I was at the printer's awhile back and some people were waiting in line in front of me. One was a lady who spoke Russian. The printer was trying to communicate with her and she with him and neither of them were succeeding. It just so happened one of the people in line, a young American girl, could speak Russian and she translated back and forth.
I've always admired people who could speak more than one language, but I never took any steps to learn one myself because it seemed like such a difficult task. There are all those weird rules that don't make any sense, and new sounds your tongue has never had to make before, and all those words — hundreds, even thousands of basic words you have to memorize before you can carry on a conversation.
That's what I thought. But I decided to learn Spanish anyway, and you know what? It isn't as huge a task as I thought. First of all, I'm learning on my own: Just audio programs in the car and some vocabulary flash-cards. When I talk to people who speak Spanish, I can actually say something to them and understand some of the things they say to me. I haven't been trying that long and already I know enough to communicate. Everything I learn from here on is gravy, and that means most of the language!
In other words, for every new word I learn, I increase my ability to communicate. It is another inch, another grip on the side of the mountain I am climbing. Every bit I learn widens that channel of communication I am creating between me and a huge number of cool people.
And there's an extra bonus: It improves your brain. Learning something like a new language makes your brain grow new dendrites (connections between brain cells). It may even help prevent senility and Alzheimer's! No kidding.
Most of us already spend a good deal of time in our cars. So why not use that time learning something? Languages are the perfect thing to learn because you can do it entirely with audio. It makes waiting for a light so much less a waste of time when you're listening to a tape and repeating aloud the words and phrases of a new language. You can turn your car into a miniature university on wheels.
Pick a language, any language, and start today. Go buy any one of a wide selection of good audio programs and begin to build some bridges — between your own brain cells, and between you and people of another culture.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.