DIY Speak In Tongues


Communication makes the world go ‘round. We, as humans, universally seek and spread knowledge through spoken and written word, and it’s as fundamental to our life (as we know it) as oxygen.

But what about languages outside our society? Does language influence the way we think?

Ok, so learning a language may not give you superpowers, but it does provide understandings of other cultures and how to think differently about situations. Here are some reasons to learn a language:

In this ever-increasing globalized world, why be left out? Compared to twenty years ago, Earth is vastly more connected. Ten years from now, it’ll be exponentially more so. You’re simply more marketable by knowing a second language. Maybe you’re thinking… ‘oh man, but by the time I become fluent, that’ll be eons from now.’ Au contraire, many companies nowadays accept someone who has a basic knowledge of a topic (see: coding) and will train you up to speed once you attain the job. They just want to see your dedication.

Some famous guy once said, ‘Those who know nothing of other languages know nothing of their own.’ Now that seems a little harsh to me, but there is some truth to it. When you study other languages, you start learning patterns in your own language, and how English actually works. English is a fascinating language, and you only truly start understanding this once you speak another language. Teaching English to foreigners can also provide this insight. Becoming multi-lingual also increases cognitive skills, and forces you to think abstractly. It can provide a deeper insight of who you are and why you think a certain way. Kind of sounds like I’m talking about reaching nirvana, but it’s truly a beautiful thing.

To understand other cultures, and through theirs, understand your own. Simple as that, but it’s like trying to tell you about a new color you’ve never seen before. You don’t understand it until you’ve seen it. Expanding your knowledge of the world through language is fundamental in truly understanding a culture. It provides you that window to see things from a different perspective. As an added bonus, you’ll appreciate foreign art forms more.

It makes you more interesting. Don’t hate on this one, it’s true. Multilingual people have a wealth of culture under their belt. It is impossible to learn another language and not learn about the culture, as language and culture are entwined. As native English speakers, we usually don’t bother with a second language because ours is the lingue franca. It’s that much more impactful when someone who speaks the world’s most popular (learned) language can communicate effectively in another language. Simply, it’s cool.

It’s rewarding. Learning a language boosts your confidence. It’s a whole other set of spectacles to view the world with, and allows you to communicate coherently with millions of more people (unless you’re learning Inuit). It also creates immediate friends. Travellers are usually short in the foreign friends department because they’re not on home turf. Someone who can speak their language is always alluring. Plus, it’s awesome to bump into someone who is from the nation of the language you proudly speak/are learning. They are always super enthusiastic to hear someone try to speak to them in something other than English. Trust me.

I hate it when I ask a question and receive…‘Well, it depends, it’s different for everyone,’ or, ‘There’s no correct answer, it varies.’

And that’s undeniably true for learning a language. However, I’m going to forego that, and tell you how I have personally seen others (and myself) succeed at studying languages.

Dedication and patience. You need to want to succeed. Learning a language is arduous, exciting, time-consuming, nerve-wracking, and rewarding. Not to mention, it’s confusing. Be patient – it might take you to week to learn to conjugate a single verb. But you’re getting there. Day-by-day it won’t seem like much, but you will reap the rewards after some time. Don’t taper off and don’t slow down. Keep it up, and you will be rewarded. I promise.

Immersion. Living in the country is the best possible option, but most of us don’t have that option. Still, immerse yourself as much as you can. It’s going to slow down parts of your lifestyle, but so what? It’s all for the greater good. Start thinking of how you would reply to questions in daily life, watch media solely in that language, follow people who speak that language on Twitter, change your laptop language, etc. My phone is currently in Japanese, and using Google Maps for the first few months felt like a comedy sketch. You’ll get used to it, and be better from it.

Good study materials. Before you begin, you’re going to need to sit down and figure out your study programs, materials, and methods. The more, the better. Even if some seem similar, pack your phone and computer with apps and get a few different styles of learning methods. Don’t be afraid to use technology; most of my studying is in an app or on my computer. It is important to have many study materials so that you don’t become bored with the same learning style from doing it every day. A complete list of study items and methods will be found at the end of this post.

