Learning a New Language in 7 Days / by Dana Roberts

The most important question when starting out on your language learning journey is: what is your specific goal?

Do you want to be able to have a conversation with a stranger? To get to know to your partner's grandmother who doesn't speak your native language? To master complete fluency to the point of dreaming in this new language? Or do you just not want to feel like a total tourist on your upcoming vacation?

The reason I start this post talking about intention is because language learning is a huge commitment. At the beginning you're going to be super excited and have tons of willpower to study everyday. But as time progresses life will ultimately try to get in the way of you and this new habit. In that moment, you have to return to the reason you wanted to do this and find motivation there.

So for me, when it came to my WHY for starting to learn Greek, my goal was to have a conversation with a stranger and ask them if I could draw their portrait. I decided on one week to get me to that goal and I was shocked at how much progress I could make in such a short amount of time.

For me learning a language is all about speaking to people. This might sound obvious, but if you've ever taken a language class in school you might remember that the focus seemed to be very heavy on writing and reading. In the long term that is obviously super important, but even after many many years of studying spanish in school, confident in my reading ability, able to write a paper, I barely could talk to anyone because I was too nervous.

So with learning Greek I decided to go at it from a completely different angel. Focus entirely on speaking. No reading or writing especially because the letters are different in Greek than English, so I didn't want to spend time trying to memorize a new alphabet.

an adorable goat we met on a tiny island in Greece

an adorable goat we met on a tiny island in Greece

I looked up common phrases like hello, good bye, how are you?, thank you, please, excuse me, what time is it?, basic numbers, etc. and after a few days felt confident in my ability to have a quick convo.

I am so happy I focused on these basic phrases rather then with trying to learn grammar because it made meeting people once we got to Greece really exciting. We'd fill up on gas and I could ask the clerk what their name was and how their day was going and the smile on their face made my day.

You'd be shocked at how far you can get with just a few basic phrases, so if you take one thing from this video and this blog post let it be this: even a little bit of effort is worth it. I am definitely not going to be fluent in Greek, but having a way to open a conversation has transformed our experience in Greece these past few weeks. I'm still studying here and there, and am excited to see what other language adventures we can get into this summer.


LANGUAGE LEARNING RESOURCES

  • Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner

    • A book that gives so much insight on how to effectively learn languages quickly with a focus on conversation over writing and reading.

  • iTalki

    • A website to find language exchange partners or affordable tutors (all via video chat)

  • AnkiApp

    • A flashcard app that is as they explain perfectly, “tracks your knowledge of each flashcard, and uses that information to focus your study away from the flashcards you know best and onto the ones you least know. “ I love paper flashcards, but digital ones are so effective with language learning because you can easily include images or pronunciation cues as well as letters.