So many people live in a country that is not their own. I am one of them: I lived in Helsinki (Finland) for 6 years, then came to Vilnius (Lithuania) in 2011 and I have been living here for almost 4 years.
When you live abroad learning a language becomes this thing that haunts you every day of your life: the pink elephant in the room!
When you don’t study or practice the language, deep down you feel guilty. Every conversation you have in English – instead of Lithuanian – reminds you that you are still a tourist, a tourist in a country where they speak a language you can’t fully understand.
Languages are not hard – it's just a people problem http://t.co/qwdtLC5vTw
— Bliu Bliu (@BliuBliu) January 14, 2015
A classic conversation with Natives
If you live abroad this type of conversation will sound quite familiar:
The Native (they): Hi
The Student (me) : Hi
THEY: What’s your name/what do you do here/why you moved here/bla bla bla
ME: I am Claudio/I love the weather/bla bla bla
THEY: Wow, your English is really good for being Italian.
ME: Thanks. I learned English f…
THEY: But wait a second, how long have you been living here? Aren’t we supposed to speak in Lithuanian?
- switch in Lithuanian –
ME: Yes. I speak Lithuanian a bit, but nobody ever talks to me in Lithuanian.
THEY: ‘bla bla bla bla bla – did you understand what I just said?’
ME: Yes, almost everything, I just can’t talk very much
- switch back to english!!! -
THEY: your Lithuanian pronunciation is really good, almost no accent. So… what are you doing here in Vilnius?
ME: bla bla bla
THEY: bla bla bla
Live your life or not to live your life, that is the question
I should speak Lithuanian more, it’s true. Deep down I just dream that natives would speak with me more often in Lithuanian: isn’t it supposed to be easy for them? It’s their native language, I am the one that can’t really speak it…
Here is my dilemma: studying the language at home, alone OR trying to practice with friends?
Study = Results, no doubt!
People that manage to find the motivation to study a language every day for several hours make progress. They often get to a very good level. This is the painful/hardcore/polyglot approach. It requires lots of motivation and a long period of training that might not be so much fun. And of course you need to use the right tools
Friends = fun but no practice!
Practicing with friends/lover would be so much more fun (at least for someone like me) but that practice never comes: it’s always hard to find 10 minutes to talk in Lithuanian.
Lots of psychological reasons make practicing with natives hard, but you can be sure that if there is English as a common language, English is the language that will be used 99.9% of the time.
Italian is not an easy language…it’s just easy to learn
Italian language is easy to learn just cause Italians can’t speak English (I am Italian, I know that). Same goes for Spanish, French and lots of other languages when natives can’t speak English.
The environment (Italy) makes learning the language inevitable (Italian)
The environment (Lithuania) makes learning the language inevitable (English)
Do you see the problem here?
Come to Lithuania to learn English, not Lithuanian
When you live in Lithuania (or Finland), where the population speaks very good English, you’ve got a problem. In Vilnius learning the language is not inevitable and you don’t get good exposure to the local language. Something magical happens: when you enter any conversation the language switches to English. Hundreds of conversations in the local language around you but you are not part of them. As soon as you get involved in a conversation, the language switches and you loose your possibility to learn.
The environment makes the difference
Do we want to make languages easy to learn? We all just need to create the perfect environment for language learning.
Immersion is very important: it really helps to surround yourself with music in that language, videos in that language, books in that language, people that speak in that language.
But what is important is that immersion needs to be relevant for you. Lots of elevator music won’t make you fluent, same for lots of elevator conversations that are just in the background and you are not even listening, as they are not relevant to you.
You need to be an active part of these conversations.
Vision of the future
2 years ago at Bliu Bliu we had a vision: to create the perfect environment to learn a language, so that while you are having fun, as a side effect, you also learn the language, as quickly as possible.
Bliu Bliu OFFLINE
Recently we started to experiment with offline projects, looking for ways to facilitate dialogues between Natives and Students, between me and my friends.
The aim is to find smooth ways to switch these dialogues, that normally are in English, into the local language.
How to get students involved in more conversations? How to help natives to connect with their foreign friends, overcoming the psychological barriers that make it impossibile to talk in the local language when English is an available option?
Motivation is not enough
Motivation alone is not enough. I am sure you are highly motivated to learn a new language, or to go to the gym to get healthy, change your diet, get some new habit.
When you make changes, when you learn a new skill, there is always a reasonable amount of stress to manage and that’s what you/we need to work on.
Stress management: the secret to learn any language
So many people learn English by watching hours and hours of movies. I learned English by watching the TV Series Friends: 10 seasons, around 90 hours of fun dialogues. Then I moved to Finland and while I was trying to learn Finnish I basically spent many years improving my English, just by accident.
Language learning happens when you don’t think about it, when you are busy doing something else.
It’s important to be busy doing something fun that requires to use the target language. Relevant will also work: try to call your bank or mobile operator to discuss the 20 euro they accidentally took away from your account: you will learn more during that conversation than in the last week of studying.
Wanna join us?
Starting from this week we will share with you lots of tips&tricks on how to reduce the stress and how to keep the flow in practicing with Natives.
Learning doesn’t have to be hard
Let’s make learning a language Quick, Easy and Fun.