The Secrets To Falling In Love With Languages


How To Fall In Love With Languages 

       Where do I start? Let’s begin by attacking the first question that may have come to mind when you read this title - can you fall in love with a language? If so, then is it possible to fall in love with many languages? Is falling in love with languages anything like falling in love with people? I believe so.  Let me first share my love story with you.

         My parents have told me stories about how when I was a really small child, I would get lost in strangers’ conversations when they were speaking foreign languages.  I would often repeat words that the strangers spoke and I had a deep curiosity about the meaning of those unfamiliar words.  At the age of four, I began my journey to becoming multilingual which has always been the big dream for me. I attended a small private school that taught French.  I loved it! Then, at twelve years old, I went on my first voyage outside of the United States to France; not with my family, but with my French teacher and a group of classmates. It was an eight-day trip that I credit to inspiring my great love and passion of traveling to foreign places and immersing myself in foreign cultures.

         One part of this marvelous trip was that we travelled on a bus with multiple groups and there was a tour guide who was fluent in multiple languages! I remember the experience vividly and can still picture him spouting out English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German, I believe, so naturally. That curiosity grew inside of me. I was mesmerized.  I came home from that trip and declared that I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to live!  Unfortunately, I do not live in France, however I did make the dream of becoming multilingual a reality and feel blessed to now be a teacher that gets to share my passion for foreign languages with children each day.

    When people ask me how I learned the languages that I speak, my mind fills with vibrant memories of pivotal moments, faces, conversations, feelings, and challenges that all make up a story…much like that of a great love story.

         Falling in love with a language and falling in love with a person are surprisingly similar.  In order to fall in love with a person, you need to have some sort of spark, something that drives you to want to know everything there is to know about that person. Proficiently acquiring a language takes time, it’s a long-term commitment, not something that comes and goes, otherwise it will never work.  The love you have for that language is unconditional, nothing can change your desire to learn it, to speak it.  The language begins to fill your mind.  You can’t turn it off.  The more immersed in it you become, the more you begin to think about it until you reach the point where you think in it.  You live it, breathe it and it has become a part of who you are, and you know you don’t want to live without it.  So, the analogy is starting to make a little more sense now-yes?


 I don't mean to make the process sound like it is a piece of cake. IT IS DEFINITELY NOT! It can be very scary, frustrating and especially in the beginning, you may feel like you will never get to where you want to be with the language.

   Foreign language study came easily to me in school, unlike math or science.  During high school, I took French and Italian, and they were by far my best subjects!  I was ready to specialize in foreign languages in college and to become an interpreter!  Then, something happened.  Another language came into my life, very suddenly, it was completely out of my control, unplanned, and different.  It was so different from the way I learned the other two languages.  There were no verb-conjugating exercises, no vocabulary-list memorizing.  It was natural, seamless and well…it just happened.  

    Yes, it involved meeting another person.  Yes, this person only spoke the language that I needed to learn.  I was infatuated, with both, and determined not to give up on either, and that is how I learned Spanish.

       I went off to college with the idea of majoring in French and quickly added Spanish to the plan-so a double major.  I was so excited, testing out of multiple basic courses and given the opportunity to jump into advanced courses that taught the actual history, culture and civilizations in Spanish.     The French courses were a lot more challenging for me as I didn’t have a human dictionary to answer every single burning linguistic question that I constantly had. In addition, my French professors were rigid and demanding and honestly…caused me a great deal of anxiety.  I continued to push on, with the dream right at the forefront of my mind, I was not going to lose courage.  I worked hard.  I did well, and in my junior year of college I was invited by one of my French professors to travel to France as the interpreter for a group of non-French speaking students as an independent study course.  The course also involved learning the art of translation through an intense analysis of a terribly boring book and its translation, then meeting the author and the translator in France.  One moment that stands out to me from this trip was meeting the mayor of the small-town Sainte Mère Église in Normandy.  He was very friendly conversing with me, while the students were anxiously asking me what he was saying.  In that moment, I learned what interpreting was truly like.  The following year, I returned to France for another independent study that was more cultural and familiarized me with not only the public transportation system, but also days in the lives of the French people in various regions…oh I was in love. So in love that I brought my parents there a few months later.

    Each time I returned from France, I longed to go back, but reality took hold.  I graduated from college, landed my first job as a social worker, got married, bought a house, and became pregnant with my first child.  It was a whirlwind!  I was hired as a social worker strictly because of my ability to speak Spanish.  I was thrown to the wolves right away.  There I was with no degree in social work, a little over twenty years old, no real work experience besides waiting tables and a caseload of over twenty Spanish speaking clients.  Twenty rapidly grew to forty. At that point, I had clients from Haiti and parts of Africa as well.  Some spoke French, many spoke Creole. 

    The days were long and stressful, but incredibly rewarding.  I met so many people, from so many different places. I got to listen to their stories.  Some were unbelievable, others were heartbreaking.  Nevertheless, my language journey was still in full force.  I was immersed in Spanish from all different countries. México, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Chile, Perú – all over!  I learned nuances in the language that were different from those of the Guatemalan Spanish that I had already acquired. 

        The number of non-English speaking clients was multiplying at a fast pace and I was given every single one of them! I would remind my supervisor that I only spoke Spanish and French, and she would always say to me "you know how to connect with them more than anyone else here could."  I felt so overwhelmed when faced with a client who spoke Creole or Afrikaans.  Of course I was able to link them with interpreters when I would accompany them to some of the medical appointments. The challenge would be when we were sitting in my office, or in the living room of their apartment for a home inspection, and they would begin to share their story with me and burst into tears. The curiosity and yearning to understand the words that were reaching my heart, but I couldn't quite comprehend was unbearable. I wanted to be able to help them, and I was only just scratching the surface of the meaning they were trying to convey to me. My supervisor was right though. For some reason, I was able to form a bond with my clients that came from distant lands. I believe it is because of the passion that intricate language has always stirred up deep inside of me.

        It was during these moments when I believe I started to realize it- learning a language is about more than stringing words together into thoughts and concepts…it’s about learning to think in an entirely different way.  Learning another language is to gain a new perspective.  It’s a gift.  It changes your world, opens your mind to new thoughts, interests, ideas and customs. It's like falling in love...


          Though my original vision was to become a professional interpreter, motherhood changed my intentions and guided me on a path towards something even greater. After my second child was born, I went to grad school and earned a master's degree in foreign language education. Here I am twelve years later. I have three children and have been teaching Spanish and French all this time. 

    I am still on my language journey today. I still want to fall in love with more!  For the last several years I have been captivated by the Russian language.  It’s probably the fact that it’s so challenging!  Some might even say that it might be out of my league, which inspires me to want to learn it even more!  The famous playwright and genius Molière's words described love so accurately; “It is a great master. It teaches us to be what we never were.” Each language also has the power to do just that.

    So for all of the language teachers the intriguing question is "what is the secret to getting our students to fall in love with the language we teach?" 


You can download this FREE guide with the 10 secrets to help your students to fall in love with the language you teach!

    Hopefully, these steps outlined in the FREE guide will help make the difficult task of teaching a foreign language a lot more enjoyable once you know how to implement the right strategies that I have picked up along my journey.


        I’d love for you to share your language love story with me in the comments below or feel free to e-mail me


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