Languages is my number one hobby after sex. When I was a kid, I desperately wanted to learn English; the language spoken by different looking people that comes through the box in our living room. This language televised by the media seemed to be the door to a whole new culture different than mine. The obvious reason why I was inclined to fall in love with it was the vivid contrast between the colors in my reality of Saudi Arabia where I went to an only boys school wearing white traditional thobes to experience a monotonous religious schooling environment, and the various styles, genders, and looks of people on TV. Yes, seeing women with their hair down to their back on TV was a lot of gender diversity back then! Not cartoons though, rather real people on TV who spoke English, intrigued me.
The curiosity to immerse into a culture that for some unknown reason I resonated with more than I did my own, exceeded my learning ability, therefore I found myself at many times making sounds and noises with my mouth trying to mimic american sounding people from films that I watched only to hear them speak. The sound was like: bla tshew rrrrum bla slum… for example.
Later on I signed up for an equestrian club and I enjoyed my horse rides, but more than anything I was strongly triggered when I sat down with a group of other horse riders during the exercise breaks and they all spoke that very american accent English fluently, while I internally suffered with curiosity and the fear of missing out.
Since then, my motivation to learning any language became my fear of missing out. And like patterns, they repeat in our lives, I had to visit Spain early this year where I spent only two weeks and oh my dear reader, I was absolutely triggered knowing I missed out on so much jokes and laughs. If you know Spanish people, I’m sure you know of their ability to speak about anything for long hours, sometimes I thought that they also talk about how well they spoke Spanish – in my attempt to interpret and understand what could they possibly be saying while I sat in awkward silence, getting lost in thought and back to trying to comprehend. I still nonetheless enjoyed the nuances of the Spanish language and my freedom to imagine the meanings.
Now I missed out on so much Spanish and I can’t afford to miss out on anymore hilarious jokes nor on fluently ordering delicious tapas and cervezas, with a gentle por favor. About two months ago I realized I was wasting more time and I’m missing out on yet some more Spanish in the world, I got pretty fired up to learn the language and now I can happily say that as the witness of my own progress, I’m doing an awesome job. But I’m basically repeating the same steps I used when learning English as a kid; true that I ended up going to an international and English medium school in the end but what I really believed has helped me was my readiness, openness and strong desire to speak it. However practically, mimicking sounds, listening excessively to the language spoken and simply getting the feel of it really does give you a solid foundation on learning any language.
Think of it this way, when we were babies, no one really told us this means that, because we had no previous language reference to translate to, therefore we spent a lot of time simply recording and receiving the language as sounds that were basically getting stored as data in our subconscious mind without necessarily making direct cognitive sense. As we attempt to use it by making incoherent sounds frequently and as our need to communicate grows with us, the words start to align and make sense to our mind without much conscious effort. As adults though, the issue is not that we have lost this ability, but rather we don’t have the luxury of the baby to do nothing and wait for the language to be learned passively. We usually learn languages because we need it for certain purposes since we already have judgments, coherent thoughts and stories to tell. We attempt to learn it faster and then worry about making mistakes until we seem to block that natural ability to develop a language in one’s brain.
Besides learning a language in generic ways such as translating meanings word to word or follow strict grammatical rules, intuitive learning is more important as it solidifies and instills the sense of the language deeper in your mind. When then you need to use it, you sound more natural and definitely your accent gets perfected. I personally lost count of people who asked me if I had lived in the States before, given my seemingly natural American accent. Truth is I have not landed foot in the States as of yet – That’s why for Spanish, I am watching the most cheesy telenovelas, listening to the most heart paining songs and checking out funny Spanish movies once in a while, but do I care so much about understanding every word or even bother about subtitles? No, almost not at all.
I simply made it a habit to watch and use all the hints I could possibly gather from a scene or from words I hear about what the person could possibly be speaking about, then I pay attention to the sounds and the accents and the nuances of the conversation and really just simply get a feel of it all. I found out that the more I do that, with no stressing about knowing the meaning of every single word + researching songs meaning and learning a little bit of grammar, that I am now capable of grasping a big chunk of every scene I watch, I can laugh, I get shocked and say “Damn she is such a horrible bitch!” while in a burning episode of a telenovela and I can approximately to a satisfactory stage at this moment, understand everything being said and not to mention that I partake every opportunity to speak Spanish in the rare opportunity that I meet Spanish speaking people.
Get your fear of missing out turned on and after that you’ll be ready to learn any language you want in two steps;
Step 1) Feel it.
Step 2) Understand it.
Today I am happy to say more languages (on various levels) have been added to my spoken list, totaling to six:
Arabic, English, Spanish, German, French, Dutch.