Language Mentors #5: Nikki Prša (Amercian Polyglot, Speaks 7 Languages)
“My goal is to inspire others to just begin. You never know where life can take you when you’re able to communicate with people in their mother tongue.” -Nikki Prša
After hearing her speak at Women In Language, I knew that I had to interview Nikki Prša for our new Language Mentors series.
Nikki is the polyglot behind Speak at Home Tonight. Her company provides personalized language instruction to individuals and companies online. She knows exactly what it takes to learn a language, folks. She speaks seven languages!
Nikki has always been a language lover. Growing up, she spoke Polish at home and English at school. She studied German and Arabic in Germany and Egypt. She picked up Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian while living in Croatia and Slovenia. This polyglot is unstoppable!
Language Mentors: Learn a New Language in 90 Days
Language Mentors is our regular feature where we interview polyglots, language teachers, language learners and even folks from outside the field of language learning. We’re getting straight to the point, asking for their top tips on language acquisition, steadfast motivation, and rapid learning.
We want to give you the inside scoop on what it takes to learn a new language, fast (in as little as 90 days).
We’ve actually seen hundreds of people learn a new language to a conversational level in just 90 days. You can do it too by putting what you learn from our Language Mentors into practice.
And if you need extra support, then join us in Fluent in 3 Months Challenge — where you’ll make lots of new friends who share your goal of learning a new language fast (plus you’ll have a 15 minute conversation in your new language after 90 days — we guarantee it).
Read on to learn some of Nikki’s language learning hacks. And get to know some fascinating facts about this energetic polyglot at the same time.
What Are the Top Three Activities You Would Advise to Have a 15 Minute Conversation in a New Language after 90 Days??
This goal is absolutely attainable. I would recommend doing the following:
- Listen to music in your target language. Look up the lyrics. Translate them (on your own) into your native language. Mark any useful phrases. Add them to a list in your notebook or your phone. Try to use them in conversation immediately.
- Take group classes or individual lessons online or in person. This way, you will have someone to practice with and are able to ask any questions you may have.
- Be brave and try to communicate with others! If you have no one to talk to, record yourself and post on social media. You can converse with other speakers of your target language online. It is great to see and hear your progress in the language you are learning.
What Are the Top Three Roadblocks You See Learners Face?
- Insecurity (especially when learners are not speaking the language enough to make progress)
- Getting stuck and giving up
- Lack of time which often leads to lack of motivation
What Are Your Top Three Keys for Dealing with Those Roadblocks?
- A lot of people study the written language and lack the confidence they need to try to speak the language. It can be hard when you try to say something in another language and the other person does not understand you. It’s a blow to your confidence. You can be bummed for a little bit, but try to get over it. Move on quickly and try again! Everyone makes mistakes. The only way to get better is to keep going.
- Sometimes people get stuck on a certain grammar point. For example, they cannot figure out how to say things in the future. They may give up on trying to learn the language. Try to figure out another way to look at the topic. Watch another explanation on YouTube. DM a native speaker of your target language on Instagram or Twitter and ask them for help. Or take part in a language exchange or online/in person class. Hearing as much of the language as possible can help your speaking skills as much as your listening skills.
- If you find you don’t have enough time or you’re not feeling motivated to study, discover the way you learn best. You may not be the online language app type. You may need to do something in person to have fun with language learning. If you like watching TV or movies, watch something you’ve seen before in your target language! It’ll be entertaining and educational. You can do a quick lesson on Memrise or DuoLingo](https://www.fluentin3months.com/duolingo/). Or go through your list of phrases on your phone or in your notebook to review what you already know. If I ever feel stuck, my favorite thing to do is take a song in English and translate it into the target language. It can be so silly but it is a blast to figure out how to sing “Party in the USA” in Croatian. I get a kick out of trying to get the words to match up to the melody.
What Are Your Top Three Favorite Memories of a Language Win?
It is so hard to pick three!
- Riding in taxis in Cairo and surprising the driver by speaking Egyptian Arabic
- When people think I’m a native speaker of any of my target languages
- Appearing in a segment on Good Morning Croatia. I spoke in Croatian about my company. I was visiting my in-laws in Croatia. And I had a feeling that I could make it happen. I reached out to the show to see if they’d be interested. They were. It was so fun!
What Are Your Top Three Favorite Places to Practice Speaking a Target Language?
- At a language meetup at the [insert language here] Society of the town where you live. For example, there is a German Society of Philadelphia that has regular meetings. You can also find a language exchange from Meetup.com in your area.
- In the country or place where they speak the language I am learning. I adore a good immersion experience.
- On Facetime with friends and family who speak that language! The internet is amazing. I relish being able to communicate easily with people all over the world.
What Are Your Top Three Favorite Cities?
- Mošćenička Draga isn’t a city but rather a small town on the Croatian coast. I love the seaside in Croatia! It is beautiful and clean. The sea helps me to recharge my batteries.
- Paris, France is all about food, language, and exploring this gorgeous city on foot. You can’t help but feel the romance when you are in this dreamy metropolis.
- San Diego, USA offers amazing weather. You can explore the outdoors in the most entertaining ways! Seeing all the seals chillin’ out in nearby La Jolla. Taking an adventurous yoga class. Discovering the Italian market downtown and all the goodies from nearby Mexico.
