What's it like to finally travel to the country where your target language is spoken?

I’ve been studying Portuguese everyday for two years. Fortunately I also managed to locate many native speakers in my hometown and hangout with them every weekend. In a month I’m finally getting to go to Brazil for two weeks. I have some friends to visit there. Conventional wisdom out there is you mystmus must go to the country to learn the language. Of course we all know you can learn a language without leaving your living room! But if you did travel to the country, what was your experience like? Thanks!


Boa sorte with your trip to Brazil. I have mostly studied languages because I moved to a country where it was spoken and/or had regular access to such a country, so I haven’t exactly experienced what you’re about to experience.

But one thing you probably will notice is that you’ll come across everyday situations while you’re there that you might not have the vocabulary for or might not have thought about before, especially if you’ve just been learning ‘for fun’ and using real material, rather than ‘by the book’ role-playing practical situations. Can you read a menu in Portuguese, where a lot of fruits, vegetables etc have names that aren’t cognate with the French and Italian names that have influenced the English ones (just to give the first example to come to mind, the herb that is basil/basilico/basilic in ENG/ITA/FRA is manjericão in POR)? Do you know how to ask for things at your accommodation, whether you’re staying with friends or at a hotel/AirBnB (extra bedsheets, an iron, etc)? If you have to go to the post office / pharmacy etc for something, do you know how to ask for what you need?

In a nutshell, we probably all prefer the social aspect of language learning/speaking, but when you’re in the country, there’s a lot more ‘boring’ practical stuff that you’ll have to deal with. Even though I still think Spanish is my best language overall, I often find that French is the one where I’m more comfortable dealing with practical situations because I’ve lived in a French-speaking environment but not a Spanish one.

My first time out of the US was when I went to Spain in high school, having studied Spanish then. With the exception of movies like Sniper and Clear and present danger, and a brief ride on a public bus, I had never heard Spanish spoken by natives before. Moreover, I had never been out of the USA before.

It was tough to fathom at first that I was actually in a foreign country and that these otherwise regular looking people didn’t speak English. We got the window stuck open in our hotel room and I went to ask to the maid how to do it. She was very cute, a few years older than me, blonde with blue eyes and I froze, despite having practiced a lot what to say. Same thing with the host in the hotel restaurant when I wanted to ask him when they opened. I was deisgnated as the rep to ask. I had rehearsed my lines, actually squeaked out my question, and then had no idea what he said back.

Eventually I got into a rhythym for my every day needs, but we were still in the environment of a tour group. 10 years later, when I went back to Spain, and my Spanish was far better, I was able to do much better “on my own,” but as jungleboy said, many routine stuff and “basic” vocab was still a bit of a mystery. The menu was particularly tough.

Now that my Spanish is very good, I’m looking to make a totally solo trip for some major activation work before moving on.


when i visited a spanish speaking country for the first time it was chile it was a bit frustrating at first i could not get to grips with the accent in chile although i thought i spoke spanish well and knew decent vocabulary they were many words and slang i had never heard in my life that were unique to that particular country like mani ,palto ,chela (peanuts ,avocado, cerveja},however my knowledge did improve on that trip just spending time with the locals

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Hi thanks for the reply. I’ve tried to do as many things in Portuguese as possible in the US. It takes alot of creativity for sure. .My Brazilian friend has me hooked up on internet based Portuguese tv, so I can spend tv titime in Portuguese. I listen to news talk Brazilian radio via the internet everytime I drive somewhere. I attend a Portuguese speaking church and spend 8-10 hours per week with non English speaking friends. I read heavily too. I haven’t had much success finding online menus from Brazil to upload into LingQ. I havw. I have spent a good amount of time helping in the church kitchen however! I’ve been on a few road trips witI’ve with brazilians. I’m really craving time in the actual country now. The first thing I want to do is go to a store in Brazil! Sorry about the typos, I have a rabid auto correct phone!


From all of these significant, real life interactive experiences, like church and road trips, you’ll do great in Brazil!!

Here’s a tip to find 1600+ real menus in Portuguese:
find a restaurant that looks good.
Click on the website link, and read away!