The Four Things You Need to Learn Any Language

Help! I want to learn a language but I can’t take your class!

Last month someone said this to me, I hear it pretty frequently.  So, I decided to blog the advice and resources that are my go to.  Many of them are not original, they come from the Growing Participator Approach by Greg and Angela Thomson, my heroes! The Thomsons have helped thousands of people grow into new languacultural worlds, building deep relationships across cultural barriers.

You need a team of about 5 people praying every day specifically for your language learning

The first thing I tell praying people is to enlist a team of about 5 people to pray every day for their growth into a new languacultural world. Make no mistake, staying encouraged while crossing cultures is a spiritual battle. We need God’s strength, power, peace, and intervention.  So, if you want to learn a new language, enlist a team. Like, right now. Stop reading this and do it! Ok, now that you’ve got a team, you can keep reading!

You need friendly, patient, humble people to play language games with you – Language Parents

I recently polled many people learning language and asked them what their number one question was. I figured it would be something about techniques for different stages of language learning. And I was dead wrong. Everyone said they wanted to know how to stay motivated. So I thought about how I stay motivated-and that’s by having relationships with people. Having someone show up at my house or the library or on Skype to play language games with me is what keeps me going.

These days I like to call these friendly people “language parents.” (I got that from Chris Lonsdale’s good book The Third Ear.) I’ve found them through friends, on, and by sending out flyers. However you do it, this is the first thing your team should be praying for you, every day.

You need a plan

I use, and I suggest that people use Greg and Angela Thomson’s 6 Phase Growing Participator Approach. Why? Because it’s based on communication, it’s centered on relationships with people, the techniques change as you grow, and because it works. It’s worked for me in French, it’s working for me right now in American Sign Language, and I’ve personally seen it work for about 100 people. You can find the most current versions of the materials at  There are also really helpful explanation and how to videos by my heroes 🙂 on Vimeo: You can find my overview of the 4 most important techniques here.

You need a coach

Everyone, including professional language coaches like me, needs a coach. Even pro athletes all have coaches. Coaches encourage us, troubleshoot things that aren’t working, and guide us into new areas of growth.  Honestly, this isn’t the direction that I was planning to go with this blog post, but if you are looking for a language coach, you can email me at and we can set up a time to talk about it.

Want to take a class?

I can personally recommend (because I’ve taught them!) the courses at SIL UND and SIL Australia.

Please leave your questions and comments below! Your questions will fuel new blog posts!


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