Everyone has at least one language or skill they have on the back burner: The one they promise to get back to when they find the time, or the one where they reached the fluent threshold and believe that study is no longer important.
I used to be fluent in Spanish. I studied religiously through high school. I was one of those students that others claimed to be natural at acquiring a language. In reality, I just studied regularly in a class full of slackers.
In the summer before senior year of college, I lived in Cusco, Peru for 3 months and then traveled around Argentina for a month. It was the greatest experience of my life, and I was soaking up Spanish like it ain’t no thang. I could crack jokes that made Cusceños hold onto their sides. I could argue and haggle with shop owners like I was a local. I became a regular- I had my favorite cafes and bars. I dreamt in Spanish every night.
The mind is an incredible thing, and I saw its power first hand while traveling through South America. If you’re scared of going to a foreign country because you don’t know the language- don’t be! Your mind will do everything in its power to get what it needs. You won’t even realize the amount of words you’re picking up subconsciously until they come flowing out of your mouth. Believe me, there have been numerous times when speaking where I thought, “Where the hell did all of these words come from?!”.
Within a week of being in a foreign country, you’ll be able to get by with key words and phrases. A few weeks after that, you’ll fill in more gaps. Your mind will be so used to hearing the foreign language and trying to speak it, that it will come to you so easily the more you’re immersed.
It was such a triumphant feeling to come back home, knowing I honed a highly valuable skill. For weeks thereafter, I promised myself I would continue studying. Of course, we all know where this story is heading. I got busy with school and didn’t fit Spanish study into my schedule. I rationalized my lack of study by believing that it wouldn’t severely degrade my proficiency level. I just thought that I was fluent, and that was that.
Fast forward a few years and I’m chatting with some friends from my South American trip. I’m stumbling with my words. I’m not conjugating correctly. It’s taking me much longer to even start a sentence. I know the language is in there, dormant. I keep telling myself that I need another immersion trip to South America, like the travel junkie I am. I need another hit. Just. One. More.
I’m aware that backpacking can be cheap and I could scrounge some dollars together, but not this time. I’m determined to create an immersive environment at home. I’ve already changed my iphone and facebook into Spanish. That’s huge considering I’m always staring at my phone and checking facebook. I’ve joined a subreddit called Total Annihilation Challenge - Team Spanish, or TACTeam_Spanish. I’ve already broken the binding on my new advanced Spanish grammar book. I have a Spanish newscast playing in the background, and I’m trying to find the perfect book to kick off my proposed Spanish book club. A promising start.
So, from one language learner to another, I’d like to give you a list of my favorite resources.
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Free online language learning resources:
Books and Audio
Michel Thomas - Also, check our their free mobile app!
And don’t you dare ever tell yourself that you can’t learn a language! I will come through the internets and hit you over the head with a grammar book. Don’t you dare roll your eyes at me! I’ll smack that sass off your face so hard you’ll be speaking in tongues in no time!
Language isn’t a skill that only a few people are naturally gifted with. It’s an innate skill. Sure, it takes time, but doesn’t everything? It’s human nature to want to connect to others. Language is a tool for us to express our needs and wants. If you really wanted to learn a language, as in actually taking the time to study, your mind will accomodate the new language, I guarantee it.
No excuses. Start learning.
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