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Conquering Foreign Languages

Conquering Foreign LanguagesAs a photographer that loves to travel and photograph people, cultures and landscapes it’s important to me that I am able to at the very least speak a bit of the local language.  Not only is it helpful in getting around and making sure that what you just ordered isn’t going to blow your socks off by being too spicy, but it’s also a way to show respect to the people and country you are a guest of.

I’ve been married to my wife who is Indonesian for over 10 years now and I’m really embarrassed to admit that I still cannot speak her native language.  I really have no one to blame but myself and I take full ownership of this failure.  So with this being a new year I have made it a challenge to learn to speak fluent Indonesian by the end of the year.  That’s 12 full months to start learning and building good language habits.

Recently my friend Tristan King who runs the popular blog Language Musings has made it a little bit easier for me to start building those learning habits and explore some different ways of learning a foreign language by publishing his methods in a book called “Conquering Foreign Languages – An Uncommon Guide to Reaching Fluency in Any Language”.  Tristan has a genuine passion for helping others make language learning a part of their everyday lifestyle.

At the start of the book Tristan talks about who this guide is for:

  • You have tried to learn languages and given up because it was too hard, you didn’t have time, or couldn’t find the motivation.  CHECK!
  • You are interested but haven’t tried to learn yet because you think it will be too difficult. BEEN THERE!
  • Are learning a new language now but are not progressing as fast as you want to. CHECK!
  • Have always wanted to visit exotic places and blend in with the locals, or impress your partner who speaks another language. MY PRIME INCENTIVE!

The thing I love about this book is that Tristan is so down to earth and realistic with the tips he provides.  He writes as a person that has struggled through many of the same things that I have.  At the end of each section he provides an “Action Plan” with steps to take and things to do to get you thinking about language learning and then doing it.  For example, in section I of the book one of the things he talks about is learning the quirkiness of language and then challenges you to find and use three quirky words or phrases in your target language.  I can definitely relate to this one as I find that some of the more strange Indonesian words are the ones I more easily remember regardless of whether I will ever use them in the future.

Sprinkled throughout the book are Tristans own personal experiences with learning languages with specific examples of the techniques he talks about.  One of the biggest things I took away from his experiences was that I don’t need to remember every single little thing about Indonesian.  I’d often find myself memorizing phrases and words that I knew I would probably never use.  I just need to remember the words that I think I will use on a regular basis.  For this Tristan talks about different ways of remembering vocabulary and making word associations.

Recently my kids and I posted sticky-notes on all the items around the house with their Indonesian names.  On the chairs we posted “kursi” and on the table “meja”.  When we go outside we see a sticky note on the door that says “pintu”.  It’s a great way to always be reminded of and thinking about your target language.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and along with my podcasts from Learning Indonesian is a great tool for helping me build my Indonesian language learning skills.  If you are struggling or have struggled with learning a language this book will give you some actionable ideas on how to rapidly improve your language learning.  Like most things though what you get out of it is only equal to what you put into it.  No book will teach you how to speak a language.  It takes effort and dedication to put in the time learning and practicing.

Conquering Foreign Languages – An Uncommon Guide to Reaching Fluency in Any Language” is available in PDF as well as Kindle for $7.99.

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