Language Learning: Pros and Cons of Practicing in the Car

 In Travel Tips

In a week my flight will be landing in Switzerland. Have I learned a word of German yet? No of course not.

I have been practicing my Italian however.

Mike and I have been listening to the Pimsleur Italian Short course I picked up from the library ever chance we get. Dek is so tired of hearing me say “Dove via Veneto?” that he starts to protest whenever he hears the discs come on.

I do notice a difference though. Whenever I am listening and repeating phrases every once in a while Dek chimes in and repeats a phrase too. He actually corrected me the other day. I was in shock! I almost slammed into the car in front of me. Don’t worry. I didn’t actually hit anyone.

You should have seen the smile on my face. Never have you seen a mama so proud.

Obviously Dek is picking up a few terms just by listening with me in the car. He is learning more by watching the Muzzy language videos and doing their vocabulary DVD, but it is definitely being reinforced with my own studies.

Learning in the car is not easy. It’s actually really hard if you have two kids, one of whom craves your constant, verbal attention.


  • Dedicated time where you can do nothing but listen
  • Your kids can learn along with you
  • You can repeat the phrases out loud without anyone giving you funny looks
  • You can learn in small chunks, making it easier to remember 


  • You can’t SEE the phrases you are repeating. I find it hard to remember things I can’t take in visually as well as audibly.
  • Interruptions from kids in the back seat needing food, who are bored, or just don’t want to listen to what they consider gibberish.
  • There are other things, like the cars in front of you that you have to pay attention to while also trying to listen to your language discs.

The trick is to stay with it.

Don’t let all of the cons outweigh what you are picking up in small doses. You are learning, even if you don’t see quick results. Stick with it and don’t give up.

After all, I can now ask for “something to eat” and “something to drink.” We’ve come a long way from “where is Veneto street?”

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Showing 6 comments
  • Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    I actually have done this either while driving or flying (weekly work travels; though harder to repeat out loud!). Pimsleur actually has a great method – I did their Italian course too and it worked very well. One thing I would comment on is that, while it is hard to not see the words, it is better to not see them in the long-run. I hate that part too but I have learned over time it is better. Cheers!

  • Steve

    You can ask for something to eat. You can ask for something to drink. Learn the Italian word for “bathroom” and you should be good to go!

  • Vacation Wanderer

    I have used the the full Pimsleur courses religiously and have found them to be incredible. I finished THAI 1, I had the full German Set, and I did the Russian 1 course. My Thai is doing well and I redo the course for refresher. I never liked Rosetta Stone. I got the Thai and Turkish lesson sets and why I have to learn “The boy is on the plane” is beyond me. Whats the kid doing on the flight line in the first place! Where are his parents?!?!?! LOL Pimsleur in my opinion is the best! Good luck and keep it up! 🙂

  • Allison

    I’ve never tried to learn a language this way, but I’ll be interested to hear how your efforts pay off after the trip!

  • Tonya @ The Traveling Praters

    I’m beginning to think I should try Pimsleur with my kids for our Europe trip. Yep. That’s right- you’ve encouraged me. 🙂 My husband and I were talking it over tonight and think 2014 may be a good year for a trip overseas. That means I’m counting on you for tips after your trip. But no pressure or anything. 🙂

  • Michele @ Malaysian Meanders

    I’ll have to look into Pimsleur. Our school uses Rosetta Stone for their language classes, but parents still have to pay the fee for it. And good job, Dek! As a backup plan, you could just pull out a picture dictionary and point.

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