Practice

A favorite old joke: a young kid with stars in his eyes comes up to a tough New York cop and asks “How do I get to Broadway?” and the cop replies “Practice kid, practice”.

You cannot get good at a foreign language without practicing it as much as possible with people outside of your teacher and fellow students. You must practice with people who have no idea up front what you are trying to say, and who have no sympathy for your limited vocabulary. You can't practice it in this way without bumping up your own self-confidence, stick-to-it-ness and general ability to be OK with making a fool out of yourself.

So you're in Cleveland studying Arabic and drop in at an appropriate ethnic restaurant. The menu is in English and the staff speaks at least enough English to do their restaurant business (usually). They are in the business of selling food of course, and taking orders in an efficient way means fewer staff can attend to more customers. Face it, the waiter has little reason to suffer through your attempts at ordering in Arabic, and will in some cases try and switch things to English. You know you'll probably sound dumb the first time out and without too much encouragement, heck, it is just easier not to try out the Arabic. It is hard but necessary to whip that feeling aside and practice. Heck, they might even be amused.

If open linguistic warfare is not on your to-do list, perhaps a more cooperative venue is needed.

If there is an ethnic enclave near you, or a college with foreign students, chances are good you can match up with someone you can help with English while they chat with you in your new language. Even if the foreign student is w-a-y better at English than you will ever be (in their language, I mean), I bet they'd welcome your help in proofreading a term paper or perhaps helping their child with her social studies homework in English in return for Mom's help with your Spanish. The idea is that no matter what level you and your new language buddy start from, there is usually a place where you can help each other.

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