My Strategy for how to Learn my next Language as a Digital Nomad / Traveler

by Jul 28, 2016English, Language Projects

I’ve been traveling and learning languages intensively for more than 10 years. Now I speak more than 10 languages and I want to give you the insights into how you can learn languages quickly and effectively as a digital nomad or someone who travels frequently.

For the next few months, I’m going to be focussing on learning Ukrainian as I will be based in part in western Ukraine and will need the language in order to immerse myself in the local culture.

Ukrainian is a Slavic language and has very high similarity in grammar and in vocabulary with other Slavic languages, like Belarusian (84%), Polish (70%), Serbian/Croatian (68%), Slovak (66%) and Russian (62%).

If you are interested in learning any other Slavic languages and not necessarily Ukrainian, my new language mission will still be of great help to you as the issues that I will face in learning Ukrainian will be very similar to those you are going to face with your Slavic language.


  1. Ukrainian Language and Culture School in Lviv, Ukraine (2 weeks)
  2. Private classes (X2 hours/week)
  3. Focus on the words and phrases that are useful to the digital nomad/traveler
  4. Build in contact with the language and country before I arrive
  5. Purposely travel to the country itself and apply what I’ve learnt
  6. Build on my base in Ukrainian to learn the language over the long term

Language School

For the first 2 weeks of my Learn Ukrainian Language Mission, I will be attending classes at the Ukrainian Language and Culture School in Lviv.

As I’ve been developing my personalized language learning strategy, I’ve moved away from traditional learning in the classroom to more personalized tuition and use of software.

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken classes in a language school (over 5 years) so going to a language school will also give me the perfect opportunity to reevaluate their effectiveness and value for money.

Private Online Classes

For Ukrainian, I’m going to take 2 hours of private tuition per week with a teacher that I found on The classes will be via Skype so they can be taken from anywhere in the world where there is a decent internet connection. I prefer private tuition as opposed to group classes as the focus is 100% on my interaction with the teacher.

In the lessons with my italki teacher, we will focus on the words and phrases that are useful to me in my personal situation as a digital nomad/traveler. Most language courses and lesson plans aren’t personalized enough and end up trying to teach the learner vocabulary that is not relevant to their needs.

People who are traveling extensively or have location independence need to emphasize specific vocabulary for the situations that they are likely to encounter. For example, everywhere I travel to almost the first thing I need to ask for is the wifi code in the cafe, restaurant or apartment that I’m in. The word for ‘socket’ is important as I will need to find it in order to plug in my laptop. Focussing on these scenarios and not on standard templates is a lot more effective as they are tailored to my individual needs.

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Click the image to buy 1 lesson & get a 2nd lesson free with italki!

Pareto Principle

By focussing on the most important words and structures, I will be implicitly applying the 80/20 rule of the Pareto principle. The principle states that as a rule of thumb approximately 80% of the effects come from 20% of actions that you undertake. By placing specific attention to these 20% of actions should bring about dramatically faster progress in learning Ukrainian.


Pronunciation has always been one of my weak points when learning a new language. This time I’m going to approach pronunciation more methodically.

  1. The first is to identify the sounds in Ukrainian and how they differ from my native tongue (English) and the other languages that I speak
  2. Next, I’ll practice making these sounds with a native speaker (my teacher from italki)
  3. I’m going to record my pronunciation and review it before even class for 10 minutes


I am definitely not a grammar ‘nazi’ and as such don’t get particularly excited about the prospect of learning about cases and syntax. With this in mind, I’m going to get a general overview of the language’s grammar and pay attention to the most important structures only.

  1. Begin by reading the Wikipedia page for the Ukrainian language
  2. Focus on the most important structures only in my classes with my Ukrainian teacher by using subsitution drills
  3. Pay attention to trends that are occurring in the langauge

A course I really like for intuitively improving my knowledge of the grammatical structures and vocabulary of a new language is Glossika and I will be using Glossika Ukrainian daily for about 20 minutes during this period.

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Click the image for the Glossika Mass Sentence Method!


Many language learners recommend using spaced repetition systems like Anki for memorizing vocabulary. I am personally not a fan of flash card systems. Normally I use a mnemonic (personalized memory aid) if I’m struggling to remember an important word.

I find it more effective to deliberately apply the vocabulary and grammatical structures that I’ve learnt until they are internalized.

Vocabooster Ukrainian

Click the image to find out more about Vocabooster!

This way they are used in a personalized context. Context is king for remembering new words! 🙂

  1. Listen to and read Glossika Ukrainian daily for 20 minutes
  2. Use a brand new course called ‘Vocabooster‘ to learn the first 600 words in Ukrainian – 35% off Vocabooster with my special discount code languagetsar2016 until 1 January 2017!
  3. Increase my comprehension of more complex vocabulary with LingQ
  4. Make a deliberate effort to apply new useful vocabulary in the Ukrainian Skype classes with my teacher

Natural Practice before Arriving in Ukrainian-speaking City

As I will not be located in Ukrainian-speaking cities, I will have to build up some spontaneous natural conversation in Ukrainian before I arrive there. This will include friends that I already have who can speak Ukrainian and partaking in Ukrainian cultural events outside the country.

For example, I was recently in the south of Brazil and visited a city with a strong nexus with Ukraine. In Prudentópolis, it’s possible o speak in Ukrainian (I used Russian as I haven’t learnt Ukrainian yet) with locals and see lots of traces of the Ukrainian traditions and culture. The same goes for any big metropolitan city, like New York or London. There are plenty of opportunities to build an interest in the language and culture before you travel to the country itself.

Ukrainian park Curitiba

Ukrainian Park in Curitiba, Brazil – Opportunities to explore the language and cultural exist outside the country as well!

Traveling and working from Lviv, Ukraine

In October 2016, I’m planning to apply the Ukrainian that I’ll have learnt after 2 months in the stunning city of Lviv, Ukraine. I will base myself there for a few weeks and immerse myself into Ukrainian language and culture. Having a short term objective should help focus my attention and increase my motivation to making consistent daily progress with Ukrainian.

Lviv is located in the very west of Ukraine close to the Polish border. It’s population is around 750,000 inhabitants. It is the big city in Ukraine where Ukrainian is the most widely spoken in daily life (in most big cities Russian is more widely used than Ukrainian).

Lviv has a unique ambiance and is littered with great bars, cafes and restaurants. It’s history has left vestiges primarily of Austro-Hungarian, Polish and Soviet architecture. It’s a city I really like to spend time with my location independence even if the weather can often remind me of my homeland of Ireland (it rains a lot 🙁 ).

Lviv market square

The objective: arriving in beautiful Lviv, Ukraine and applying my new skills in Ukrainian

Follow me!

I will be posting my progress videos on my YouTube channel, articles on my blog and clips on my Instagram throughout the next few months that will teach you how to deal with and overcome the obstacles that come with learning a new language. Moreover, I’ll be sending additional exclusive content to those followers on my mailing list so be sure to also subscribe to that here right now!

I encourage you to follow my progress and tell me what you think, ask me your questions and request the type of content you most prefer (in comments section below). 🙂

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