How to Learn Another Language

As I walk the path to learn my third non programming language, I cannot help but reminisce about my previous (and ongoing) journey of learning Spanish. There was that one time when I proudly was explaining to my wife’s parents why the food in the USA is not as good as it is in Chile because we use condoms. Or when I asked the waiter if he could put a bottle of wine in the freezer for a rat. Oh, or the countless conversations that had changed plot two minutes prior to me injecting a mildly interesting anecdote. Ahhh …. so many times I would just blankly smile and nod my head and focus on timing my laughter with everyone else’s.

But ultimately, the pay back has been infinitely in my favor and I am grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way. So in an effort to try and share my quest for renaissance, here is my sure fire way for you to learn a new language.

1. Pretend you want an MBA, quit your job, and move to Argentina (or another Spanish speaking country).

Turns out you will never get into an MBA when you’re interview consists of … “Ya, I quit my koosh job at IBM so I can travel and cycle and party before I go to grad school. What if I don’t get in? Pssh, I’m gettin’ in.”

But you will find yourself with a bunch of time to figure out how to install Rosetta Stone and get started.

2. Install Rosetta Stone, try it, give up on it in about 10 days, and go get yourself some serious classes

Rosetta Stone works. But you will murder yourself from boredom before you actually get anywhere with it. I have yet to hear anyone tell me they got all the way through it. Nobody.

I paid $600 for 80 hours of small group classes, one month. 9am – 1pm every day, Buenos Aires time. I mention Buenos Aires time because I had 83% attendance due to that country having the absurd rule that you don’t even think about going out for the evening until 11:30pm and even then you will arrive early.

But even the 83% gave me the structure, and homework, and constant corrections that was needed to eventually hold a conversation just long enough to meet my now wife.

3. Move to England (or some where that doesn’t speak the language you just spent months learning).

So the trick to this step is to test yourself. Test yourself to see just how much you really want it. There are many ways to keep the spark alive. I chose a few methods that worked well for me. The most useless one was me signing up for a local community center class that was filled with a bunch of old english ladies with your classic tea and crumpets accent. I tried to challenge myself by teaching them the Chilean national dance.

This dance was also supposed to impress my now wife, but after living in Chile for a while I now understand that this video is maybe the most embarrassing thing I have ever done, but at the time I sent it to her as if I was biggest bad ass on the planet.

Ultimately the best method I found to maintain the language was describing super deep and complex emotions and thoughts with a native Spanish speaker over voice and text chats. If you are looking for one, I was recently told about which I think offers the same service for a small fee.

4. Marry someone who speaks the language you want to learn

Can’t stress this one enough. Very important. You think communicating with the opposite sex is hard in your own language? Psshh, try doing it with 20% of the vocabulary and not being able to roll your R’s. But finding ways to explain yourself in ways that you never knew existed will change you. Change you into someone that you will be so happy to find within yourself. I am eternally grateful to Kathy for her guidance and wisdom and patience.

So in conclusion, bring it on Portuguese!