There is lots of advice out there about learning a language, and we’ve written a lot of it. You can get tips on how to memorize vocab, figure out grammatical gender and improve your accent. Almost all of these, at some point, suggest practicing with another person. Which, we realize, isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
If you don’t already know someone fluent in your target language, finding another person to test your language skills on can be tough. You could find an online community that connects people over Skype or in-person, but you might not want to pile social stress on top of language-learning stress. Fortunately, there’s another human resource you can use: your friends.
Your friends might need a little convincing. We get it! To help you out, we have some great tips to get them to come around.
1. Use Peer Pressure (For Good!)
Peer pressure gets a pretty bad rap. Yeah, sure, it’s not always a good idea to use someone’s fears of social exclusion against them. But if you think about it, most of the things we do is caused by peer pressure. If not for peer pressure, we’d all be wearing sweatpants to fancy dinners, and we would burp a lot louder in public. Peer pressure can, once in a while, do something for the good of the world. Pressuring your peers into learning a language, for example, is a great idea. Next time you’re hanging out, drop in a few hints like, “Wouldn’t this be more fun if it were in French?” or “Gee, all my best friends know Russian.” They’ll figure out what you’re going for.
2. Tell Them About All The Benefits Of Learning A Language
There are so very many benefits to learning a language. The obvious ones come to mind first, like “connecting with the world” and “becoming a better communicator.” But that’s hardly the end of it. Learning a language has benefits for your brain, like warding off dementia and improving your multitasking abilities. It also can make you literally happier, because it activates reward centers in your brain. And this is before you even become really good at the language and can start using it at your job or on vacation. Frankly, there’s no excuse for your friend not to learn a language.
3. Bribe Them In A Non-Shady Way
Did I say bribe? That seems like a harsh term. I’m not suggesting you slip someone a $20 bill every time they finish a lesson. Unless you’re really determined and have a lot of money, that’s probably impractical. Instead, maybe you’ll buy them a round of drinks if they practice their Spanish, or you’ll go out to a nice French meal together once they’ve got all their French vocab down. And then there’s the pinnacle of rewards: vacationing together in a country that speaks your target language.
Really, those examples aren’t bribes at all. You and your friend will just be rewarding yourselves for accomplishing something together.
4. Incorporate Languages Into Hanging Out
When you’re practicing languages with your friends, you might just get together and drink coffee while quizzing each other on conjugations. And that will be useful! You should definitely do that once in a while. Studying as a group is not always the most exciting, though.
If you want to avoid your new language feeling like a chore, you’ll want to more naturally incorporate it. When you play a sport together, learn sports vocab so you can communicate. When you’re cooking, try to find a recipe in another language that you can struggle to understand together. Best of all for people who like to go to bars and pubs, there’s some evidence that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can help you speak a new language. That means you can enjoy a night on the town and still be working on perfecting your accent.
5. Remind Them Of All The Things You’ve Done For Them
Alright, you’ve tried a few of these tactics, and they don’t seem to be working. Now’s the time to sit your friend down and tell them that they owe you this. Learning a language takes, what, a few minutes a day? That doesn’t compare begin to the amount of time you spent coaching them through their breakup with Mike. And then they got back together with Mike! And they broke up again! It was exhausting. Oh, and let’s not forget the many, many improv performances you went to when they decided to do that for a few months.
Friendship is not some game where you’re keeping score, so obviously don’t use this as an excuse to guilt your peers. But, really, your friends can at least try to learn a language with you.
Why Go To Such Lengths To Convince Your Friends?
No matter how strong your friendship is, learning a skill together can make it stronger. And as far as skills go, learning a language is a perfect option for that. You’ll be able to communicate in two languages, which can always come in handy.
On the other side of the equation, learning a language with someone else will help each of you a lot. You can study together and celebrate together, yes, but the benefits extend beyond that. Learning with a friend makes you accountable to each other, and you’ll be able to provide each other some much-needed emotional support when you’re struggling with a learning plateau. You’ll grow closer together, and you’ll grow as individual people. It’s a win-win.
Your friends might be reticent to start learning a language with you, but convincing them is certainly worth a try. Together, there are so many places learning can take you.