What I’m learning… while learning a second language.


I’ve been wanting to learn a second language for years. Every time I travel internationally I feel like a complete idiot when residents of so many other countries I’ve visited switch to my language to communicate. In 2012 I wrote out my 10 year goals for a Lululemon Ambassador project and “Learning a Second Language” was right at the top. I realized about a month ago that I’d taken a grand total of zero steps towards that goal and was going to have to get a move on if I wanted to reach it in the next 7 years. For anybody else that’s interested in doing the same, I’m one month into it and here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1: Take a frickin’ first step. Now.

You’re not going to get any closer to your goal until you get effing moving! Like an early morning workout, it takes a lot to get our of bed, but once you get dressed, you can start feeling the groove. Getting started is one of the hardest parts, but usually once you get going you’re motivated to keep going. My first step was asking my bilingual buddies for suggestions. More on that a little farther down…

2: Remove the barriers.

One of the things I always tell my personal training clients is to identify the barriers that are currently holding them back from reaching their goals. Once identified, try to find a way through or around them. My current barriers: an irregular schedule that prevents me from joining a language class and little to no “extra” income to purchase a big program like Rosetta Stone or a private tutor.  I asked a few of my bilingual buddies  for suggestions and all 3 of them recommended the “Duolingo” app.

3: Pick the language that makes the most sense. 

Originally, I really wanted to learn French because it’s so damned pretty to listen to. It made a hell of a lot more sense though to learn Spanish since I took a couple years of it in elementary and high school back in the day (though I can’t remember hardly any of it). And while I’m living in San Diego, on the U.S. – Mexico border, and there are enough bilingual people here, I could actually practice it regularly… or “on the daily” as the kids say these days. Do the kids say that?

4: Get an app! The free, top-rated one…

Duolingo was recommended by 3 different buddies and for good reason. It was rated Apple’s “App of the Year” so it seemed legit. I downloaded it and was surprised to see that it was completely FREE. They offered 20+ languages too! One of the things I love is its seriously smart way of teaching: Showing you the words, speaking them every time, making you speak them back and recording your voice, making you write it back in English and in Spanish, etc. I love that it teaches you every way possible, short of learning from somebody in person. It’s also formatted to appear game-like. I’m pretty competitive so I want to be right every time. The little dings and trumpet sounds reinforce the “winning.” Very clever, Duolingo. Very clever. ; )

5: Consistency is key.

Same as with fitness, if you only do it once a week, while better than nothing, you’re not likely to see any major improvements. The app gives you options on how much you want to practice each day. As little as 5 minutes, as much as 20. I like that it allows me to change my goals if needed and sends me a reminder each day, at a time I choose. I missed a couple days here and there when work was crazy, but instead of getting frustrated and throwing it all away, I just picked it back up where I left off. As you move forward with the progressive lessons, it’ll occasionally have you go back and refresh your skills on previous lessons so you don’t forget the basics.


6: It doesn’t matter exactly WHAT you’re learning to say. Only that you’re learning! 

“Los martes como queso.” – “On Tuesdays I eat cheese.” Alright then.

“Eres mi caballo.” – “You are my horse.” OK!

“Los miercoles bebo vino.” – “On Wednesdays I drink wine.” Well, that one I actually would say. Helpful for Wine-down Wednesdays!

Also, some true statements:


7: Don’t get stressed over the ish that confuses you.

Figure out the “why,” make note of the rule, and move on. Don’t overthink it. For example,  “el” means “the” for masculine nouns and “la” means “the” for feminine nouns. Got it. However, in the clothing lesson I learned that “el vestido” means “the dress” and  “la corbata” means “the tie.” Ok then. Serves me right for assuming incorrect gender roles and rules.

“Como” means three different effing things so far: It means “I eat” and “how” and “like.” Those are only ones so far, but I’m preparing myself for more…

“Nada” means “nothing.” It also means “anything.” It also means “swim”. {Side eye emoji}

8: Be patient. It’s all memorization and practice. 

When you learn another language, you realize how ridiculous the English language is. Spanish is a breeze when compared.  All the letters sound the same All The time! It’s easy to get down on yourself for not being able to get it right, but as adults, we need to get over that ish. We’ll fail a little bit, but if we keep trying we’ll eventually get it. My experience so far reminds me of this scene from I Love Lucy:

Fast forward to the 2 minute mark.



Mad respect, Ricky. Mad respect.

To be continued…

Do you speak more than one language? Any tips for me?




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  1. Karin Carmack says

    Ironically, I just downloaded that app because I have wanted to learn a second language for years as well. Have I even looked at the app after downloading….of course not. Now I have a little motivation 🙂

    • Ami says

      Ha! It’s all good. Set it up for 5 minutes per day. If you don’t get it in, you don’t get it in. It’s fun though. Which language are you going for?! Let me know how it goes!

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