Language Skills

Skills
Chicks dig dudes with mad skills

Chicks dig dudes with mad skills. Today I’ll cover one of the most important types of skills to have this day & age: language skills. Language skills are some of the most valuable skills in existence, and their value ranks just a little bit below ninja skills and right around technical skills.

The ability to speak another language or several is one of the most beneficial and rewarding talents available to us today. Especially today, in this increasingly connected world. It’s much easier to travel than ever before, and also much easier to learn a new language. Of course, the best way to learn a new language is to travel to a place which speaks that language, hands down. If someone really wants to learn a language, I believe he/she can do so, and learn that language fluently, in a matter of months. Not years, months.

Note: If you equate “fluent” ability with “native” ability, you need to go back and check your etymology. “Fluent” comes from the word “fluid”, as in “to flow”. To be able to speak without having to stop for breaks to think of words and phrases, where the conversation just flows, this is what I mean by speaking “fluently”.

Anyone who really wants to learn a language can do it, and it’s not that hard these days. Here’s my simple 2-step method for learning a new language.

  1. Do some pre-country prep work.
  2. Go to your country of choice and start speaking.

That’s it.

I’ll break it down:

Pre-Country Prep Work

a) studying the country you want to visit
-> This is easy. Skim the Wikipedia article for that country. Also check out the WikiVoyage article for the same. This will give you a better feel for the country & people.

b) Studying the language. Learning the absolute basic phrases that you need to get around.
-> Here’s where the work comes in. Get some help. There are tons of free resources out there. LiveMocha.com, Coffee Break French and Coffee Break Spanish are all free. Pimsleur is probably the best for short-term and to learn the accent, but it’s expensive. Rosetta Stone will teach you both audio and also how to read/write/spell (very important). If you don’t have the cash for those, you might be able to get them from our friends in Sweden*. Also, Benny has some great tips at Fluent in 3 Months. Jennifer has a great site with a lot of info on several languages, which really helped me a lot when I was learning Spanish. How to Learn Any Language is another good one, both inspirational and has resources. Point is, there’s a lot out there, and it’s not hard to find if you really want it.

In-Country Actual Work

This is where the magic happens. Go to the country. Start speaking. You will be embarrassed to start speaking at first, that’s normal. Just get over it. Just start speaking {in that language}. You will learn so much in your first 2-3 weeks of speaking that language, and by the end of a couple of weeks, people will start to tell you that your {French, Spanish, whatever} has improved so much since you first came. This will give you a huge boost of inspiration you to keep speaking and learning more & more.

You’re halfway to fluency already! No joke, it really is that simple. Note that I didn’t say easy, just simple. Most people make it way more complicated, and make a lot of excuses as to why they just can’t learn a language. I don’t even like the word “can’t“. (Also, I find that people who make frequent use of that word tend to lead boring and unexceptional lives. Stay away from those people.)

Practice your language every opportunity you get. Hostel reception staff, bartenders, store clerks, waiters, people at the bus stop, baristas at the cafĂ©, etc. I’m serious, try to think of ways to ask questions to people and such. You won’t always understand their responses, but that’s ok. You can sort of figure it out just with body language and gestures.

Within 3 – 4 weeks in-country, if you have been diligent about this, you will be doing all these things in your target language. You will be able to get around with ease. Maybe you will need to ask for directions somewhere, but that’s ok. You are confident that you now have the skills to ask for directions and many more things because you’ve been doing it for the last few weeks. You will be able to go to any country that speaks your target language and get around. This is a huge confidence booster.

You Will Be Fluent

I am 100% serious, the only thing stopping you from becoming fluent in a langauge once you’re in-country is your own fear of looking stupid. Don’t expect the world to speak English, and in fact, avoid English when you can and you will be fluent in your new language within a few months. I promise. Or your money back (unless you actually paid me money, in which case you won’t be getting any of that back).

You know, I might be able to package this info into an e-book and sell it for $37! Not really. But Benny has one you can buy, and it’s pretty good from what I hear.

* I am just suggesting options for language learning. I don’t advocate piracy in any way, shape or form. Except this one.

2 thoughts on “Language Skills”

  1. Thanks for the link love 🙂 While I agree the pressure to speak is immense in the country, I have seen so many foreigners get into the protective English-speaking bubble that it’s really not as simple as that.

    I wasted six months in Spain not improving my Spanish at any useful rate because I was going with the “Practice your language every opportunity you get” idea. I did practice with random people I met, but the deal breaker came when I changed my lifestyle such that speaking Spanish for several hours a day was necessary; i.e. hanging out with natives INSTEAD of English speakers. This is vastly superior to just looking for opportunities with strangers, and it’s something that doesn’t require moving to the country (although I’ll admit that makes it easier, and that’s of course what I do).

    Speaking it every chance you “get” still leaves you with a total of just a few minutes of practice a day. I advance quickly because I literally am immersed for several hours in the language due to chatting with friends.

    In fact, I maintain on my site that travelling is by no means necessary to again fantastic language skills. I actually learned the vast majority of my Portuguese before ever going to Brazil and already arrived with a confident conversational level. I improved my German even in Colombia from just hanging out with a German couple very regularly.

    I encourage more people to travel, but too many are scared of this (and use excuses to hide that fear), so when you tell them they can start speaking right now today, they really will have to admit that they BS excuses can’t be relied on any more.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Benny!

      I actually started the same way in QuĂ©bec that you did in Spain — the fact that MontrĂ©al is very bilingual didn’t help my French practice. It wasn’t until I went to QuĂ©bec City that I started really putting my French to use, and that’s when the real learning began.

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