I see it with my own husband. His first language is Spanish, but he is also fluent in English and speaks it better than many native speakers. He understands and can function in Portuguese, Italian, and French, as well as Spanish dialects and regional languages, such as Gallego (Galician) and Euskara (Basque).
I, on the other hand, struggle with languages. So, I have searched long and hard for ways to learn another language. For many people, Rosetta Stone is a good option, and writer Tim Ferris, of The Four Hour Workweek alleges that you an learn any language in three months, but there are other options as well, many that mirror Rosetta Stone's approach.
1. Go to school.
I went to the Boston Language Institute and took an intensive full-time Spanish immersion class before I went to Spain for the first time. It's expensive, but it works. Being immersed in a language is a matter of survival. If you have to communicate, you learn.
But, there are often classes at local adult continuing education programs. They may be offered through a community college or a local high school. It's a great way to get started.
Look online for local Meet-Ups. In many places around the country (and around the world, for that matter) are conversational events, where speakers at all levels can interact and learn.
Even novices have much opportunity to learn. The first stage of language acquisition is known as the silent period, where students listen and absorb everything, decoding what they can before they feel comfortable experimenting with oral language production. Sometimes, simply listening to another language is helpful, as you become familiar with cadence, accents and cognates.
Today, there are scores of language learning apps, but the one I use most frequently is DuoLingo. DuoLingo is a free app that offers language learning in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and English. It incorporates the four language domains: reading, writing, speaking and listening. And it's all free.
4. Online language learning
Sometimes, you can find online programs. For example, the BBC offers a program called Mi Vida Loca, a Spanish learning program set in Madrid.
It's a mystery series featuring 22 episodes of real action video lasting ten minutes each. It's fun and engaging and there's emphasis on conversational and functional language. And it's free.
5. Live Mocha
Live Mocha is an online language community (bought by Rosetta Stone in 2013) that offers opportunities to engage in 38 languages in the four domains. There is a free component and an option to pay for additional benefits.
There is no doubt that learning a second language opens your world. Experts stay that it stimulates your brain and can help with memory and protecting against dementia.
With so many options available at so many price points (and many free options), learning a second language is a win-win.
Where will you go?
Have you ever learned a second language? What tools did you use?