I recently met the inventor of Fetch-a-Phrase, a method of keeping all the key phrases you need for a language in your back pocket. You take basic phrases for you language, correlate the words from one language to the other, and then use the correlations to build new sentences.
You don’t have to be great at languages. You just have to care. You don’t have to be fluent in a language. You just have to try. You don’t need to understand everything. You just have to say something. You don’t have to impress anyone. You just have to do something for someone else.
Lower the bar. Perfection is not the friend of language-love.
I get lots of questions about languages.
What do I have to do to get fluent?
Learn a lot of vocabulary each month.
Is it ok to learn more than one language at the same time?
Yes. Embrace your inner dabbler.
I don’t have enough time to get fluent. Should I bother trying?
Yes. You will see fruit no matter how little you learn.
I suck at languages! Why should I even try?
If you sucked at languages, we wouldn’t be speaking now. Try because you can connect with others in a new way. You’ll learn more than you think.
The basis of all these questions is the belief that one has to speak “well” or that one has to be “good” at languages. Both are wrong assumptions.
The reason why you’re worried is because you think you have to be perfect or good or successful. You can read this article to see that you just care too much. Care less, and you’ll be more successful.
Fetch-a-phrase shows that you don’t need much effort to speak a language. Ask how to say a few things. You don’t need months or years of classes, heavy volumes, or multiple apps. One page with the most basic of grammar and equivalences with English (or your native language).
When I was in the Basque Country, the language teacher I met told me that the African immigrants spoke better Basque than the local folks in his classes. The latter were anxious about their language test, the former just talked to people. Studying and caring less hard made the Africans more successful.
The beauty of this effort is the result. When you actually do speak a little of the language, others respond. Your attempt shows them great respect, and so they treat you with great respect—maybe more than you were expecting. They may bring you deeper into a part of their lives reserved for insiders. As I was told one time, “When you speak Somali I feel close to you.”