“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”        Nelson Mandela

Many of us would love to learn another language.  It’s a wonderful way to communicate with others. However it’s not always easy, even with CDs, DVDs, YouTube videos, and more.

I don’t know about you, but I have French and isiZulu books and CDs lying on shelves gathering dust.  There are hundreds of YouTube videos lined up so that I can learn French ‘when the mood takes me’.  This has been going on for years.  Many years, and I still can’t speak French or isiZulu.  I know a few words of each, but I cannot hold a conversation in either.

WHY do I want to learn these languages?

Eventually I had to ask myself why this is so?  I mean, given the fact that I would LOVE to be able to converse in both those languages, why does the idea remain on the shelf? 

And therein lies the solution – for me.  But first the question.  WHY do I want to learn these languages?  The answer?  To be able to converse with others.  This is why the CDs, DVDs, and videos have not worked for me.  I don’t only need vocabulary and grammar lessons, I need another person who is just as passionate about learning a language with me.  Someone to talk to, to have a conversation with.

I began to research, and found two great ways to learn another language:

  1. Fully immerse yourself in it.  This will work best if you have two people who live together, who can help each other.  It can work well now during lockdown.
  2. Both of you would read books in the new language;
  3. Place post-it stickers on items – table, chair, fridge etc.;
  4. Turn the TV on to a channel which broadcasts in that language;
  5. Watch YouTube videos together; 
  6. Try to do absolutely everything in the new language, and help each other. 
  7. If you want to learn the language of a fellow South African – say I want to learn isiZulu and an isiZulu-speaking person wants to learn or improve their English, we could help each other.  We could meet for a coffee date once a week (**yes we are in lockdown – read on).

Each of you would do the following:

  1. Take along a magazine.  Use it to describe colours and pictures, point to items and name them.  Discuss articles together, but speak only your ‘new’ language. 
  2. Greet each other in the language you are learning.
  3.  Ask after their health, how the family are doing, etc.
  4. Each of you would read the new language and the other would help guide your pronunciation, inflection and so on.
  5. You should each pick up the other’s language fairly quickly.

Right now, we cannot go on coffee dates.  But what can we do? 

Most of us have cell phones. We CAN:

  •          Send videos, photos, and voice notes.
  •          Use WhatsApp video.
  •          Hold Zoom meetings (you can ‘Zoom’ for forty minutes at a time, for free).

If you are as passionate about learning another language as I am, why wait?   Start now.


Edited By:  Sally Quinlan