Regiment. Create strict habits. You brush your teeth twice a day; you make time for that Skype call home, or to walk the dog. Do the same with learning a language. Learn a little every day. One day off is not acceptable; this is how you start ‘snowballing.’ Even if I only get fifteen minutes to study vocabulary because my day is super packed, I still listen to Japanese radio on the way to work or watch one of my newly discovered Japanese shows in my free time. There’s no excuse for saying you don’t have time; you go on your phone every day don’t you? If you’re serious, you can always find a little time.

Talk and listen. Find people who speak that language. I promise, they are around. The app called ‘HelloTalk’ (see more below) is your golden egg. Even if you know five words, speak in English and then insert those words when acceptable in the conversation. It is important to begin using the language as early as possible, and don’t worry about mistakes. For most people, it is nerve-wracking trying to start speaking, but who’s it hurting? Just dive in and start sounding like an idiot! The natives you are speaking to will love it and most of the time they will correct you.

The following are the names of my study tools, for ANY language.
NOTE: I was not contacted or paid in regard to any of these endorsements.

In order of importance:

Hellotalk – I keep this bad boy on my iPhone bottom row. Available in the Apple and Google stores, this app allows you to find people anywhere in the world (or your local area) who want to learn your native language and are native speakers of the language you’re learning. I’ve made many friends through this app, both in my local area and all over the world. Comes with language autocorrect software, free video and voice calling, and filters for finding like-minded people.

Textbook (and workbook) – Do research, and find a good university textbook. The ones that are created in a series type (i.e. Genki I, Genki II) with good reviews are your best bet. These types of textbooks try not to simplify everything (which hinders later learning) yet provide accurate and approachable results. They also usually come with CD’s for listening comprehension and associated workbooks for practice.

Anki Flashcards – This flashcard app is available on computers. It uses an algorithm to sort your knowledge, and sort what you know and don’t know. It then recycles the more difficult items.

Dictionary – I use an app on my phone, and it’s a lifesaver.
free or paid

TuneIn – Allows you to listen to radio from anywhere in the world. You get the point.

Meetup – You’ve probably heard of meetup, but have you ever thought to use it to learn a language? Find some language groups of people who are from your desired country, or trying to learn the language. They do send an annoying amount of emails, so be sure to opt out of them, but still a great resource.

Memrize – Awesome for getting pesky vocab stuck in your long-term memory.

Youtube – Feeling lazy one day? Just watch a few Youtube videos of people trying to teach you. Even if it’s not good, you will walk away with something.

Lang-8 – For more advanced users, but you essentially blog in the desired language and then natives correct your writing.

Create your own! – Here’s an example. I purchased the ‘manga-fied’ versions of Studio Ghibli films, and watch the films in Japanese. While I watch them, I listen to how they speak and I read along with the script from my book. I enjoy the movie, and learn at the same time.

Other study methods I’ve heard good things about, but haven’t tried.
Duolingo – Memorization app
Influent – Game on steam
FluentU – Learn a language with real-world videos

For Japanese only:
Genki Texbook – My rock, my bible. (paid)
Genki Workbook – Textbook’s partner-in-crime. (paid)
Genki Vocab App – For all those gud wurds. (paid)
Genki Kanji App – For those who slack too much in my Kanji studying. (paid)
Genk Conjugation App – For conjugating verbs and adjectives. (paid)
Imiwa? App – Japanese-to-any language dictionary. Pure awesomeness. (free) – A powerful Kanji learning website. (free) – A language-practicing website for memorization. (free)
Tae Kim’s Learning Japanese – Online Japanese textbook. (free)

Love & 愛,

Post (smoooooth) Script: Check out these two English dudes who learned basic Turkish in a week. Here’s how they did it.