What Are the Top Three Biggest Challenges You Face in Your Target Language?
- Grammar in general can be difficult. Especially remembering different case endings when you are speaking in another language
- When I speak a lot of one language for a while, it can be hard to remember a simple word in another language. When my in-laws were visiting from Croatia, I was speaking so much Croatian. I then went to an event where I had to speak German all the time. I kept wanting to say opet “again” in Croation instead of wieder “again” in German!
- Arabic is a beautiful but difficult language for me. If I don’t use it, I lose it. I have to practice a little bit every day. It is challenging for me to put myself out of my comfort zone and record myself speaking Arabic. When I was taking classes regularly, I was much better. I would come up with freestyle raps in Arabic!
How Do You Work on These Challenges?
- I read multiple textbooks and do a variety of written exercises to work on grammar. I also use my list of phrases that I keep in my notebook or phone to review grammar patterns in the spoken language. I listen to native speakers. When I hear something new, I make a note of it to figure out what it means.
- The more you speak your target language, the more comfortable you will feel! I practice speaking the language as much as I can. Everyone makes mistakes. I will get better if I speak with more native speakers.
- I just do it. I make myself practice. I am not a big fan of preparing what I am going to say before I record a video of myself but I know that can help a lot of people. I used to read a lot in Arabic and translate to English. A big tip I can give for studying Arabic is do not transliterate! Learn the alphabet. Once comfortable with the alphabet, Arabic is just like learning any other language.
What Are Your Top Three Pearls of Wisdom for Language Learners?
- Combine your other hobbies with language learning. I love to cook. I enjoy looking up recipes from different countries in different languages. I also watch YouTube videos and cooking shows in different languages. I learn how to prepare a dish from another culture. Make sure you are having a good time! If you are enjoying yourself, you’ll want to continue.
- Do not be shy. You have to try in order to get better. Being quiet won’t get you to the next level. Be brave and practice. If you hear someone speaking the language, at least say hello! You might be able to get a little speaking practice in – or you may even make a new friend!
- Learn phrases instead of single words. Once you have a few phrases under your belt, you can learn more individual words. Always learn the gender along with the word if the language uses genders. Learn phrases so you can have a conversation as soon as possible.
If You Were Going to Try the Fi3M Challenge, What Are the Top Three Languages You Might Attempt to Learn?
- I have always found French delightful and only know the basics. I’ve wanted to dedicate more time to it but I haven’t found the right teacher yet. So I’ve just been dabbling on my own.
- People assume I speak Spanish because I live in the U.S. I know a lot of random words and phrases. But I would need to focus for a few months so I could become properly conversational.
- I enjoy a good language challenge. There is no better feeling than delighting someone by speaking their native tongue. When I do share the few words I know in Mandarin to someone I meet, they are so excited. It makes me want to learn more so I can communicate further!
What Are Your Top Three Guilty Pleasures When Learning a Language?
- Scream singing 80s/90s Croatian pop music. It reminds me of being at a wedding in Croatia.
- Disco Polo. Polish people know what this is.
- Reality TV shows from other countries. You can learn a lot of conversational phrases from reality shows. They show real life conversations between the contestants.
What Are Your Top Three Tips for Starting to Learn Another Language
- When I was younger, I first learned to count to ten, say “I love you”, and basic greetings in 20 languages. I was bold and just asked people who spoke the language how to say certain things. You never know when something you learn and tuck away in your brain might come in handy. In one very important case, a Croatian guy was hired at the restaurant that I worked at in college. I was excited to meet him and tried to think of anything I knew about Croatia. I remembered from back in the AIM days, a friend would write Volim te to his Croatian girlfriend as an away message. As I met the new guy at the restaurant, I said Volim te since it was the only thing I knew how to say. If you don’t know – that means “I love you.” He responded to me in Croatian but I told him that was the only thing I knew in his language. We totally hit it off…and that guy eventually became my husband. ❤
- Go to your local library and get a book, DVD or something that you can bring home to begin to study the language. Take notes while you are going through the materials in a notebook. It helps you remember things more when you write it down by hand.
- Ask for help when you need it. Hire a teacher through an online school or from a local school. If things aren’t working with your current teacher, get another one. If you can’t afford to pay for lessons, get onto a Facebook group. There are so many! You can connect with speakers of your target language and learn something new.
What Are Your Top Three Tips for Starting a Conversation with a Stranger in Your Target Language
- Greet them! Consider their culture. In the States, people are very friendly and say “How are you” as a greeting rather than wanting to know what is going on with you. If you’re talking to someone from Eastern Europe, a “hello” will do just fine!
- Discuss a topic that could go in many directions. Travel is always a good one that won’t offend anyone.
- If you don’t know what else to say, ask for directions or a recommendation! Ask the person if they know how to get to a certain place. Ask if they have any tips for you to learn their language. Or ask if they have a favorite food that you should try.
What about You?
This was an article jam-packed with language learning hacks. Which of Nikki’s tips resonate most with you? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section. And to our Fi3M Challengers, best of luck on your language adventure!
Want to learn a new language in 90 days? Come join us in the Fi3M Challenge.