I grew up in a very small village nested in Central Italy, studied in Rome and than, during my Erasmus, in France but until the point I arrived in Lithuania I definitely thought it was all fine with me. I always thought as me as a mere English speaker who also happen to speak French, but the last two years have taught me that was just half of the truth.
When I arrived in Vilnius I was landed to a team full of Spanish speakers. English was the working language, but almost every break and every joke were told in this mysterious language. I had my Italian and French in my pockets and during my Erasmus time I befriended with a Spanish guy who just spoke Spanish to me for the sake of it. For several months, at lunchtime, I was a silent guest. I found the atmosphere being so exciting that I imposed to myself not to switch table and after some time I started making up my robotic phrases in broken Spanish that still last today (they just got a little improved though).
Last September, during Kaunas Carillon Festival, a group of tourists from Bilbao were around the tower taking pictures. I never had any Spanish class and neither I took any certificate so I decided that would be my exam. I headed to them and asked whether they would have liked a guided tour. It was all so natural, funny and easily flowing that I even went for the Q&A.
While conceiving this post I was trying to answer the fundamental question: what was in the middle of that?
Leaving aside the supposed talent, which were the elements of the strategy I used to go from point A to B that could eventually be replicated learning any language?
Make Questions and treasure people who are patient to answer them
Find a language buddy, even more than one. A coffee in a bar once in a while can be better than nothing, but in my experience, it will pay off much more to have lunch twice a week with a patient friend. Use time together to have fun and ask, ask, ask and again ask. Many people will be tired of you, so be careful finding a person who’s interested in seeing you progressing and growing.
Be Humble, Be Ridiculous!
Your phrases will sound silly, you will make up words, you will find comfortable following your own roads (many of them being dead-end). If you are afraid to be ridiculous or to sound stupid for at least 50% of the time I would say that language learning is not something you should even approach. As banal as it may sound, learning a new language is building a tent out of your comfort zone and planning to live there steadily for a while (not knowing how much it will last).
Set a Goal (even the most general possible)
It doesn’t have to be on paper, but I start thinking this would help. However just bare in mind where you would like to go and Why. My goal was to reach a basic conversational level in Spanish and my why was that I had the occasion to be exposed to this language and it was impossible not to try to make it.
Learn to chill sometimes
The best car driver is not the one who constantly accelerates until the race in done. Learn how to dose stressful situations (there will be plenty of that and they will be crucial) with time for laughing and feeling comfortable. I am a big fan of how beneficial is the lack of comfort for language learning but that is just half of the story.
So, the next time people will wonder how come I learned Spanish in Vilnius, this post will answer them and possibly offer some insight on the matter. This was possibly the reason why I did not learn Lithuanian this fast at the real beginning of my journey but I may write about all of this later on.
This post was inspired by a comment received from a Finnish blogger (thank you Sartenada!) and offered me the occasion to develop a concept I explained in one of my previous post. In case you would like to follow my posts further or to discuss anything with me (ok, almost anything) feel free to follow me on Linkedin or to send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org, nobody knows what could come out of it!