Beautiful and functional: why markets are great for language learners

by Liz Rothaus Bertrand

When tourists travel to a new country, they usually fill their itineraries with museums, monuments, and super tall buildings for a birds-eye view of it all. So much to see and never enough time, right?

But there’s another destination that should be on every traveler’s list: a local market. It’s the ideal place to immerse oneself in the culture and traditions of a particular place, alongside the people who actually live there.

Outdoor or covered, tiny or gigantic — a market provides many opportunities for language learners to practice their speaking and listening skills. From discovering new ingredients and getting recipe tips to haggling over prices and chatting about the day’s weather, each market is a beautiful microcosm that’s perfectly adapted for language learning.  Here are ten tips to make the most of your visit:

 

 

  1. Enrich your vocabulary and take advantage of all the labels. They’re like flash cards on demand!

    Strawberries in Aix-en-Provence, France.  Photo by: L. Bertrand

     

  2. Practice your numbers. Ask about prices. Talk about quantities and measurements.

    Fruit and vegetables in Barcelona, Spain.  Photo by L. Bertrand

     

  3. Build your listening skills: how do local accents sound? What are common phrases that vendors or fellow shoppers use?

    Olives in Ajaccio, Corsica.  Photo by: L. Bertrand

     

  4. Ask questions, make small talk, find out something new at each place.

    Nishiki Market in Kyoto, Japan. Photo by: L. Wong

  5. Be ready to talk about yourself. Once you engage with others, it’s likely someone will ask you where you’re from and what brought you to this place.

    Fruit in Costa Rica.  Photo courtesy of: C. Snyder

     

  6. Come prepared: review phrases or vocabulary that could be useful and jot them down somewhere in case you draw a blank.

    Olives in Uzes, France. Photo by L. Bertrand

     

  7. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat information.

    Seafood in the Basque Country, Spain. Photo by: C. Snyder

     

  8. This is real life and you’re dealing with real people. Be courteous as you shop. Yes, you are a customer but you’re also a guest in this country.

    Vegetables in Nimes, France. Photo by: L. Bertrand

     

  9. Don’t forget your camera! Beautiful photo ops abound.

    Artichokes in the Basque Country, Spain. Photo by: C. Snyder

     

  10. Buy something! This is the chance you’ve been waiting for… find a unique souvenir or enjoy an impromptu picnic with your fresh finds.

    Cheese in Ajaccio, Corsica. Photo by: L. Bertrand

 

No plans to go abroad right now?

Even if you’re not traveling any time soon, you can visit one of Charlotte’s local markets to discover new ingredients and find out more about our diverse community. Vendors and shoppers come from many different cultural backgrounds.


Liz Rothaus Bertrand is a French instructor at The Language Academy of the Carolinas

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