Whether you live in the country of your target language, or not, your top priority should be to find a language snitch—an informant who is a native speaker of the language you are learning and is patient and supportive. This person is invaluable while learning a new language.
Speaking a new language is as easy as it sounds; just go and talk to people. We are lucky enough to live in a melting pot society, so do not waste an opportunity.
What is a language snitch? It is the same as a snitch in common language: Someone who gives you information. The exception being your language snitch will be giving you spoken language information when you approach them. Make no mistake, your sole and unique goal is to extract language exchanges from this snitch and use this information for your gain.
Treat them like Gollum treated the ring in Lord of the Rings—your “precious.”
When I lived in Shanghai, I had three permanent language snitches:
The gateman: I used to offer him a Tsing Tao (the national beer) to ease his tongue. We would sit there in his green cabin for hours and discuss Chinese food, Chinese ladies and Chinese football teams—topics I was interested in.
The ayi (cleaning lady): We discussed our families, the education of her unique son and Chinese food.
My teaching assistant: We discussed students, lessons and life at the school in Mandarin during breaks.
I also had random language snitches such as police officers, shop assistants, girls at clubs, my students’ parents and anyone I could find.
Here is my methodology to maximize the use of language snitches in two easy steps:
Step 1: Study one topic at home and practice it out loud.
Step 2: Go out there and find one of your snitches and practice that exact topic.
Where can you find those precious language snitches if you do not live abroad?
Try the following solutions:
– Go to restaurants in your city. If you live in a big enough city you are bound to find a restaurant coming from that country, with people who speak the language.
– Find a language school and try to befriend the staff
.- Go to the university and put a language exchange proposal upon their community board.
– Ask your local city hall for any information leading you to a native speaker.
It is your turn. Go out there and find your language snitch.
Remember: Study anywhere, get somewhere.
Anthony Permaye, or the Language Chameleon, is a certified neuro-language coach, who offers a unique learning foundation that teaches individuals how to learn any language anywhere.