Our exciting adventures in Italy, Peru, Nepal, New Zealand, and even the American Southwest expose our clients to brand new languages. Over the years, I’ve found that learning a language is like hiking a trail that climbs higher and higher. Higher elevations mean better views, but how do you get there without getting tuckered out? Here are three more tips that provide encouragement as you go.
First, think big. Usually, the vocabulary for “small” words in other languages differs greatly from their English equivalent. Nothing about “tenedor” and “cuchillo” in Spanish hint that they mean “fork” and “knife.” By contrast, “university” and “institution” in Russian sound a whole lot like their English equivalents. So when in doubt, use a longer word. Not only will it be easier, it may make you sound smarter too!
Second, let verbs help you. Conjugation of verbs for 1st, 2nd and 3rd person endings, singular and plural, and tenses (past perfect, etc.) takes painstaking study. Instead, place an auxiliary (or “helping”) verb before the infinitive of the verb you have in mind. Hard to say “hiking?” Substitute “be able” + “to hike” to get the same point across. Native speakers will never notice the difference.
Third, learn what to say when you have nothing to say. Even fluent speakers unconsciously say something aloud while they figure out what to say next. In English, we may say, “Um.” However say “um” in French and you’ll be instantly recognized as a foreigner. Ask a native speaker what they say in such situations and insert it into your speech. You’ll sound like a local…even when you have nothing to say at all.Tweet