1. There are two myths that go hand-in-hand

1) You cannot learn a language unless you physically visit the country where it is spoken

2) You automatically learn a language when you physically visit the country where it is spoken

In short, the idea is that physical travel is necessary, and also sufficient.

2. Let me be clear.

I am NOT saying that travel isn't helpful. Certainly it can be, especially if you study in advance.

But that's the point. Prior study followed by exposure is what does it. Preparation, then being in an atmosphere where using the language isn't weird - its necessary.

In the 1970s and 80s, being immersed was impossible unless you traveled to another country or visited an immigrant neighborhood.

I think it's important that we talk about this. Here's why....

3. These myths still exist. They were deeply demotivating to me when I was younger. They demotivate people now. And they simply are not true!

I've met people who have NOT traveled to a country of their target language, but who have learned that language and the culture.

I've met people who have traveled the world, yet know very little about other languages and cultures (and often have little respect for the countries they visit!)

4. I know people who have lived in another country for *decades* and yet barely speak the language.

AND, I know other polyglots who have come to the same conclusions as I have on this.

Again, travel can be great, of course. But it's no longer absolutely necessary for fluency and - this is very important - there are obstacles to travel that are rarely discussed.


* Lack of savings
* Unfavorable exchange rate
* No ability to work/earn in target country
* Living in a restrictive authoritarian state
* Target country is a restrictive authoritarian state
* Inability to obtain a visa/ negative relations between your country and target country
* Instability/conflict/war
* Physical risks of travel itself
* Climate
* Health care of target country
* Corruption
* Life obligations - family, job
* Physical disability
* Views on LGBTQ+ in target country


6. These concerns need to be taken seriously. Marketing doesn't portray these concerns. Neither do many language materials.

We live in the real world. This is a big area of focus for me:

How to experience Immersion (I call it saturation) of the language and culture without the need for cross-border travel (CBT).

How to have that international experience right where you live.

@TheDigitalGlobalCitizen I say extensive exposure for media consumption, and interaction for, well interaction in the language, which includes online interaction.

@zombiecide I agree. And there are so many ways to interact online now. Text, video, audio chat, video chat. But also participation in immigrant communities.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Polyglot City

Polyglot City is the right instance for you if you're interested in linguistics, languages, language learning, or translation, or if you're multilingual or polyglot. All languages are allowed to flourish on our timelines, and multilingual puns are welcome. And of course you're also free to talk about other things besides language.