Every year, I take a special language-focused trip abroad, with my friend and travel buddy Jan van der Aa.
We document everything on camera and upload it to YouTube, so you can see what we're up to and take inspiration from our activities.
Last year, you may remember, we spent 2 weeks in Thailand, studying Thai.
After just two weeks of study, deploying everything I know about language learning, I could hold an extended conversation in Thai – something I was super proud of.
So, now that 2017 is upon us, it's time for the next trip.
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Update: This trip is now complete! To view the entire video series, head over to the special playlist on YouTube here.
But where to go?
Well, there are a few criteria that factored into our decision:
Useful For You
First and foremost, these trips are language-based.
Sure, we like to travel, but we like language learning just as much (it enhances the travel experience, after all), and so every trip has to have a clear linguistic purpose.
Last year, for example, my aim was to learn “travel Thai” in 2 weeks, so I could travel round the country and not have to use English.
You got to see exactly how I set about learning a new language from scratch – the methods, tactics, tools… everything!
Many people wrote to me, in fact, to say how they were inspired to start learning Thai again, after many years of taking it (rather too) easy.
That's exactly the effect I wanted to have.
So, the focus of the trip needs to be useful for you.
But it also has to be realistic – the kind of thing that most people would be able to replicate themselves. Two weeks in Bangkok, for example, is something within reach of many people. 3 months in Japan, on the other hand, wouldn't be.
Jan's 100th Country
Jan has a goal to visit 100 countries before his 30th birthday.
His current status:
- 98 countries
- Only a few weeks to go before his 30th birthday!
Therefore, we thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate his achievement together – but of course, that meant visiting two countries, not one!
So we knew we'd have to cross at least one border.
I Don't Want To Start Another New Language
I'll be honest, I've been up to my neck in work recently.
Not only am I focusing 100% still on learning Cantonese, but I'm extremely busy with all my online activities…
- Fluent Spanish Academy
- My exciting new Conversations project
- A new Spanish beginners course (ready soon!)
In addition, I also learnt some Thai and German last year – from scratch.
Suffice it to say my brain is full, and I don't want to start learning a new language.
So, this year's trip couldn't involve a new language – it would have to be to a country where I already speak the language.
Introducing: Spanish Immersion In Mexico
Jan, on the other hand, has plenty of time and doesn't work much.
Only joking 😉
He does work sometimes…
After much discussion, we decided that Central/South America was the best place to go. It's an area that neither Jan or myself know very well, and we both already speak some Spanish.
However, this is where the focus of the trip becomes interesting.
Whereas last year was all about learning a new language, this year will be about something totally different: Language Immersion.
It will be a different experience for both of us:
- For Jan, Spanish is a fairly new language. He speaks some Spanish (maybe to an A2 level), but has never really focused on it
- My Spanish, on the other hand, is quite strong, as I've “lived” the language for many years (even though I've never lived long-term in a Spanish-speaking country).
As such, the challenge for Jan is going to be to take his very rusty Spanish and improve it as much as possible in 2 weeks through complete immersion in the language.
For me, it will be the fascinating experience of becoming familiar with a new variety of Spanish – Mexican Spanish – with which I'm not very familiar. (Here in the UK, we have more contact with Iberian Spanish).
So, the gameplan will be:
- Fly into to Cancún
- Spend some time travelling around the area, visiting some of the beautiful islands and ancient ruins
- Head down the coast towards Belize
- Cross the border and pop the champagne as Jan visits his 100th country
Along the way, we'll be taking every opportunity to speak Spanish, film everything, and discuss our experiences getting used to Spanish and the Mexican variety in particular.
We'll try hard to relate everything we do to the more general challenge of visiting a foreign country with the aim of getting immersion.
We'll discuss our experiences talking with people, challenges we face, and draw lessons about how to get the most out of an immersion experience.
Follow Along Behind The Scenes
If you'd like to follow along with the trip, you'll need to head over to our YouTube channels and social media accounts.
Please use the links below and be sure to subscribe:
If you have any requests of us on the trip, suggestions, or things you'd like to see in particular, please let us know in the comments below!
By the way, if you fancy learning some Mexican Spanish yourself, why not check out this video I made about 10 of the most useful Mexican Slang phrases? Enjoy!