Learn a Foreign Language – 3 tips


I wanted to study Spanish for years. I studied…well “studied” French in middle school and high school, and my poor attempt at learning Spanish at 19 was a failure. So I put language acquisition down for over a decade because life got in the way after that.

When I was accepted to the University of California, Irvine in 2015, I learned (during orientation) that I had to be fluent in a language before I could graduate…”but I’m 31 and don’t have time for this” I thought to myself at the time.

I’m now 33, with over 2400 hours of honest, dedicated practice towards the language and I can confidently say I’m fluent in Spanish (maybe a third of the way to bilingual status, but I can travel for sure).

My top three tips are:

You have to study.

No matter how talented you are, you have to work eventually. At one point in my academic career I was studying Spanish about 5–7 hours a day passively and actively.

When I first learned I needed to learn a language I picked up a foreign language app and began practicing an hour a day between July of 2015 and September of 2015. Then I took classes at UCI and also independently.

2. You have to practice.

Studying is theory, talking and writing is practice. In order to achieve fluency you must write, speak, listen and Read Spanish (or any other language) habitually. As I continued studying at UCI I joined their newly created Spanish club. Also during breakfast and lunch I would practice with employees of restaurants I would visit and they would help me edit my homework.

Also while I was doing my laundry at the Hispanic owned Laundromats I would watch Telemundo and they would teach me local slang terms…that my teachers would correct when I brought my new vocabulary to class.

You are who you surround yourself with. This is true like for anything else. I surrounded myself with Spanish speakers and it forced me to become a better Spanish speaker.

3. You have to want to learn it for you.

I studied Spanish because I loved the language. More people speak Spanish in the world than English and it makes sense to be able to open up culturally and economically to others. Being able to speak in different languages allows you to find deeper understanding behind cultural traditions and beliefs.

Also learning a language allows you to travel to those native speaking countries and help others who aren’t able to communicate as fluidly as you in two languages.

You are where you invest your time and you reap what you sow.