Sure, you may have taken a foreign language class in high school or college, but those days are long gone. While many people say, “I’m too old to learn a foreign language,” others, such as New York native John Bowdre, who currently lives in China and speaks fluent Mandarin, prove otherwise. “Originally, I began learning Mandarin through my study-abroad experience at Shanghai University whilst in undergrad at FAMU, said Bowdre. But upon my return to China to start my business, I did not have the time or resources for a class so I depended on self-study and local (Chinese) employees to practice. Every day I would ask them (in Mandarin) “how do you say THIS?” or “how do you say THAT?” Day by day, I built my skills through consistent practice by combining the various words, phrases, and rules.
Whether you’re a frequent international business traveler or an adult looking to advance your skill set, here are three ways to learn a foreign language as an adult.
Immerse yourself in the culture and interact with native speakers – One of the best ways to become fluent in a second language is to spend some time in a destination or environment that forces you to learn by doing. For example, La Antigua, Guatemala; Barcelona, Spain; and Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Mexico are some of the best destinations to learn Spanish language and culture. If traveling to another country to learn a language is not feasible, search for local immersion programs in your area. Check out the following language-immersion programs:
- Na’atik Institute of Languages and Cultures in Mexico.
- Màximo Nivel Centro Intercultural in La Antigua, Guatemala.
- Sol Education Abroad in Costa Rica.
- French at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Montclair, and online.
Learn “Travel Phrases on the Go” – To get up to speed on a foreign language, download travel phrases on the go. Fodors.com partnered with Living Language to provide a series of quick and easy methods for learning key destination phrases in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, and even Arabic. Living Language.com also has a “Spanish on the Job“ series for law enforcement officers, healthcare workers, and librarians.
Practice each day – Whether you travel to another country to learn a foreign language or plan to download a few apps to help you learn some phrases while on-the-go, consistency is key. Find a partner, watch foreign films, or listen to a foreign radio station so you can learn how to pronounce the words and get a firm grasp on the individual sounds of the language.