When I went to Spain, I did not know hardly any Spanish. I knew like an embarrassing amount of Spanish. I lived there for three months and deeply relied on my Spanish knowing friends. But, I remember the day I went into the tobacco store to buy stamps – yeah, they don’t sell them at the post office, cross-cultural work, it’s the best – and I actually asked to buy stamps in Spanish. I wrote it in my journal, “successfully bought stamps by myself today!”
However, I did not only communicate with people who knew English while in Spain. I started learning some Catalan Sign Language and Spanish Sign Language and hanging out with Deaf friends. By the end of the trip, I had deep, meaningful and fun conversations with friends in Spain in a language I didn’t know before I went there. Was I perfect, absolutely not. Was there a bunch of grace? Absolutely, yes. Did I rely on the Deaf people to order things for me at stores? You better believe it.
Sometimes people are shocked when they learn I know another language. They think, “I barely know my language, let alone another one!” Well, you’re smarter than you think! Language learning is not necessarily easy breezy for everyone, but it can be done by anyone at any age! And here’s a few tips how:
1. Find a language buddy
The thing that has absolutely helped me the most in any language learning situation is having someone who is a fluent speaker to talk to and with. In Spain, I had a friend that was a friend, so we had normal chats, but I also asked him several questions about, what does this mean? How do I say this?
But really, the only way to become natural and fluid is to find someone who knows the language and start chatting. Maybe you get lucky and your language buddy is a friend, but if you don’t have a friend in the language you want to learn, maybe you can hire a language buddy and soon you’ll become friends.
2. Learn to Laugh at your failure
This one is hard. This one can bite. This one is a huge humble pie. But language learning will make you look like an idiot. And feel like a baby. But guess what, learning like a baby would make you a genius. They listen and listen and then make mistakes and then grow and learn and practice and make mistakes and learn some more and grow and become masters. When you realize that what you’re doing took you years the first time, you can learn to forgive yourself and laugh with your language buddy when you say funny things like “soda” instead of “pop.”
3. Get a coach
There are people out there that love to learn languages and love to help other people learn languages. They have years of experience and practice and training. When language learning takes it’s toll and you’ve forgotten to forgive yourself, a coach if there to remind you that you’re doing great. When you feel like you can’t find a language buddy, they’re there for inspiration. When you feel like there is no motivation to continue to learn, a coach is there for accountability to remind you what you’re doing this for.
My good friend Nora is one of these people. You should check out some of her stuff by visiting her YouTube channel – link – and her blog – link (I actually make an appearance in one of her videos!).
Language learning is fun and a great way to connect with people. Give it a try and reach someone in their heart language.
What language do you want to try to learn? Leave a comment below!