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Housesitting Abroad: Easy Ways to get Conversational in a New Language

House-sitter tips

For many house-sitters, the most interesting assignments are those in an exotic, foreign location. A housesit in the Peruvian jungle or the Ecuadorian Andes? On Mexico's Caribbean coast or on an island in the gulf of Thailand? A mansion in France or a Tuscan farmhouse? These are the sits that many house-sitters dream of, but not everyone has the courage to apply for a housesit in a foreign country. The language barrier is a hurdle for some people because they don’t feel comfortable housesitting in a country where they don’t speak the language.

But the lack of a language shouldn't be a reason NOT to apply for a Dream housesit - and thanks to the internet and apps, learning a language is now easier and cheaper than ever before. Gone are the days of tedious self-studying lessons with Rosetta Stone software or the pricey private tutor - nowadays, it is possible to learn a language quickly without breaking the bank and actually enjoy the process of becoming conversational in French or Spanish, for example.

Knowing more than a few words in the language of the country you're housesitting in will make the experience much more rewarding, since it allows you to connect with neighbours and delve into the local culture.
So how can you successfully pick up a new language before a housesit abroad?

Be realistic and set measurable goals

First of all, be realistic with your goals. If you start a housesit in France a month from now, becoming fluent in four weeks is probably not going to happen. Set a realistic time frame: if you agree to a housesit that starts three months from now, you're much more likely to succeed in becoming conversational in an unfamiliar language.
Also be reasonable about how much time you are willing and able to commit to studying a new language. If you have an hour a day, that's great, but you can get results with fifteen minutes a day, too - just have realistic expectations and most importantly, stay committed.
Set aside a certain amount of time every day that you'll use to learn the new language. Be serious about it, don't skip a day just because you don't feel like it.

Be specific about your personal language needs

When you start learning a new language, you usually start with the same simple vocabulary, no matter what language it is. Half of these words might be irrelevant for you though, and frankly, a waste of your time. Determine what exactly it is that you want to be able to say. As a house-sitter, you're most likely going to introduce yourself over and over again - where you are from, what are you doing, why you are there and other noteworthy facts. Then there are simple conversations, for example at the bakery, the local grocery store, or a coffee shop. Write down everything you want to be able to communicate, and then start learning right away how you'll converse instead of wasting hours on trying to understand grammar rules. That will come over time.

The best apps and websites to learn a language:

So which tools can you use to learn a language quickly? Nowadays, there is an ever growing number of resources online that allow us to study languages at no cost - free language learning websites, apps and even platforms that connect you with native speakers so that you can practice with someone who is fluent in that language instead of only studying by yourself. Here are the ones that you should definitely check out:


source: GoogleTranslate

GoogleTranslate is not really a language learning tool, but rather a translation tool; however, it is a great way to get started with all of the things you want to be able to express in the language of your choice. Simply type the text into the box, select the language of your choice, hit enter, and you’ll have a solid translation of your sentence. Hit the sound button and it will read your sentence, so that you can hear the pronunciation. GoogleTranslate is available for over 100 languages, and speech translation for 40 languages, and you can save translations. You can use GoogleTranslate online or as an app – the app is perfect for your housesit overseas, because it also allows you to take pictures of text and translates it for you, and lets you download language packs for when you are offline.

You can download GoogleTranslate for IOS and for Android.


source: DuoLingo

DuoLingo is probably the most popular and comprehensive free online language learning course, with 70 million users around the world. DuoLingo offers 54 different language courses across 23 languages, such as English, Spanish, German, French, Danish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Ukrainian, Esperanto, Polish and Turkish. The course focuses on speaking, writing, listening and reading and is set up in a way that makes language learning fun: you play games, answer questions after completing your lessons, and you learn new words every day. The app version of the course makes it easy to learn a language on the go.

You can download DuoLingo for IOS and for Android.


LingQ.com is, similar to DuoLingo, an online language learning course, which offers lessons in English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Swedish, Korean and Dutch. The courses focus on audio lessons, allowing you to listen while following along in the text. You can save new vocabulary in your personal database and review them using flashcards. You can use it online or as an app, which has a premium version with additional features.

You can download LingQ.com for IOS and for Android

Other language learning courses worth checking out are Busuu, Byki, Lingualia, Papora, the games focused Digital Dialects and the vocabulary focused Memrise.

Practice before you go

Once you start studying your vocabulary list and get a feel for the language by using the above tools, you will probably feel like you are making good process. However, it is a good idea to actually practice speaking the new language before you leave on your trip. That way you can check your pronunciation and see if people understand you, but more importantly, you'll be able to see if you understand them when they respond to you!

You will also get a feel for possible questions you'll be met with when you tell your story and introduce yourself, preparing you for further phrases you might want to learn. Roleplaying with a native speaker is the best way for you to practice and improve your conversational skills and make it easier for you to speak the language.

How can you practice your language skills?

There are several ways how you can practice your skills with a native speaker online – which is perfect if you live in a remote area with a small or no international community.
For a small fee, you could connect with a native on BuddySchool. There are thousands of natives who offer language tutoring via Skype for a fee, and you can select them based on the rating they received from other users. It’s a great way to practice conversations.

source: buddyschool

Italki works similar to BuddySchool – you can find native speakers here who either offer their services as paid tutors or in exchange for conversations and lessons in your native language.

Rhinospike connects you with native speakers to exchange audio files in a foreign language. You can get a text in a foreign language read aloud for you by a native speaker, helping you to get the pronunciation right.

Lang8 will let you post a text in the language you are learning, and a native speaker will correct it for you. In return, you are supposed to correct texts users submit in your native language.

If you live in a bigger city, you can connect with native speakers in person, which makes a language exchange a much more personal experience. You can look up language exchange meet-ups on websites like Meetup.com or Couchsurfing.

source: lang8

Author Bio

Dani Heinrich

Dani Heinrich is the vagabonding writer and photographer behind GlobetrotterGirls.com.
Dani, originally from Germany, left her home country in 2006 and has been nomadic since 2010, when she quit her corporate job to travel the world. Dani is an avid housesitter who has cared for cats, dogs, birds and fish in Asia, South America, Europe, the U.S., Canada and Mexico. With the motto ‘One Globe. No Regrets’, Dani has visited over 60 countries on four continents and has no plans to stop globetrotting any time soon.

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