How To Become Fluent in Any Language
— or rather, “How To Be One Happy Alien Anywhere In The World: The Most Realistic Approach, Tried and Tested!”
If you ever read any of my stuff, you will notice my grammar is flawed.
I should spend more time proof-reading my stuff.
But I am always too excited to share what’s in my mind with the rest of the world.
So I just hit “publish”.
When you are not writing in your native language, you have two options:
- Be judgmental of yourself and not get anything written, or
- Just get it OUT!
…which leads me to my number one tip for those of you who are beginning to venture into multi-lingual reality:
#1 — Don’t Be Afraid
I did not know what social anxiety was until I moved to the United States.
Who would know it would be so hard to pick up on cultural boundaries, on what’s offensive to say or not, and the over-all “gist” of things…. when you are a complete alien to the local culture.
People seldom think about how hard it is to be as charming and funny as they are right now… in a completely different cultural context.
You may think you are easy going and that you can just get along with everything. But how well would you be able to pick up on those little things when you know neither the language nor the culture dictating the customs of the country you now find yourself in?
Imagine making your jokes and silly puns when you… don’t know what references the people you are talking to even have.
This can be terrifying.
So instead of shutting down completely and being afraid of any social interaction at all, the most important thing to do is to be courageous.
Own up to it. Yes, you are not from this country. Yup, you do have an accent. You will ask stupid questions sometimes. You may make people repeat themselves and spell names that are ridiculously common to them.
Just deal with it.
Whether you are writing or talking, be honest. If people are not willing to give you any attention and make the effort to understand you, they are simply not the type of people a globalized world needs anyway.
And that’s okay.
If you signed up for a foreign experience (and if you are willing to practice and speak a different language) that already shows that you understand the importance of truly speaking someone’s language.
And there is nothing nobler than setting all your imagined limits aside for the sake of communication.
#2 — Go Tabula Rasa
If I could go back, perhaps the tip I would give myself would be: “Just watch.”
No matter how many Spanish lessons you have taken or how much time you spent researching French customs on travel blogs,
what it’s like
A “tabula rasa” approach will save you a lot of embarrassment. Don’t enter a scene assuming you already know something. You don’t. You’re an alien. You need to watch and learn.
Part of my deception was being convinced that I knew enough English to make friends, express myself and have a good time. And I was dead wrong.
The truth of the matter is: you will not be fluent until you’re “flowing”.
The same way your thoughts and your conversations flow in your native language, there is no way you can experience that same level of fluency unless you have lived in that culture yourself.
Language is culture.
There is no way you can truly communicate with someone unless you really understand their customs and where they come from. Period.
Once you accept you will never become truly fluent on another language unless:
- you get to spend a lot of time talking and practicing with someone and
- spend some time living in said language-related culture
You will then be able to start working on my personal favorite:
3 — Watch Tons And Tons And Tons (Did I Say “Tons”?) of TV
Before I moved to the U.S, I watched all ten seasons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S three times.
The first time, I watched every single episode in English with Portuguese subtitles.
The second time, I watched it all in English with English subtitles.
The third time, I watched it all in English without subtitles.
I was young back then, so I had a lot of free time. I know it can be unrealistic to devote this much time watching TV when you have bills to pay (cough).
However, this is by far the most phenomenal way to get used to another language.
Because any film production will not only reflect the culture of its origin, but it will also show you what expressions and social cues are actually used in said culture.
Brazilians don’t judge Americans for everything we see in shows like “Super Size Me” or whatever happens in “The Simpsons”.
(Just kidding. We do. *giggle*)
So there’s that. Also, watching movies and series you have already seen is extremely helpful. Looking into the lyrics of your favorite songs in the language you are trying to learn can do wonders, too.
After all — If you can’t relate to their music, how hard will it be to relate to them?
AND FINALLY, books.
…because reading is what?
I re-read all books from “A Series of Unfortunate Events” in English. I did the same with the Harry Potter series and, of course, one of my personal favorites: The Little Prince.
Most of your favorite stuff is available in the language you are trying to learn. And it is much easier to understand a story you already know.
If you found this to be helpful at all, give me some love! ❤
And if there is something you would like to see me writing about, please write a response!! I would love to hear more from any readers out there! ❤ ❤
And… Adeus!!! ❤ ❤ ❤