Picture this: New to Malaga for a business assignment, you’re somewhere in the middle of Calle Larios, making headway through throngs of scurrying people as you make your way to the port area. Soon, you realized you’re lost, risking lateness on your appointment – add to that your problem on having zero ability to speak Spanish. With anxiety taking over you as you make little sense of the few English translations Malaga’s busiest shopping street has for signs, you suddenly decided to ask a passer-by. As expected, the young man is Spanish and is quite in a hurry. But he stopped anyway as he politely waited for what you have to ask. After singling out words to compose the simplest English phrase you can think of for your question (an exercise that comes with a certain degree of difficulty), you and the Spanish lad ended up sharing blank stares.

Cutting the story short, I for one can only imagine how much time you and the Spanish lad have wasted trying to comprehend each other’s answers – in the middle of a busy shopping street and all. You’d be fortunate enough not to catch the ire of a young man short of time for his destination as you helplessly ask him for directions, but perhaps things would’ve been easier had you been able to mutter some useful Spanish words. Nonetheless, it pays to take off from such a painfully awkward situation. Understandably, learning any language other than your native one takes time and has peculiar challenges, but just like the Spanish conundrum explained above, it can be overcome through exposure to situations that compel you to learn – those outside the classroom, in particular. Here, I’m sharing with you some reasons why learning a new language outside the classroom can be better for your mastery.

1. Learning becomes a real necessity

Being exposed to an environment with a totally-alien lingua franca can prove to be a baptism of fire for anyone. But just as the mere thought of being barraged by the impatience of salespeople or being left out by your local friends as they chat in their native tongue can induce anxiety, so is the need to learn the language for survival’s sake. For good measure, I recommend that you take off from transactional exchanges when figuring out the kinds of words you need to learn first. Take, for example, your everyday interactions with storekeepers or daily contact with native colleagues as you exchange professional requests at work. Learning where you need to begin learning provides you with the jumpstart to learning a new learning, and that can only be possible when it happens outside the classroom. Indeed, just imagine the amount of time you’ll save with just a few Spanish words to ask that Spanish lad you passed by back in Calle Larios.

2. New local friends await you

Transactions done in the native tongue are always fastest, what with the lack of comprehension barriers between speakers. Having a fairly substantial amount of words in tow for the language you’re trying to learn can also be flattering to natives and may even enable you to earn their trust and companionship along the way. What’s more, earning new local friends can grant you access to an entire world of colloquial terms not typically taught during classroom sessions. In a way, that allows you to have a greater appreciation of your local friends’ culture, which by the way is another boost to your efforts to learn the language. Fitting in like a local, as a result, can earn you more local friends and, thus, more ways to learn the language – those that can encourage greater enthusiasm compared to the classroom’s controlled environment. With a little Spanish at hand, your rush encounter with that Spanish lad can become a fated meeting between good friends in a foreign land.

3. The outside world encourages resourcefulness

When left alone in the wild, humans naturally resort to ways that empower their survival. The same analogy applies to learning a new language: when placed in an environment where an unfamiliar language prevails, foreigners are compelled to use as much resources as possible that allows them to communicate with locals, especially in times when they need help. Getting to grips with a new language encourages you to talk to more locals, many of which will be more than happy to share a thing or two about their native tongue. Having a dictionary and a course book on the language you’re studying also enables you to enrich your linguistic capabilities in your spare time. Furthermore, smartphone apps now provide quick and comprehensive access to instructional tools about different languages, which you can use conveniently even during your daily commute. All told, your chance encounter with that Spanish lad in the shopping street can become a fruitful one as you resolutely inquire about helpful Spanish words for asking directions.

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