Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

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arthaey
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Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

Postby arthaey » Thu Apr 13, 2017 3:26 pm

We've had threads discussing how to make the most of immersion for longer stays abroad, in a country where they speak a language that's been studied or perhaps is transparent.

But what about a single week vacation, where they speak a language you've only studied for less than a month, and is entirely opaque to you?

I'm going to Budapest on vacation at the end of the month, and I've only had a few weeks to learn the very basics Hungarian. What tips do folks have for making the most of my language contact?

I'm not stressed about it — it's vacation! But getting to speak a less-common, new-to-me language sounds like a great vacation (I'm sure many of you understand ;)). So suggestions are welcome.

My own thoughts, to get us started:
  • Say good morning/afternoon/evening to everyone. Get comfortable with this barely-studied language coming out of my mouth. :)
  • Ask multiple people for directions to the same place. Not only does this guard against wrong/misunderstood directions, but it also lets me hear variations on the same answer from native speakers.
  • Eavesdrop on "rote" conversations. ("Real" conversations will be incomprehensible.) What do most people say when buying things, entering a shop, ordering at a restaurant, saying goodbye? They may say things that textbooks & Pimsleur missed. Copy them.
  • Obsessively ask store clerks, "What is this called?" (after handing over payment, when there's no line; don't be a jerk).
Any other suggestions?
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Re: Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

Postby aokoye » Thu Apr 13, 2017 4:01 pm

I had a similar situation in France nine years ago. Five days were spent in Lyon, two in Paris and I knew zero French before going (outside of a number of words for food). Note that I was visiting a friend who was studying in Lyon for the year (I was studying in Vienna) and I had most of the day time to myself as she was in class. Here's what I did:

Learn how to count to five
Learned how to say please and thank you
Learned how to ask where the bathroom was
Learned how to ask for food (and other things) politely
Learned how to ask for tap water

Resolved to only speak in English if it involved something revolving around a lot of money (my hotel stay), train logistics going to and from Lyon via Paris, or an emergency.

I don't think I ever asked anyone for directions (which resulted in getting lost around the Arc de Triomphe), relying instead on subway maps. I didn't have the forethought to bring a map and apparently was too stubborn to ask for one from the hotels I stayed in (or buy one from a store).

By "learned" I mean "asked my friend and committed the phrases to memory." Basically the goal was to be a polite tourist and it worked really well. No one switched into English without my prompting, even in Paris. That could have been an issue of people not being able to place my accent though, as at that point I had been in Vienna for about six or seven months. I also ended up accidently switching into German a lot which was amusing.

Obsessively ask store clerks, "What is this called?" (after handing over payment, when there's no line; don't be a jerk).

This worked very well for me in the context of a macaron shop that I ended up going to every day in Lyon that didn't have very many people there during the hours I went. The owner appeared to be the sole employee and it was a very open floor plan I basically asked her how to pronounce everything I couldn't pronounce over the course of four days. She seemed to enjoy my being there (and my buying macarons) likely in part because I tend to be pretty low key, I was buying stuff, there was no one else there, and because it was clear I was trying hard to do things in French.

Also, and I have a feeling I don't totally need to tell you this, don't assume people will want to talk to you just becuase you're visiting and interested in speaking to them in Hungarian. It doesn't seem like you're going into this with that idea which is good in my opinion.
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Re: Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

Postby solocricket » Thu Apr 13, 2017 4:35 pm

I agree with learning those basic phrases! If I were going on a vacation like that, I would buy a super cheap Teach Yourself textbook and blow through as many lessons as I could in the weeks leading up. I think that, mixed with some basic phrases, would maybe allow you to make a little bit of sense of street signs, menus, and other written things. When I went to Iceland, I didn't know enough to speak very comfortably, but I really liked that I learned enough to read basic info (I worked on it off and on-- mostly off-- for several months). That was quite satisfying!

Because I like books, I would buy a ton of Hungarian books, in case you ever wanted to seriously learn Hungarian in the future. Then again, I kind of collect novels/picture books/comics in languages I don't know, so that just might be my preference :D
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Re: Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

Postby Chung » Thu Apr 13, 2017 5:51 pm

arthaey wrote:We've had threads discussing how to make the most of immersion for longer stays abroad, in a country where they speak a language that's been studied or perhaps is transparent.

But what about a single week vacation, where they speak a language you've only studied for less than a month, and is entirely opaque to you?

