Learning another language isn’t easy. Bottom line. I wish there was a magical pill you could take to all of a sudden be speaking another language. I wish I could tell you, “Give it a day or 2 and you’ll get it.” But the reality is there are going to be days when you are like, “Whaaat am I doing?! Am I ever going to get this?” Days where you will feel defeated, frustrated, and hopeless or break down crying in front of your teacher (like me).
Maybe I should have shared the good news first. Because there is good news! It’s normal. You’re normal. You’ll get there. You will learn the language you set out to learn if you keep going forward. It’s hard work but you can do it! Our motto in learning Spanish was “poco-a-poco” (i.e. little by little) —and that’s how it happened.
I had always wanted to learn Spanish and finally at the age of 28, I did! Yup—Calvin and I packed our bags and we went to Mexico through some connections we made in Kona. (Thanks, Kenia!) Truthfully, it was the hardest thing I had ever done…until I birthed a baby! Since then we have spent one accumulated year in Mexico and two years in Spain. We have failed a lot but we have learned even more!
Here are my top 3 tips for learning a language. I hope they help you!
GO to the place where the language you want to learn is the primary language spoken.
Yeah, you can have good intentions and use resources like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo — which we did and they will help you. But I found that being in the place motivated me so much more. Because every day, I ran into people that I wanted to communicate with — whether it was asking the price for the bus fare or trying to figure out directions. Gestures only get you so far when it comes to language. Also, I’m an extrovert and I just really wanted to be able to talk to people. Side note: Sometimes I think women learn faster in general because we talk more!
Take some formal classes.
Even if it’s just 1 month, it will help you so much understanding why, for example, in Spanish they say “casa roja” for red house when it looks like it’s “house red” in English. The grammar and rules, as crazy as they can be, will help you to have a great foundation. We went to about 3 months of private classes for 3.5 hours a day 5 days a week in Guadalajara. We never regretted the time we spent learning because it seriously has helped us even to this day. I am so thankful for you, Tere!
Be okay with making mistakes.
Actually get used to it. It’s okay. It’s how you learn! When someone corrects me I am much more likely to remember the correct way to say it. It keeps you humble. You really feel silly at times, like a baby really because the sounds are new. I remember our teacher would have us say the ABC’s in Spanish to practice the sounds and there were times Calvin and I would just crack up laughing because we felt like we sounded ridiculous. She would have us read the King James Version of the Bible out loud before we even knew how to say words. It really did help us to learn because she corrected our pronunciation which was wrong every other word. We have some hilarious fail stories but they are kind of inappropriate to share so message me if you want to hear them.
Some bonus tips would be:
- Know the why behind learning the language. Is it just to say you know it or what is the real reason motivating you? If you can identify your “why,” you will more likely stick it out when it gets tough.
- Take naps if you can because your brain is in overdrive and you need the rest! I remember EVERY day after class we would have a siesta.
- Practice all areas—-reading (out loud too), writing, talking, listening, watching (with subtitles) to learn even faster.
- Don’t give up. As much as you will want to quit at times keep pressing in. You WILL get it! I remember finally by the end of the 3 months I was communicating in broken sentences and sooo happy! It truly is rewarding.
I hope to learn another language besides Spanish. I am not sure what one yet or when but I know that 20 years from now I won’t regret learning a new language but only regret the language I didn’t learn. Learning a language opens up a whole new people group to you, a whole new world. There is such a satisfaction that comes from being able to communicate in someone’s heart language. So what are you waiting for?
How about you—have you learned another language? I would love to hear your experience and tips for learning a language!
Featured Image By Trae Gould
Written by Camille Hanson.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on theholisticpursuit.com.