Learn a Foreign Language

Barry the Study Dog immerses himself in Spanish every chance he gets.

T here’s not much point in studying a foreign language unless you want to master that language.

English is the global lingua franca, so it’s fair to assume that unless you really throw yourself into learning a second language, the rest of the world is going to speak English better than you’re going to speak their language because they’ve been studying it longer and have been more motivated while doing so, which will make you look dumb and feel inadequate.

The only way to be a useful speaker of a language is to speak it well enough that you can contribute to society in places where they speak that language. For example, the world doesn’t need any more Americans who suck at French: it needs Americans who can defend themselves in French when Parisians start insulting them under their breath. Neither does the world need more Americans who know how to order French fries in Spanish: Spanish-speakers the world over know what French fries are.

Take your foreign language seriously! The only worthy foreign language goal is to be as cool in the second language as you are in your first.

You’re interesting, right? You have ideas? If you can’t express those ideas with the same tone in a foreign language, you don’t yet speak it well enough for it to help the world.

I know how to say “Cheers!” and “What’s up?” in several languages, but the only foreign language in which I can really help make the world a better place is Spanish.

Here’s how to master a foreign language in six simple steps:

  1. Commit to learning every word that you know in English in the foreign language;
  2. Take as many classes as possible, both in school and in your community;
  3. Practice during your free time by using Duolingo, putting your electronics in Spanish, watching your favorite shows dubbed or with subtitles, listening to music from the countries you want to visit, or writing letters to friends of friends in those countries;
  4. Speak the language with native speakers in your town at every opportunity;
  5. Translate your résumé into the foreign language and watch YouTube videos about the main themes;
  6. Move to a country whose speakers you want to sound like, stay there for at least six months, and don’t speak a word of English while you’re there.

Ready, steady, go!

Can you tell I’ve been studying British English?

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