One of the biggest challenges many confront when relocating to another country is the language barrier. We use language to communicate wants and needs, to ask for help, and get directions. And I am a big advocate of really embracing the new country you are moving to and one of the biggest ways is to learn the language. It’s bad form to move internationally and just expect the country to accommodate you in your language. Your presence here show me that you are willing and wanting to learn a new language and I commend you for taking the necessary steps. Currently I speak 2 languages; English & Spanish. English is my native tongue and Spanish I always admired from a far but never applied myself for years. We all get that year or two of language learning in high school but it’s rare that only that will take you to fluently speaking another language. People compliment me all the time when they hear me speaking Spanish and about 70% of the time they end with…I always wanted to learn to speak (insert their favorite language). So what we are going to go through are my best tips as a recovering procrastinator.
Study EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Yep, I said. Listen you are not going to become fluent studying one weekend every month. And let go of all those people that have these amazingly fast tracks to becoming fluent. This was a huge detractor for me. My favorite Spanish teacher learned in 3 months. Met someone out and about and they touted how they were fluent in 6 months. Listen, they are bragging but they are the exception but not the rule. I felt I was practically learning disabled trying to compare my pace to others. We are all different and we have differing rates at which we learn. Comparison is the devil. Run your race and you will find you will enjoy the run that much more.
You want to expose yourself to your new language everyday. If you have not moved yet then you will need to schedule time everyday to expose yourself to your new language. Build what you are looking to communicate based on your immediate need. For example when you meet someone that speaks that language what would you like to communicate. Learn the greetings and the following up statements. Base it off of how you normally talk.
Quick story. I used to work at Bridals By Lori best known for the TLC show Say Yes To The Dress; and one of my co-workers was explaining how she always wanted to learn Spanish but had no one to practice with. I took that as my queue and told her ok. We are going to greet each other in Spanish every day. And every day we are going to tack on to what you have learned. And for the course of my time there we went from Good morning to full sentences. To her learning how to express how her drive into work was to what her plans were after work. And one of the things she complimented was how easy it was to do it this way. Now, I was not there long enough for her to become fluid but I know I helped get a strong start. My whole point in this story is the language is building blocks. Don’t over complicate. Learn what you need and then build on it.
Another thing I used to do when I first committed seriously to learning a new language is I found a favorite program that I could get wrapped up in the storyline. That show happened to be Senor De Los Cielos con Aurelio! This program is so juicy. I don’t get as much time to indulge with 2 babies and a husband tugging at me but for about a 15 months I watched this show every single day. Initially in Spanish with English subtitles. And at first I was not sure if I was even doing it right until I noticed I was reading less and listening more. Also I would test myself by turning off the subtitles and listening to the words and watching the actors reactions. Here is one thing I learned. We all communicate the same basically and even when listening to our native tongue we don’t typically listen to every single word but to get the gist of what someone is saying.
Don’t just use books!
If I could do it again I would learn a language by listening. My biggest handicap (and still is) is relying so heavily on books that my learning and brain was tied into seeing the words. Books are helpful at explaining certain concepts and adding to your vocabulary but they can create a co-dependency that is difficult to shake. Books are supportive elements only.
Get 2 tutors
Yes, 2. I learned a ton more, a ton faster when I had a teacher whose native language was English because they explained things in a way my little American brain could process. And then I have had several Spanish teachers who this was their native language that were able to give me a way more in depth explanation on the how’s the why’s and pronunciations that I need. Now you don’t need to have them both at the same time. And honestly I only stumbled on this benefit because my original teacher had a situation and could not teach me anymore and so I ended up getting another teacher and having this whole experience that advanced me even further. My primary teacher was phenomenal but there were ways he was not challenging me that my next teacher did a great job at. I took a break from tutoring for a while and then had another teacher who was from my husbands country cause I was trying to acclimate my ear to their accent and I honestly can’t tell you how beneficial that has been.
I studied Spanish for m 6 months but could not speak a word…go on laugh. It was ridiculous. I studied in a book every day. I listened to podcasts in spanish; the best of which is the Spanish Dude. I love the way he explains things. He breaks it down so simple anyone can understand.
I was missing the key ingredient. I needed to speak. So after I got over my “I don’t want to sound stupid” phase I made a commitment to talk to any and everyone that looked even remotely likely they spoke Spanish. And to my surprise strangers were so nice and encouraging. It went a long way in encouraging me to learn more. At this time I was also drive for a rideshare service so I met new people every day. This is also how I met my husband. Cute story I’ll save for another time. The point is you are going to have to talk. That is the goal and you can shorten that learning curve by starting with talking from day one.
Talk Like A Baby
I consider myself a wordsmith in the English language. But in Spanish “I is basic”. LOL For real, yall. I always have so much to say but when I talk in Spanish I question if the nuance to what I am saying will translate well and then I quickly over think it and just say some basic shnit. LOL Laugh at me. I sure am. My bigger point is that you will start slow with 3 word sentences because that is all you know and you will be self conscious and then you will graduate to 5 word sentences. The point is to build the foundation and grow from there.
One day it will click
Language learning is a marathon not a sprint. Embrace the journey. Some concepts will sink and stick others you will hear and study for weeks and it just won’t stick. When I first started learning Spanish I was painfully slow. I would hear someone speak, have to visualize the words, translate in my head, and finally formulate my reply. And I kept thinking I can’t wait till this process is so fluid I don’t bat an eye. Let me tell you it happened well before I recognized it. One day I heard something in Spanish and I didn’t bat an eye. I understood the entire conversation and walked away thinking about what a funny thing the other person had said. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I was present during the conversation, I listened and responded and I didn’t get it caught up in my head about it. No over thinking. Just listened and responded.
Commit To The Journey
Learning a language is fun. It only becomes hard when we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and we compare our progress to others. They are not you. And if you embrace that it is a journey and build each day on your vocabulary and understanding of the culture that comes with it the funner (not a real word) it will become. Let me know in the comments what language you are learning. I would love to hear about your language learning journey.
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