I'm going to Budapest on vacation at the end of the month, and I've only had a few weeks to learn the very basics Hungarian. What tips do folks have for making the most of my language contact?

I'm not stressed about it — it's vacation! But getting to speak a less-common, new-to-me language sounds like a great vacation (I'm sure many of you understand ;)). So suggestions are welcome.

My own thoughts, to get us started:
  • Say good morning/afternoon/evening to everyone. Get comfortable with this barely-studied language coming out of my mouth. :)
  • Ask multiple people for directions to the same place. Not only does this guard against wrong/misunderstood directions, but it also lets me hear variations on the same answer from native speakers.
  • Eavesdrop on "rote" conversations. ("Real" conversations will be incomprehensible.) What do most people say when buying things, entering a shop, ordering at a restaurant, saying goodbye? They may say things that textbooks & Pimsleur missed. Copy them.
  • Obsessively ask store clerks, "What is this called?" (after handing over payment, when there's no line; don't be a jerk).
Any other suggestions?


In addition to what's been posted by the others, learn to read a bit so that you can deal with signs or headings on billboards, tables, charts, menus, lists, bus tickets or plaques. Examples are entrances (bejárat) or exits (kijárat) or headers/notes/codes on timetables at train stations such as "fast (train)" (gyors(vonat)) or "track" (vágány). Spend an hour or two in bookstores as you might just come out with something usable for future study. If you're feeling extra nerdy, I recommend a visit to Libra which specializes in language-learning material. It's on a small side street in downtown Budapest and is across the street from a sister store with a yellow sign that specializes instead in English and German books for Hungarian-speaking learners. In any case, don't confuse Libra with Libri which is a chain of regular Hungarian bookstores (although you might find something useful there too).
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Re: Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

Postby Cavesa » Thu Apr 13, 2017 5:56 pm

Based on my few days in Budapest in 2015, I wholeheartedly recommend learning some basics.

For example, info about changes in the public transport was not in English, and the changes were pretty big. And you can happen to have no English speaker around you quite easily. And I am still usure whether the given completely wrong directions (I asked by using a specific name that should be therefore understood, I was shown that the bus line should go there) were a mistake due to the langauge or a good joke (I have already been in such a situation in Germany. Some people have weird sense of humour).

Plus the Hungarians, like any smaller nation with internationally worthless language, find it very nice, when a stranger knows at least the polite phrases. It makes a good impression.
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Re: Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

Postby Iversen » Thu Apr 13, 2017 8:08 pm

Buy a good dictionary and maybe also a grammar while you are there - but preferably books written for foreigners. Then you have got them if you later on decide to learn the language or you want to look something up. I have had a number of dictionaries for exotic languages lying around, and in some cases I suddenly found a use for them - as for my best English<->Latin dictionary and my best (and only) Indonesian, which I both bought in a bookstore in Manila and my most comprehensive Albanian dictionary which I bought in Pristhin as a souvenir. Stocking up on other books only makes sense if you can get a translation - at least until you can read the language with the help of a dictionary.

Apart from that I concur that learning a few polite phrases and some practical vocabulary before even a short stay is a good thing ... and by all means, take some time to find out how to pronounce the language, at least at the level of one of those small language guides. And remember that Hungarians put the family name first.
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Re: Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

Postby Expugnator » Fri Apr 21, 2017 2:59 pm

I'd study a phrasebook - especially if it had accompanying audio. Even if most of the situations presented there wouldn't replicate in my trip, I'd still gain some familiarity with the language.

From my experience, even those short trips are helpful for improving your knowledge of the language, if only by just reading signs and product tags on stores.
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Re: Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

Postby smallwhite » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:20 pm

See this thread:
Heading back from Colombia: This was my experience using my Spanish

NoManches wrote:
If I could go back in time to before my trip here is what I would do:

1. ...
2. ...

From time to time people ask about how they can prepare for a trip (i.e. I go to a Spanish speaking country in a month, how can I prepare). I would definitely recommend number 1 & 2 on my list along with the following:

3. ...
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Re: Make the most of 1 week vacation where they speak an opaque language

Postby YtownPolyglot » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:47 pm

I live in a small town where there aren't so many bookstores. If I want to see a book or other learning aid before I buy it, my options are severely limited. I've got a decent selection available in Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish...and that's about it. If I am interested in anything else, it's not so easy. Obviously, I would make a beeline for the nearest store that sells two-way dictionaries and other resources. It's also another place where I can practice the language.
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