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Starting Small (with a goal)

Jeremy Ginsburg

Learning a new language can be tough.

I’m not going to lie.

It’s pretty intimidating.

New vocabulary. New sounds. New grammar structure.

It’s all brand new! And doing anything you’re not used to is hard.

If this intimidates you, don’t worry. That’s completely normal.

That’s why I’ve got a little trick for you. Are you ready?

 

Here’s the trick: Start with a small, specific goal.

What is a ‘small, specific goal’?

Something that’s easy to check off once completed, but also something that’s small.

For example, when I was visiting my sister in Capetown, South Africa, I became infatuated with one of the local languages, Xhosa.

You probably don’t recognize Xhosa by its name, but it’s famously known as the language with clicks. I thought it was the coolest thing ever!

But, I had no idea how to speak it. The accent was challenging, I was only there for a few days, I didn’t know any native speakers, plus I was there with my family on vacation.

Basically, I knew I didn’t have much time to learn the language. But, I set one small goal for myself. I wanted to be able to pronounce the word “Xhosa”.

See, the “Xh” combination is what makes the clicking sound, and I wanted to be  able to say it right.

So, I kept asking people, "Do you speak Xhosa?"

As I would pronounce the word incorrectly, I could hear them respond,

“Oh, Xhosa?”.

“Yes! How do you pronounce it?”

I would study their mouth, listen to the sound, and repeat it. After a few times, I finally got it. And it felt great.

I didn’t know how to say anything, but I could pronounce the name of the language well enough that the locals understood me, and were even impressed that I could nail the pronunciation.

For my entire trip in South Africa, every time I met someone, I would ask if they spoke Xhosa. Because I knew how to pronounce this one word, I generated many smiles and made many friends.

So, here’s a challenge for you. What’s your small, specific goal in your target language? It could be as small as pronouncing one word (just like my goal), or maybe something different.

Let me know what it is.

I’m serious. Hit the ‘reply’ button or leave a comment and tell me what your goal is. I don’t care how silly or small it is. I want to read about it!

Because very soon, I’ll teach you another trick on how to build on this strategy of setting small and specific goals to take your language learning journey to the next level.

Talk soon,

 

Jeremy Ginsburg

The VietNomad

the HippoPolyglot   (I don't even know what that means)