For some time now I’ve been thinking about how to help more people. The problem I’ve run into is that I want to reach those who have not yet ventured to begin to learn another language.
Most all of them think it would be a nice thing to be able to speak Spanish or read French or to share a story over tea with the Somali mothers who’ve newly immigrated into their city.
It is but a passing thought though and the wonders of the language learning journey have not been begun, nor even contemplated for that matter.
And so they are not searching for language resources online.
They have not and will not discover the countless language learning blogs that have cropped up over the last few years.
They will not begin to use one of the hundreds of free language learning programs.
They will not explore the resources available now to make language learning fun, interactive and self-directed.
And sadly, they will not step into the joys of new relationships with new friends in other parts of the world or in their own neighborhood.
(cue inspirational music)
And so it is that I ask you, implore you even, to step up and become language learning evangelists, helping your monolingual friends to discover the beauty, challenge and joy of the language learning journey. You are their friends, their family members. Use your relational capitol to help them see the truth, to see the folly of their monolingual ways.
Okay, okay, okay. We can turn off the theme song now. This may be stretching the direness of the situation, but in spite of my overly inspirational monologue, I do want to encourage you, as an everyday language learner, to share your experience with others and encourage them to get started learning another language as well.
To do that, I’d like to give you four thoughts that I hope will help you to help others get started on the journey. The question of “what can I say that will convince them to get started” is a valid one, and I’d like to answer that now.
The genesis of any conversation with a reluctant language learner should focus on demystifying the idea of learning another language. Most everyone in the world who has gone through a formal education system has been forced to study another language. If you are an American, it was probably Spanish. For the rest of the world, it was most likely English. And if you succeeded in learning to fluency the language of your coursework, then you realize that you are in the minority. This trend is changing as better methods and philosophies of language teaching are adapted, but for most of our peers, language class was a failure in drudgery that left them with the inkling notion that they would never learn to speak another language. It was just too hard and they were not “gifted” in that area. Thus the only reference to the language learning journey most have is their years in preparatory school – not a reference that will lead many to willfully try it again.
Our first goal then should be to demystify this notion and to help them get past the past. We can do this by first sharing our own stories as language learners. We are regular people who’ve found a way to learn another language – it’s not rocket science and we can attest to that.
Introduce them to easy to use, free resources like Anki, Livemocha, LingQ, Duolingo, and more. Forward them Ten Articles to Help You Get Started Learning a New Language. Buy them their first pocket dictionary or one of their favorite movies with target language dubbing. Give them convenient, easy steps they can take to get started and then help them take that first step.
The next step is to share some of the personal benefits of learning another language. Begin again with your own story explaining how the language learning journey has made your life more full, more rewarding.
There is no end to the positive rewards that knowing another language will offer. New relationships with new friends, greater understanding of other cultures and nations, new ways to understand your world, increased brain power, character building and the list goes on. Share the ones that have been most tangible to your own journey.
The final step on the road to a new language learner is to tell of the global benefits of speaking and understanding another language. How can learning another language positively affect family, friends and the greater community around you? This is a question that must be answered for it leads to a greater sense of purpose and a personal role in improving our world.
Not knowing the other’s language leads to separation. Those we are separated from are easily caricatured in black and white exaggerations of reality. It is not always intentional, but it is often what happens.
Having learned Turkish, we were privileged to get to know many wonderful families – all Muslim – who we now count as dear friends. Knowing them makes the black and white caricatures that we sometimes hear, hard to understand.
Knowing the language of others breaks down barriers and leads to greater understanding. It also empowers you to be able to reach out and help new immigrants in your community in deeper ways, allows you to travel and learn about other cultures and opens up countless new opportunities.
There are many in your circle of friends and families who have not yet joined the community of language learners.
Will you help them see the light?
Tell your story today. Share the joys – and the challenges – of learning another language and help others get started on the language learning journey today.