A quick Google Search educates me that ‘fluency’ is being able to express oneself easily and articulately.
That’s really all there is to language. Expression of oneself and getting others to understand you. So why is learning a new language considered as a big challenge?
Because most people give importance to such things as grammar, being perfect and more than anything – worrying about being wrong!
You may not recollect your earliest memories of learning your first ever language from your parents or teachers, but just watch a kid learn – not in school or pre-school, just with elders around. What does s/he do? Copy. Parrot. Mimic. The first words of a kid are most likely to be ‘pa-pa’ or ‘ma-ma’ (or ‘co-ffee’ in my case).
That’s how i ‘hack’ languages personally, by simply copying and mimicking people who speak in their native language. The beauty of this is, your message is communicated better this way than by being grammatically correct or framing your words eloquently.
If you asked me to dissect language and allocate grades to the most important parts of it, here’s how it would look like:
1. Focus on Pronunciation and Accent
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that really matters. I’ve done wonderfully well communicating with locals with grammatically murdered words that sounded right, while others had a tougher time using the correct words but sounding alien.
Use Case: Most people just say ‘Buenas’ in the day, and not the otherwise correct ‘Buenas Tardes’ in South America.
2. Master some local phrases / slang
Another fantastic hack that is guaranteed to get you more friends anywhere is using local phrases and slang.
Use Case: “E aí?” means the same as “Como vai?” (how are you / what’s up?) in Brasilian Portuguese. But in informal situations, the former earns you more points as an ‘insider’.
3. Keep building your vocabulary. Never stop.
Once you’re saying your words and phrases like a local and using slang in informal situations, you can move on to improving your vocabulary. There’s no end to this exercise, so keep practicing and learning as much as you can.
Wait, what about Grammar?!
I know my teachers would hate me for saying this, but i would place grammar at the bottom of language learning. Don’t get me wrong, i LOVE languages and i respect grammar. But think of grammar as the grand finale, the garnishing, the finishing touch. Don’t make it stop you from expressing yourself and cheating your way to sounding like a local!
Further Language Learning Resources