What I am going to tell you today might help you save thousands of dollars. Forget about the idea that the best way to learn a foreign language is to live in a foreign country. You can learn a foreign language well at home if you have the motivation.
I am living proof. When I was 13, I learned that my aunt was going to immigrate to the US.
”Can you please take me with you? I want to improve my English,” I asked.
She patted my head and said, “You are a smart girl. You can go native without going abroad.”
Later on, I learned that she was actually saving money for her own children to study English in the US, which is a “common-sense truth” among many Chinese parents.
I was disappointed, but I wanted to prove she was right that I could go native without going abroad.
Fifteen years later, when I travelled to the US for the first time, my American friends were impressed at how well I spoke English.
”Where did you learn English,” they asked.
”In China,” I answered. They did not seem to believe me.
My secret to learning English well at home is to learn it like a child.
You know how children learn their mother tongue or a second language without formal studies. Observe your child’s language development if you have one. They listen before they can even speak, and when they start speaking, they simply repeat the words.
To avoid accidently boring myself to death by listening to and repeating the same text, I picked my favorite TV show, downloaded it in MP3 and listened to it repeatedly. The first time, I got lost and I had no idea what they were talking about. The second and third time, I picked up a little more. The fifth time, I was able to follow along the story without understanding every single word. I listened, listened and listened until those dialogues were stuck in my head.
The next step is to find a conversation partner at home. Back in the 1990s, I used to go to those “English corners” where Chinese people gathered to speak English with all kinds of accents together. I eventually stopped going and started talking to myself in English. For a while, my mother thought I had a mental problem. However, in 2017, you can make technology work for you. You can simply look for language exchange events through sites such as Meetup or Skype with your foreign friends.
Finally, have you ever heard people saying they can’t learn a language because they work full time? My advice is to make your job work for you. Find a job that you have to use a foreign language. That’s 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week of practice time.
Let’s get back to my aunt who immigrated to the US. One day, she took me to a restaurant when I visited her in Chicago. I wanted to test her language ability, so I let her do the talking.
”We order,” she said to the server.
”We want this, this and this,” she pointed on the menu, “Oh, we no drink, thanks,” she concluded.