I have just come back from my stay in Greece where I tried to learn Greek (more on the results of that in my next post) and that experience got me thinking about this: those of you who go to foreign countries and try to learn the local language will know that learning it will not come by itself: you actually have to put a lot of work in; and even then sometimes it’s very hard. In this day and age of English as the international language, speaking opportunities are scarce and even then conversations end prematurely due to your low level of the language or you just don’t seem to be able to discuss difficult topics. At the end of the day, you end up staying in the country and not learning much if any of the local language. That’s where I got an idea.
Hire a Teacher – But Not a Traditional One!
Let’s cut to the chase here. I always thought that it would be possible to speak your way to fluency if only you had somebody willing to put up with you. If only you had enough hours, you could just keep speaking and speaking and getting corrected, making small improvements, etc. until you finally speak the language. In theory, this seems possible, however, in practice, you don’t do that with strangers because they are not there to teach you, and you rarely do that with friends because you are usually with them for something else, not for language learning (language learning, and especially at the lower levels, tends to become the central activity and not just a side benefit of communication). That’s where having a teacher who would speak with you just for language learning would be very useful. But what do I mean by a teacher? Here’s the trick:
Just Pay Somebody to Talk With You!
You are in the country, that means that there is no shortage of people who speak the local language. Moreover, you don’t need skilled labor because practically everybody speaks without mistakes and can be easily learned from. That means that you have a huge supply out there for you – and that means, in turn, that you are going to get a very decent price.
Imagine a newspaper ad you could publish (preferably in the local language too, let’s take Czech as an example):
Looking for a Czech native speaker to practice for 2 hours a day. I pay the current minimum rate of $4/hour. No qualifications except Czech as a native tongue needed. There is a trial period of one week.
How much attention would that attract? I imagine, if done in the right way, quite enough. You would make it clear that you want to pay somebody to speak to them in the local language, you will end up paying very little for that and if you want to, you can just choose a person you like speaking with.
You wouldn’t need anybody professional or language teachers or anything (perhaps these would be better in some ways but it would cost you a lot of money too). Just get anybody (well, perhaps do some anti-serial-killer profile scanning).
Why Not Just Find Some Friends To Practice With For Free Instead?
A lot of people are going to say that you don’t need to pay anybody to learn the language: you can just practice it. Sure, you can find friends and presumably you should do so but finding friends to learn the language and speaking it to somebody you pay for are not the same thing.
Here are some of the advantages of just paying somebody to learn the language in a country:
- you get somebody to practice with and thus you learn the language guaranteed – you might not be lucky enough to find good friends that would want to practice with you, or even if you do, they might have holidays, work, diseases, your schedules might not match up, etc; this, however, means guaranteed consistent (which is a great bonus) practice
- no need of worrying about them switching to English – just make it your policy that you stick to the language no matter what and your employee will have to comply because it’s their job after all, or you could just find one who doesn’t speak English for better results
- you don’t feel guilty about not speaking the language well – after all, you are paying somebody to listen and to communicate with you so they have to put up with you while with friends you sometimes feel awkward with asking the same thing for ten times or just let some things slide and that impedes your learning
- you get absolute flexibility in choosing what you want to talk about and what kind of things you want to learn – with friends or strangers, it doesn’t work like that
In summary, if you think about it, in most cases and for most people, you get a lot higher quality language learning than you would otherwise get from just meeting people, you remove most of the guilt or awkwardness for not speaking the language well and you can guarantee consistent progress for yourself. That sounds like a good strategy to me.
Even Better Than Language Exchange Partners.
Well, you would say: “get an exchange partner instead!” That’s a possibility too and that is most of the time an awesome thing to do but I can see a couple of problems with that. For a couple of them: exchange partners can be hard to find, they can just keep having other business and put off your meetings making them irregular and sometimes scarce – that happens a lot, in my practice, they also are interested in learning your language so during discussions they might want to switch to your language to get some more practice instead of helping you learn and finally, the fact alone that you can’t concentrate on just learning another language and you have to speak yours too – that doesn’t help either.
The Perspectives Of This Approach
It might be hard to get through the initial burden of paying somebody to learn the language you want to learn while it seems that you can do that for free but, if you think about it, you get it for way cheaper than most of the language courses you might have taken in the country anyway would cost you, the practice is a lot more concentrated and you are guaranteed to learn the language while in the country which is the most important factor in here.
How do I imagine this? You could just go to any country and know that you will learn the language of that country. You could set a period of a certain stay in the country, find a timeframe of practice that works with you and just hire somebody to help you. If you choose so, you could even then move from country to country and learn a lot of languages like this because you would know that you would be guaranteed to learn the language in every country instead of just leaving it to luck of meeting the right people (which might not happen at all).
In fact, you could even do all of this inside of your own country by hiring some immigrants or just fluent speakers and getting them to speak the language with you. You just have to select some topics, explain to them what you want to do, give them some rules and here you go.
What do you think of this idea?
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