There are several fun ways to learn a new language, but what better way than to combine it with one of the things we enjoy most in life– food! Practicing a language through cuisine is exciting because it is an everyday, simple, and delicious subject that resonates with us all.

learning - Cocina

Portrait of two young women using laptop and digital tablet at outdoor cafe smiling happily and looking at screen

The best way to begin learning vocabulary in a new language is to practice it in a well-known context that you will utilize often… and there are few things we do more often than eat! Download the Rosetta Stone app and let’s get started!

Through gastronomy, not only can you learn a new language, but you can also learn more about the history, culture, geography, and traditions of the people who speak that language natively. 

Language-learning with food can be much more than just ordering from a bilingual menu. Read on for some ideas about how can use cuisine to learn a language and put it into practice in a fun and entertaining way.

Go to a restaurant and place your order in the language you are learning

Not only is it the perfect excuse to go out on the town with your partner or friends, but trying new restaurants and placing your order in the native language (presuming the waitstaff also speaks the language, of course) will also help you practice in a real-world situation.

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Waitress Takes Order In Restaurant Using Digital Tablet

This is an excellent exercise if you are traveling in a country where they speak the language you are learning. In addition to sightseeing, you can really immerse yourself in the culture of the city and gain practice speaking in the native tongue while also sampling delicious regional dishes.

Want to take your fluency a step further? Try placing a takeout or delivery order in the language over the phone! Not being in person helps you hone your listening comprehension because you don’t have body language, lip-reading, or other context clues to help you translate. Before making the call, you can prepare a “script” of what you might say, possible questions that they might ask, and the responses that you might use. This will help you feel more confident and keep from freezing on the phone. Don’t be afraid to ask the person on the other end to slow down or repeat themselves for you to understand!

Watch your favorite cooking show in another language

By now you have probably met someone who has learned a new language by watching television programs in that tongue. This is an excellent learning technique, and you can take it to the next level by connecting it with culinary entertainment.

Currently, cooking competitions featuring famous chefs are wildly successful. This is no coincidence, since their fame is mainly due to the exquisite dishes they prepare that make everyone’s mouths water. It is also super entertaining to observe the precise methods used by these culinary professionals when it comes to preparing their incredible dishes.

The trick to making this practice more effective is to put the subtitles in the language that you are learning instead of your native language so that you can enhance both your reading and listening comprehension skills.

Go to the supermarket with the shopping list in another language

Another easy and fun practice is to create your shopping list in the language you are learning. This will help you learn new terms and strengthen your memory when searching for the items on the shelves.

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Couple in the supermarket. Cropped image of girl leaning on shopping cart, using a mobile phone and smiling, in the background her boyfriend is choosing food

But don’t cheat when you’re in the store! Leave your cell phone in the car, or delete the translator app if you have to keep your phone on you. Do your best to hit each item on your list. If for some reason you get confused and choose an incorrect item, do not worry! Use it as an excuse to get creative in the kitchen.

Note that you may need to build extra time for shopping into your schedule to do this exercise, but combine it with your “study” time and it will be well worth it!

Get in the kitchen with someone native to the language

This was one of my favorite ways to learn the native language of my grandmother. I helped her prepare her secret chocolate cake recipe that she hadn’t revealed to anyone else. To help her, I read the ingredients aloud while she patiently explained the preparation and technique in her native tongue.

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Happy granddaughter looking at her grandma while cooking

If you do not have someone with whom to cook in the language you are learning, practice saying aloud the different terms in the recipe– like the names of the ingredients and the words that describe the cooking process– as you are cooking. And be sure to choose a dish from a country where they speak the language! This may even encourage you to actually make all those recipes that you have saved on Pinterest.

Be Our Guest! Host a “cultural night” for your loved ones

How much fun would it be to host a dinner party for your friends or family featuring food that is typical of the region whose language you are studying. AND you can impress them by presenting it in that language. You can create a special menu and serve them the exquisite dishes of the region, using your language skills to explain what it is.

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Group of diverse friends enjoying summer party together

If this makes you nervous, don’t overthink it!  You can create place cards that name the dishes and include the translations, or even create a menu card so that you can practice writing in the language.  The memories that you create will be priceless, and surely the night will be remembered for the beautiful experience that you curated, as well as for your creativity in stepping out of your comfort zone and taking on something new.


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