(Last updated 8/1/2016)
Learning a new language can be an exciting project. With your new language comes a whole new world to explore - a different way of looking at the world and a different way of going through daily life.
Many of us remember our school experience and associate learning a foreign language with "boring" and "irrelevant."
We had to memorize lists of strange sounding words and learn sentences we would never use; we had to figure out abstract grammar rules and we had to drill paradigms (I run, you run, he runs, we run, etc.); we had to speak up "foreign" in front of our classmates and we got graded on our pronunciation and spelling; once it was over, everything faded.
Language Learning Can Be Fun!
Instead, learning a language can be a fresh and fun experience. It should stretch our mind and engage our whole person. One way to do this is to tie language learning to planning a trip.
Travel is a terrific motivator. As we plan and organize our trip, we anticipate being there. We imagine walking through the streets of old Heidelberg; ordering a macchiato in a Venice outdoor café; savoring a dish of bouillabaisse in Aix-en-Provence; climbing La Giralda, a stunning Almohad bell tower, in Seville.
Put Yourself in Visitors' Shoes
Now imagine visitors coming to the US, who don't know a word of English. Imagine how hard it would be for them to experience America and its people in a meaningful way! With time, of course, they would pick up a few words. But if they had learned some basic, functional English before their trip, they sure would have a head start.
It's the same for us when traveling. The better we speak the language, the more deeply we experience the country and its people. Being able to communicate allows us to venture off the beaten track and have some real conversations with those we meet.
So, pick a travel destination and, yes, jump into your new language. This too is an exciting adventure. Do it with enthusiasm and with imagination, and find a way to motivate yourself to stick with it. Then go there and speak up!