Language Learning for Busy People part 2

In the middle of applying for graduate school on top of my normal workload, I got a message from an Iraqi man who was willing to help me with my Arabic.

I didn’t have time.

I’ve also waited for a few years to find someone to help me with Arabic.

So, I said yes.

We’re doing something I’d never thought of-sending voice messages back and forth on Facebook Messenger. So, he sends me a minute or so in English, I send it back, saying what he said in a more natural way.

I don’t have enough Arabic to understand that yet (I tried!), so I sent him a photo of a page in a picture book, and then recorded myself trying to talk about it. He responded saying what I’d said in much better Arabic, and adding some more. I could understand, because I was looking at the picture he was talking about.

This has been great for my Arabic, and fits into my schedule. If I have a few minutes, I do a little Arabic.

And, I’m slowly making a new friend!

Is it the perfect situation? Nope! But, progress, not perfection, right?

What creative ways have you used technology to build relationships in your new language?

Language Learning for Busy People

Ideally, we would all have several hours a week to spend with a host person in their country. That’s perfect, right?

But, I run into too many people who say that if they can’t learn language in the perfect situation, they can’t learn at all.

Thankfully, that’s a bunch of hooey.

I’m fluent in Spanish. I got that way never ever having been in a Spanish speaking country. (I have now, and it helps my Spanish, but I got there without the perfect situation.)

To the people that say that they can’t learn unless they’re there in a country doing it full time and perfectly, I say…

Progress, not perfection.

Next week you’ll hear how I’m making progress imperfectly in Iraqi Arabic.

My Absolute Favorite Resource for Language Learning

This is hands down the thing that has helped me most in learning a new language.

Drum roll, please…

Yep, a website. But what a website! It doesn’t magically generate flash cards or drill me in grammar, oh no.

It connects me with people. As they say right at the top of their site: “Become fluent in any language while making friends with native speakers.”

That’s priceless.

Check them out!

Don’t say “teach!”

The most important thing when you’re looking for a language parent to help you speak their language is for you to change your language.

What do I mean?

Take words like

teach, study, teacher, learn, class, tutor

completely out of what you say to someone you’re talking to.

Use words like

friend, help, play games, speak, understand



When you say “teach” people immediately think “teacher.” That’s a title that’s earned in a lot of societies, and it’s likely the person you’re talking to won’t have it. It’s also likely better if they don’t. Read why here.

How have you found friends to help you with their language?

The fastest and easiest way to sound more like a native speaker!

When we’re learning a new language, we all have to pause and think in the middle of sentences, right?

So, what do you say while you’re pausing? “Ummmmm,” perhaps?

Is that what host people are saying?


Listen and observe and see what they say when they’re pausing. In some places in Spanish it’s “este,” where I lived in France it was “euh.”

Once you’ve noticed what host people say, say that! It’s amazing how much more native-like you’ll sound, immediately!

So, how do people fill in pauses in your new language?

How I grew to love 3 hour church services!

This is easy.

Get permission from the leaders, then make a quick recording of the music in the service every week.

Go home, get a friend to help you understand the words as much as possible, at least the gist of the song.

Listen to and sing along with the recording.

Repeat as you hear new songs.

This made all the difference in the world to how I experienced church in Benin!

Oh, and bring a frozen water bottle in a towel to rest your wrists on during the sermon to keep yourself cool.

How have you learned to enjoy church services in your host culture?