Travels

Trilingual by 2015, or why I might give $1000 to the Tea Party

I’ve been in this situation before. Hopelessly monolingual in a foreign country, wishing for meaningful dialogues instead of simple pleasantries and broken conversations about the weather. In both Nicaragua and Spain, I told myself I’d go back home and learn Spanish so that next time it wouldn’t be like this, but it’s never happened. I know people who are fluent in 5 languages, how can I still only speak one?

Starting today that changes. I’m going to rid myself of that stereotype that plagues Americans the world over – that we’re too lazy to learn another language besides English.

Actually, I’m going to learn two languages, and do it by my 25th birthday.

Hopefully by making myself publicly accountable for a big goal like this, I’ll be more likely to achieve it. In case that doesn’t work, I have some other tricks too, but first the goal.

By my 25th birthday, November 25th, 2015, I will be fluent Spanish and French. 

Cool, so what do I mean by “fluent?”

Speaking the language perfectly? Being indistinguishable from a native speaker? Being able to have debates about philosophy or other esoteric subjects?

I’m defining it as being able to have a 30 minute conversation with a native speaker and understand at least 95% of what’s said, easily clarifying if I don’t, and being able to express myself completely without having to awkwardly phrase sentences or slow down the pace of the conversation. Understand, I don’t plan to be mistaken for a native speaker at this point, just have a very good understanding of the language. While this might not fit everyone’s definition of fluency, it will be sufficient for my use. For more info, I’m basing my definition on one from some guy on the internet.

Why by my 25th birthday? No real reason, it just seemed like a good deadline. I tend to work better under pressure of a deadline as well and this way I’ll be able to track my progress better.

I don’t yet know exactly the process that I’ll take to get to fluency, but I’m creating an incentive to make sure that I figure out a way to do so. As of now, I’m publicly committing that if I’m not fluent in Spanish and French on my birthday two and a half years from now:

I will personally donate $1000 of my own money to Tea Party politicians.

See, not only do I really not want to lose $1000, I really really don’t want to give it to the Tea Party. I won’t get into politics here, but suffice it to say that they’re pretty far away on the idealogical spectrum from where I stand. By creating this sort of incentive, hopefully I’ll be less likely to make excuses when it comes to practicing the languages, pushing past plateaus, or talking with native speakers. I’ll be the first to admit that my willpower isn’t strong enough to do something like this on my own, so this is my way of forcing my future self to suck it up and make it happen.

Sorry future Brian, it’s for your own good. Do it for gender equality! Do it for the environment!

Good luck!

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17 thoughts on “Trilingual by 2015, or why I might give $1000 to the Tea Party

  1. Lauren David says:

    What a goal! I have an intermediate French textbook and workbook that I bought to brush up….and never used haha. So when you get to that point, if you want them they’re at my parents house!

  2. Sunnyplace: I’m familiar with this type of motivation, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be $1000, just an amount that you’d really miss if it wasn’t there anymore.

  3. Dominick says:

    This is a real Win-Win for me! I love watching people meet their goals, especially when it relates to something as life enrichening and becoming multilingual. I am currently raising my children in a language I am fluent in yet I didn’t speak until 4 years ago, and I can’t imagine living the rest of my life without it. However, in the unfortunate event that you don’t meet your goal, Tea Party politics align decently close to mine, so either way I’ll be rather satisfied with the outcome. I’ll be following your progress!

  4. Dominick says:

    Side note, Tea Party politics are much more interested in limiting government power than they are in screwing over women’s rights.

  5. margaret says:

    so so so glad you posted this! I am going to join you. there comes a point when one really gets sick and tired of always say that they “want to do X” and then never doing anything about it. thanks for the boost!

  6. Jacques Lapointe says:

    Bonne chance! Je te souhaite vraiment de gagner ton pari… Sinon, cela voudrait dire qu’il y aurait un francophone de moins aux États-Unis… et 1000$ dans les poches d’un parti que je déteste!

  7. Te deseo un gran exito. Realmente es facil aprender Español si hablas Ingles.

    English and Spanish share more than 2000 cognates so right off the bat you have a 2000 word vocabulary at your disposal.

    Ademas, el sintax de los dos idiomas es similar. No es como aprender Japones o Hungaro, es mas facil.

    I recommend you try the Michel Thomas method. Start with the Complete series. It really helps a person overcome that initial inertia and it gives you confidence.

    De qualquier manera, te deseo buena suerte.

  8. Daniel says:

    I think it’s a great way to motivate yourself however I think your goal could be a bit more quantifiable. How about setting a target of passing a language exam for both languages that would be equivalent to C1 (ie. DELE for Spanish) for Writing, Listening and Speaking sections . Being able to understand 95% percent of a 30min conversation is a nice target but a bit vague and also only refers to a single ability (listening). If C1 is a bit too ambitious for you perhaps you could aim for B2, the bottom line is that it is typically easier to be accountable for your results if you can quantify them. Good luck!

    • Elena says:

      I used official language exam as a criteria of being fluent for Portuguese and it worked really well, so I agree with Daniel. And, of course, sincerely wish all the best to Brian with his challenge!

  9. Fantastic Brian! I wouldn’t want that money be flushed down the toilet like that either. I speak fluent Spanish and my wife is Colombian, let us know how we can help!

  10. When I learned French I did most of it just by using Michel Thomas and speaking to people over verbling and interpals.com. Thomas laid the foundation and my conversations helped me fill in holes and move forward.

    It really isn’t that hard. You should do just fine. Keep me up to date!

  11. lolo says:

    Bonne chance mec . Une liste de mot identique en francais anglais http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/vraisamis-a.htm .Donc tu voit ton vocabulaire francais n’est pas de seulement 50 mots . De plus si tu parle un anglais soutennue la francais devrai etre facile pour toi car la plupart des mot en anglais soutennue vienne du francais grace ou a cause de guillaume le conquerant. et ne t’inquiete pour la gramaire dans les trois lignes que je vient de faire il doit y avoir 10 fautes la grammaire francaise est trés tur meme pour un francais. Je fait moins de faute orthographe en anglais que en francais

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