Guest Blogger: Bryce DeCora, Founder of Finite Languages.
Sometimes we learn from the most unlikely sources. I learned my first magic trick from a cereal box. I learned how to do a cartwheel from a 6-year-old. And I learned Italian from my newborn son. No, my son did not come out of the womb speaking Italian. He was born to a couple of monolingual parents in South Dakota and, like most other kids in the USA, was well on track to a monolingual life. So how did this smelly little ball of cute teach me Italian? He taught me to be like a kid and live the language.
By the time Atlas was born, I had been studying Italian for about a year. Like most other inexperienced language learners, I barely knew a proper greeting in Italian, even after a year of studying. Fast forward to Atlas’s first birthday. I’m feeling pretty proud of my 2 years of language studying and decide that I’ll try only speaking to him in Italian… I never looked back. Over the past year and a half, I have never spoken a word of English to Atlas.
“Over the past year and a half I have never spoken a word of English to Atlas.”
Imagine the difficulties of speaking a language you are not comfortable in with your kids. When I told him “Ti voglio bene” (I love you), I didn’t feel a connection. There were days where I was too tired to think in Italian around him, so I didn’t say anything. There were even times where I fought with my spouse because she couldn’t understand what I was saying to our son. But this is how I was able to really learn Italian.
After a couple months, I realized I was able to say simple things in Italian on impulse. I was starting to think in Italian. I was starting to dream in Italian. This was true language learning. And the more I spoke to him, the faster I learned and the more comfortable I became in the language. I had figured out the key. To truly learn a language, programming your mind so that you process thoughts in that language, you have to force yourself to live the language.
“This was true language learning.”
Duolingo, Babbel, Rosetta Stone; those are training wheels that can only take you so far. If your goal is to reach fluency in your target language (or anywhere close), it is essential that you find a way to live it. Atlas and I watch TV in Italian, we have kitchen dance parties to Italian music, we argue in Italian and we love each other in Italian.
Atlas is now two and a half and speaks Russian (learned from his nanny), English (from his mom) and Italian (from me). Of course, he is only two and a half, so his sentences are limited to things like “Dammi un biscotto!” or “Where did the moon go?” or “Я хочу кота!” He has been able to learn so much about languages because he, like all kids, lives the language. Learn from Atlas. Learn from me. Apps and flashcards are not enough; you have to live your language.
Guest Blogger: Bryce DeCora
A place for language lovers to write in their target language, get corrections from native speakers and our computer analytics program and have the blogs posted online for other language learners.