Smart Travel: 5 Tips for Learning a Language During your Gap Year

There are two things in life that I will never lose faith in: education and travel. Those are the best opportunities to open your mind to other people’s perspectives. Some of us are lucky enough to experience a gap year, an unrivaled opportunity for self-development. Exploring the world literally and figuratively broadens your horizon. In collaboration with EF Education First, I’m sharing my 5 personal tips for learning a language during your gap year.

1. Slow Travel is Smart Travel

Many of us spend their gap year hopping around the world. I’m sure we all dream about a world trip, but never forget: “quality over quantity.” There is no point in cramming 25 different countries into one single year. Instead, I recommend spending your gap year in no more than 4 different countries: go for slow travel. This way, you spend enough time actually living somewhere else, instead of playing tourist all year long. If you really want to learn a new language, stay in one country for at least a few months.

Spending your gap year in Beijng

2. Think About Your Career: Combine Travel with Language Courses

Nobody will blame you for wanting to travel during your gap year. I will, however, give you one piece of advice: take advantage of your time as a young adult by learning as much as you can. Take it seriously and you’ll thank yourself later. Combining travel with an (intensive) language course will make your gap year more valuable later in life. It will look incredibly nice on your CV, especially when you’re aiming for a career in an internationally-oriented field.

3. Don’t Get Stuck in the International Bubble

Sure, there is nothing wrong with making friends with other international students. But there is one thing you shouldn’t forget: you have to connect with the locals. Put yourself in situations where you’re the only one who doesn’t speak the local language fluently. Trust me, throwing yourself in at the deep end is the perfect strategy. You’re not going to learn about current slang words and trending topics from a textbook.

Spending your gap year in Cape Town

Spending your gap year in Munich

4. Speed Up Your Learning Process by Using Language Apps

This is a waterproof formula to optimise your language learning: fully immerse yourself by living in a new country, study abroad by joining a language course, and integrate the language into your free time. Using (free) language apps is the easiest way to boost your vocabulary. This will minimise the time you need to think of a word, making your conversations flow more naturally. You’ll become fluent almost twice as fast. My personal favourites are Duolingo and Memrise.

5. Movies, Music, Books and TV Series

Language learning doesn’t have to boring at all. Aside from using apps, you should try and integrate the new language into your everyday life by listening to music and reading books in your target language. Another fun trick to immerse yourself is watching movies and finding an addictive TV series. You will effortlessly improve you skills, without even noticing.


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