3 Ways to Become a Foreign Language Guru

Erin Johnson is a student at South Dakota State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Cusco, Peru.

Cristo Blanco, Cusco, Peru-Johnson-Photo 1
An amazing view of Cusco, Peru from Cristo Blanco.

Knowing more than one language is a pertinent skill to have in our ever-growing and interconnected world, but it has never been an easy skill to acquire. After taking many Spanish courses in high school and even more in college, I can easily say I still didn’t feel comfortable speaking the language, nor did I understand enough to communicate with other Spanish speakers. I wanted so badly to speak Spanish fluently, and for this reason I decided to study abroad! Before departing, my primary goal was to become a fluent or near fluent Spanish speaker.  After only being in Peru for 2 weeks, I have quickly realized that immersion is definitely the quickest way to learn the language. But even immersed in the language, learning Spanish is still difficult. These three simple but effective tips will fuel your journey to learn another language!

  1. Trust yourself
Tambomachay, Cusco, Peru-Johnson-Photo 2
A fellow ISA student climbed to the top of this scary high rock in Tambomachay!

If you took language classes back at home or you know a little bit of the language, then trust yourself! Utilize the information you know and don’t hesitate. You may run into some trouble and forget a word or some grammar, but don’t panic. Describe what you are trying to say or say it in a different way. Give yourself some credit. You know more than you think you do.

  1. Speak Spanish especially when you don’t want to!

After a full day of language classes, talking and listening to your host family, and attempting to communicate with the locals, you may be tempted to speak English or get away from Spanish for a little while. Your mind is tired and you don’t want to try, but this is when speaking the language is so important! Force yourself to continue speaking Spanish, asking questions, and don’t revert to English. As the saying goes, ¡Vale la pena! or It’s worth it!

  1. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself

No one has ever learned a language by being self-conscious of their abilities. When you commit to learning a language, making mistakes is inevitable! You will use the wrong word or verb, you will misunderstand people, but you will also learn. I have had quite a few laughable moments, and those are the mistakes that I remember the most and won´t make twice. The more you speak, the more you make mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the better your Spanish will eventually be.

Want to discover more about Cusco? Check out “4 Historical Points to Know in Cusco”