I figured this would be a cool thread to start as there are probably others who share my passion for learning new languages. I’m 36 now, and up until the age of 28 I spoke only English, but now I’ve added Spanish and French (both to a conversational level) and am hoping to expand in the future.
It mostly happened randomly. Back in 2012 I was just returning to the USA from a year stint in New Zealand. I was wondering where I would live next as I was an online poker pro looking to live abroad for the increased poker site options. Suddenly, Montreal came on my radar and as I researched it more and more I thought it might be cool to try living in a city where English is not the first option (albeit a widely available option if needed).
So I started learning French on Duolingo (and similar sites/apps) and realized I really enjoyed the process and it has been part of my routine ever since. Of course, before getting started I told myself “ok, I’ll start studying 6 months before moving to Montreal, an hour or two a day, and I’ll be fluent when I arrive!”. Of course, I was dead wrong and it’s a far more lengthy and challenging process than that, I could barely get beyond greetings when I arrived, but a process I found to be very rewarding and fun.
My new languages have opened up a world of opportunities in terms of travel, dating, social networking, consuming media, etc. and I’m sure many of us have intriguing anecdotes or helpful tips to share.
One tip I would share is that I think it’s extremely important to start listening to whatever you can in your target language as often as you can. Radio, podcasts, music, movies, series, etc. Even if you barely understand anything, just the process of listening can start to acclimate your brain to the new sounds you’re hearing. It’s also important to get out there and start speaking ASAP. You’ll make tons of mistakes, and everyone makes mistakes and thinks it’s the end of the world, but people tend to be patient and will be understanding and helpful.
I started with French, and for 6 months studied a ton of grammar. As such, I could read and write decently well, but couldn’t say or understand much at all. If I could go back in time, I would’ve devoted probably 60% of that time to listening and hiring teachers online to practice speaking. At the end of 2017, I learned from my mistakes with French and started learning Spanish. After about a year of Spanish I realized I’d probably already achieved the same level that took me about 2.5x as long to achieve in French. That being said, I think part of that is also that the brain is flexible, and tends to learn each successive language a bit faster as it gets used to the process.
Finally, I’ll leave with you an amusing tip/anecdote I used to really motivate me to learn my languages faster. I’m a pretty seasoned traveler, and after 2 years in Montreal, I wanted to keep traveling and keep going with my French language learning. So I decided I would sign up for an intensive French language learning course at a university in Lyon, France.
To get ready, I wanted to arrive in France with a level of French that was already fairly advanced. So I continued my grammar studies and also hired a few teachers on italki for an hour of conversation practice a couple hours a week. But I also discovered another solid resource: language partners. Of course there are millions and millions of people out there wanting to learn English, and instead of paying someone to talk to me, it’s possible to use a few sites/apps to find people to chat/write to half in English and half in my target language.
Once I realized that it was fairly easy to filter by age/gender/location, I had a brilliant idea. I would search for French speakers wanting to learn English who happened to be cute girls, roughly my age, living in Lyon! I spent roughly 6 months practicing with different lyonnaises, I think I probably had at least 1 Skype language exchange with 30 different girls. Eventually I narrowed it down to a handful of girls that were cute and (to the best of my knowledge) single. A couple of them the convos started turning flirty and we grew pretty close.
So eventually, the day came when I was set to arrive in Lyon. I already had 3 dates/language meetups set up before I was even on French soil! One of the girls I ended up dating for a couple months. Another became a great friend who I would eventually go on a week-long trip to Vienna, Austria with. A third girl had moved from Lyon to Mulhouse, France by the time I’d arrived. However, a couple months later I would pass through Mulhouse on an extensive trip through France/Germany and the girl offered to let me stay in a room in her apartment for 2 nights! This was without ever having even met, just a half dozen convos via Skype.
So I’d say my kill 2 birds with 1 stone plan of learning a new language, but at the same time using it as an opportunity for meeting girls/social networking was a rousing success! I would eventually use the same plan to set up a network of Mexican girls before my move to Mexico City and to a lesser degree in Colombia, for a 2 month visit there.