Learning a foreign language is like unlocking your girlfriend’s iPhone. You just gotta go for it. If the numbers work, you cracked the code. If not, she’ll be notified by Apple that you’re an insecure crazy person who needed to know if Craig was just a friend, or if she fucked him in your Subaru Impreza even though she already told you she didn’t. What I’m tryin to say is when you wanna learn a new language, you gotta go for it. If you’re too scared to put yourself out there and don’t practice with everyone you bump into who speaks the language, you’ll never make it.
DON’T TRANSLATE IN YOUR HEAD!
It’s like that first time your dad let go of the bicycle when you had no training wheels on. You’re doing it! You’re speaking another language! There’s no time to translate what you wanna say cause you’ll start thinking and crash! Just keep going! If you look wobbly, it’s all good if the bike is still in motion. Learning a foreign language is about getting from point A to point X. You’ll get there if that’s your goal and don’t care what you look like getting there. If the words that come out of your mouth aren’t perfect, that’s okay. They just need to keep you in motion.
Don’t Practice; Communicate
Learning a foreign language isn’t about words; it’s about communication. Try and vibe with the person you’re speaking to. Don’t try to impress them. They won’t be impressed. They simply want to know what it is you’re trying to say. Plus, people like helping. When you’re traveling, the waiter is just as anxious to help you learn the language as you are to practice it, but at the end of the day you gotta tell him how you want your steak cooked, right?
Learning a Foreign Language Like My Uncle
See, my uncle was in Spain in a cab one day a while ago and he was talking to the driver as he sat in the back of the car. He wanted to practice his spanish that he had been studying for years so he asked the cab driver about his wife. The cab driver’s wife was not doing so well. He told my uncle she had to get complicated surgery. The conversation got to a point where my uncle felt humiliated. He wanted to express how embarrassed he was and so he said “estoy MUY embarazado.”
The cab driver erupted in laughter.
What my uncle didn’t know is “embarazado” doesn’t mean embarrassed. It means pregnant. My uncle had just told his cab driver that he was VERY pregnant.
But that’s how you do it! That’s how you learn a foreign language! You risk sounding like a goddamn moron so you can connect with another human being!
Tips for Learning a New Language – Say Important Shit, Even When You’re Practicing
The best tip for learning a new language is to truly want to say something (and if you have nothing to say, just don’t speak). Don’t practice with meaningless banter. Say something important. That’ll get you outta your head. If what you wanna tell someone is important enough, it won’t matter how horrible you sound saying it. How you sound is not important. Getting across what you wanna say is the only thing that matters cause that’s the whole point of learning a foreign language: to communicate with someone you wouldn’t normally be able to communicate with. You’re not signing up for a spelling bee here, you’re just tryin to chat it up with some stranger.
Don’t Speak English in Another Language.
Don’t say the sentence in your head and then translate it to the language you’re trying to speak. It’ll come out all wrong. Just say it. Don’t speak English in another language. That’s not how it works. That’d be like trying to translate baseball into basketball. They’re two different sports! What makes for a good baseball game will NOT make for a great basketball game. Especially figures of speech. They won’t translate.
Stay in motion. Don’t pause to figure shit out. You’ll lose your mojo and get shaky. Then nobody will understand you.
The Key to Learning a Foreign Language – Be Interested in Others
If you wanna get to know someone bad enough, the language barrier will break. Like this one time in Medellin when I was in an Uber…
My Spanish was pretty fluent, but still I felt like I was stuck to some basic shit. That’s probably why I had ten different relationships with chicks that only spoke Spanish and Portuguese for so many years… Cause our conversations were about basic shit. The second something complex came up and we disagreed on it, the romance was lost. But anyway, on this day I asked my uber driver where he was from, and he told me:
Bello was the city right next to Medellin. I asked if it was safe where he lived. He replied with a look that said it all: You don’t understand how Colombia works. He said:
“You go to New York and you get murdered, right?”
Right then the communication barrier was lost. I knew that I had to somehow tell this guy that you would NOT get murdered if you went to New York.
I said in many broken Spanish sentences that certainly getting murdered in New York was NOT a common fear. I told him there were more dangerous cities than New York but even in those cities you’d really have to go outta your way to get murdered. I said words I never knew I learned in that conversation. I wasn’t concerned about the sentences, I was only concerned that he got my point: New York is not like you see in the movies. It’s not like Gotham. It’s got some bad parts, sure, but (at least prior to COVID) it’s like one of the safest cities in the world.
That’s why learning a new language is so important: Cause you gotta tell your side of the story of what it’s like on your side of the planet. I’m over here askin this dude if Bello is as dangerous as Medellin, and he’s over here tellin me we all get murdered in America.
How to Teach Yourself a New Language is also like How to Learn Kung Fu…
You wanna know how to teach yourself a new language? It’s kinda like learning kung fu. When I was practicing praying mantis kung fu in Boulder, Colorado, I wondered why we learned all these forms and shit. Then I realized that the forms were only a way to memorize a bunch of moves at once. It’d be really hard to memorize seventy types of kicks, but if they’re all arranged in some kinda dance, it’s much easier to remember them all. But you can’t use seventy different types of kicks anyways unless you’re a character from Mortal Kombat.
You gotta pick the few kicks that you like and leave the rest. That’s kinda like a new language. In fact, that’s one of the best tips for learning a new language: Don’t try and use all the words at once. Just cause you can use the future tense doesn’t mean you should use it right away. Pick a few nouns and a few verbs and get really good at being able to say anything you want with only those few words. It’s possible.
Like if all you know is “tener” (to have) and “ir” (to go) and “estar” (to be) and “querer” (to want) and “comer” (to eat) then you can basically say absolutely everything and say the nouns with simple hand motions.
Quiero comer… (make a burger with your hands). Of course only us fat Americans eat burgers, but you get the point. You don’t need all the words to say tons of shit.
The moral of the story is the best tip for learning a new language is to not worry about lookin like a dipshit and really try to communicate what you wanna say to the person in front of you. If you want it bad enough, eventually they’ll understand you and new words will blossom with ease (you won’t even notice it). That’s how you teach yourself a language.
Now here’s a story about fucked up sex.