Hello from Colombia! I've just arrived and am ready for my last language mission of 2010.
Since the blog started just over a year ago, I've learned pretty good Czech and Hungarian (both in two months), got by in Thai, managed to convince Brazilians that I was one of them, and passed most of the very challenging ZOP examination in German.
Each time I have gone to the country that speaks the language, but this time I'm doing something completely different. I'm not actually in Colombia to learn Spanish (I already speak it at “C2/mastery” level according to the Instituto de Cervantes) or a native American language.
You can speak any language anywhere in the world
The purpose of this mission is to prove that no matter where you are you can speak your target language; any language, anywhere.
I am sick of people saying that my – or anyone else's – success in learning to speak languages quickly is down to ability to travel. You can all speak your target language for several hours every day without ever leaving your town.
So to prove this, I have picked a non-capital city in South America that looks like it would be interesting to live in; Medellín, Colombia. Here, I intend to speak seven languages every week and these seven languages do not include Spanish and English. i.e. French, German, Irish, Portuguese, Italian, Esperanto and Hungarian.
If I can speak Irish or Hungarian in Colombia of all places, then what's stopping you from speaking French/Japanese etc. in your town?
This will be quite the challenge considering it is not in more accessible/international countries like in North America or Europe and also because it is not a capital city, but if I can pull this off then you will have no excuses for not trying if you do live in such places.
Of course, I'll be explaining how I'm doing it
This is not the first time I have attempted this. I actually learned the vast majority of my Brazilian Portuguese while living in France and by speaking it with Brazilians in person rather than wastefully over-studying. I already spoke Portuguese (not “portuñol”) when I first arrived in Brazil thanks to this.
I plan on explaining precisely what I'm doing along the way, mostly applying the tips that I discussed in much more detail in the Language Hacking Guide. I'm hoping people will apply my tips and stop making a language something just for studying. Speak it!
You must practise your target language immediately if you want to make any progress in it. This of course is the basis of my success in being able to speak languages in the last eight years and the unique message, ignored in pretty much every course, that the Language Hacking Guide was written around.
Living in Colombia
Choosing Colombia was easy – it has long been on my list of countries to visit. I've met so many fantastic Colombians in my travels and I could see that they were my type of people.
So I will, of course, be speaking mostly Spanish here. That's separate to the mission, and more for cultural and social reasons. I'm not going to be speaking at Colombians in languages they don't understand, only in Spanish. I travelled across the planet to hang out with Colombians after all!
My vague plan is to work in the mornings, socialise mostly in Spanish in the evenings, and to speak and otherwise improve another non-Spanish (and non-English) language every afternoon and/or some evenings, depending on who I meet. Hopefully I will get through all seven languages in my list for several hours every week until I go back to Ireland for Christmas.
So this will mean several hours every day entirely living through a language that comes from another part of the world.
I may use Skype and other online tools for some speaking, but only as a plan B. The point will be to do the vast majority with natives (or with advanced speakers) in person.
This will also be an opportunity for me to refresh my level in languages that I constantly maintain, without having a new language distracting me at the same time. I will need this refresher because I have some pretty intense new language missions planned for next year and will have much less time to maintain my current ones.
And yes, it's also a good excuse for me to spend winter months, cold in many places, close to the Equator living among Latinos once again. 😉
Think this mission is a worthy challenge? Will you be following to see how I'm doing it so you can speak your target language from home too?