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How to pick up a language on the flight over

15th October 2018

The French have a reputation for being unfriendly towards non-Francophones, but it's no secret that people all over the world love and appreciate it when you make the effort to speak a few words of the local tongue. So while you're not expected to spend weeks in evening classes prior to a holiday, you can learn a surprising amount by setting aside some time even just on the flight over.

Here are some tips directly from our travel advisors on how to break the language barrier before you even step off the plane.

  • Grab yourself a pocket dictionary, also readily available at the airport.

  • Download an app or two on your smartphone or tablet device. There are a wide choice available, so look for the chart ranking to see the most popular and choose the app that suits you best. Make sure you download before boarding your flight or better yet, start to familiarise yourself with the app a few days before your trip.

  • Print a one-pager from the web full of useful phrases before your flight or add the list as a handy note in your phone. Also handy to carry around during your travels.

  • Instead of trying to learn the entire syllabus, pick out parts you know will be useful, such as 'how much?' and your basic, 'yes', 'no', 'please' and 'thank you'.


A cursory glance won't help you much. Make a real effort as if you were studying for a test, get your travelling buddy to test you on words and phrases and practice saying them aloud. Give yourself a break from the hard study and watch a film in your focus language with subtitles. You might only pick up a few words but it will help you to learn the flow and pronunciation of the language and will get you used to listening for specific words. Don't forget to ask the air hostess for help. Usually they will speak multiple languages so they may be able to offer you advice on handy phrases, help you out with pronunciation and practice with you. Why not try asking for a bottle of water with your new found skills? Before you know it, those basic phrases and words will be rolling off your tongue faster than the luggage conveyor belt rolls out your bags. If you enjoyed this article, you might also like 'How to eat like a local'.