

Phrasebooks on CD: The CD's tracks are arranged as groups of phrases under topics such as hotels, restaurants, transportation, and shopping. Pro: You'll quickly learn how to ask for a room, order from a menu, etc. Con: Learning phrases by rote won't teach you how to construct a sentence or carry on a conversation.

Language courses: Half a dozen or more CDs are divided into lessons that introduce concepts such as how to make sentences and how to use common verbs like "to have" and "to be." Pro: You'll learn the basics of the language, not just a collection of phrases. Con: The course may not be geared toward a traveler's immediate language needs.

Our advice: Start with a recorded language course from Simon & Schuster's Pimsleur, which uses a very effective repetition method to teach the basics. (In my experience, the "Pimsleur Method" is far more effective than competitors' audio language courses.) Supplement it with a tape of common tourist phrases. (Berlitz publishes a series of "CD Packs" that include a CD, a printed transcript of the recorded lessons, and a comprehensive pocket-size phrasebook that you can take on your trip.)

Computer courses

Language software courses are increasingly popular, because they turn any PC or Macintosh computer into a home or office language lab. Language games are included to make the learning process more fun. Pro: By harnessing the power of your computer, the course gives you a variety of learning options and review methods. Con: You're tied to your computer, the interface emphasizes flexibility over structured learning, and you may end up learning less than you would with a traditional CD course.

My advice: If you use your computer mostly for leisure, a language CD-ROM is worth trying. But you'll be happier with a recorded CD course if you work at a computer all day, or if you need lessons that you can listen to while commuting.

Next Page > More learning methods > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

In this article:
Languages for Travelers - introduction
Self-study courses
Books, classroom courses, online learning
Language links


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