5 steps to take to have your first conversation in a foreign language

Hey guys,

This article has one objective: Help you have your first conversation in a foreign language.

I always thought it was absurd how foreign language was taught in school. They would swarm you with irrelevant vocabulary and grammar rules for months without introducing real-life scenarios. We never had the opportunity to use the vocabulary or grammar we learned. Don’t you remember how by the end of senior year you still couldn’t have a conversation in Spanish? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

It seems to me that foreign language departments in public school systems forgot the real reason why we should learn a foreign language. Let’s remember that the real pleasure of learning a foreign language is using it, It’s communicating our thoughts, feelings and experiences to our friends and native speakers.

Having your first conversation in a foreign language Is an ecstatic moment and it isn’t impossible like the school system lead you to believe, I promise.

Down below I give you 5 practical steps you can take right now (or as soon as you finish this article) to have your first conversation in a foreign language.

Are you ready? Good, Let’s begin.

Learn How to Introduce Yourself

Learning how to introduce yourself is always top priority when it comes to speaking a foreign language. It’s the first thing you do when you enter a conversation. Since my targeted language is Portuguese at the moment, let’s look at some simple vocabulary. If you’re learning a different European language, these steps still apply, so stick with me!

Hey, my name is Ryan | Olá, meu nome é Ryan.

I’m from Florida, United States | Eu sou da Florida, Estados Unidos.

Mind you, I don’t need to know how to properly conjugate verbs just yet. Let that come later. First, learn simple phrases that you can use without fail. Part of introducing yourself, of course, is asking about the other person. After you learn simple introductory phrases, learn simple introductory questions. For example,

What’s your name? | Qual é o teu nome?(informal), Qual é o seu nome?(formal)

Where are you from? | De onde es tu?(informal), De onde voce é?(formal)

How are you? | Como estas? or Tudo bem?

If you’re able to introduce your name and where you’re from and then ask them about themselves, you just had your first small conversation. Simple, isn’t it? Simplicity is all you need in the beginning. Simple introduction phrases that you can repeat every time you meet a new person. Each time your words will flow smoother.

Learn the 25 Most Common Verbs

Verbs are the cornerstone to any language. This why it’s important to find a list of the 25 most common verbs in your targeted language and then commit them to memory.

Go to google and type in, “25 most common verbs in _____”(targeted language)

I found the 25 most common verbs in Portuguese. Here they are,

  1. ser- to be (permanent)
  2. ter- to have
  3. fazer- to do, to make
  4. dizer- to say
  5. estar- to be (temporary)
  6. beber- to drink
  7. ir- to go
  8. saber- to know
  9. poder- can
  10. ver- to see
  11. vir- to come
  12. achar- to think
  13. ficar- to stay/become
  14. querer- to want
  15. dar- to give
  16. ouvir- to hear
  17. deixar- to let
  18. falar- to speak
  19. gostar- to like
  20. passar- to pass
  21. parecer- to appear
  22. sentir- to feel
  23. chegar- to arrive
  24. sair- to leave
  25. comer- to eat

After you write the 25 verbs make sure to conjugate them as well. Start with simple present tense and build from there to future and past tenses.

Are you learning,

  1. Spanish
  2. French
  3. Italian
  4. German

Make Flash Cards of the Top 1,000 Common words.

I get it, flash cards may not be your thing, especially 1,000 of them. Just think you’re making them for your own self-interest, not for a teacher’s test in middle school Spanish class.

Start with 100 flash cards, but make sure you write them out, and review them on a daily basis. This will help you become familiar with the overall language. You’ll learn nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives, ect, instead of being in the dark not knowing which vocabulary to learn first. If you want to take it a step further, write a simple sentence you can see yourself using on each flash card.

Writing out the top 1,000 most common words with sentences may seem like a lot, but I assure you that it’s worth it. By reviewing your flash cards daily, you will be able to recall words and verb conjugations must faster than if you didn’t.

Top 1,000 common words

Are you learning,

  1. Portuguese
  2. Spanish
  3. French
  4. Italian
  5. German

Read Out Loud

Reading out loud can help tremendously. Instead of reading the flash cards in your head, say them out loud. This will help your pronunciation and confidence when use the words you practiced in a real conversation.

Another way of taking advantage of reading out loud is when you use a language learning app like Duolingo or Tandem. Every word and phrase that appears on your screen say out loud to practice continuously. I like tandem for this purpose because it allows you to communicate with real people. You can practice vocabulary, forming sentences, and pronunciation all at once in a conversational context.

It also helps to watch YouTube videos that go through vocabulary lists. Listen and following along on how to correctly pronounce certain words. You can also practice saying a word or phrase in different tones to exercise various scenarios you could see yourself in.

Use these apps:

  1. Duolingo
  2. Tandem
  3. Rosetta Stone

Watch Vlogs and Podcasts

Vlogs use conversational language which is why you should watch them to learn a foreign language. It doesn’t matter so much that you won’t understand the majority of what they’re saying, the idea is so to expose yourself to as much vocabulary as possible. Listen to how the vlogger introduces the episode and look for contextual information to get an idea what he/she is talking about.

Podcasts are even better than vlogs for two reasons. The first reason is because it’s a conversation between two people that you can listen to from beginning to end in real time flow. The second reason is because it isn’t heavily edited. The more you listen the more you’ll hear familiar words you can use later on.

Favorite Portuguese Podcasts

  1. Janela Aberta
  2. Maluca Beleza

Favorite Spanish Vlogs

  1. Espanol Con Juan
  2. Alanxelmundo

Besides learning how to introduce yourself, making flash cards, reading out loud, watching vlogs and podcasts, there’s only two other things you need to remember.

The first is to never have shame. When I first started learning Portuguese my Avó would always tell me, “Não tem vergonha. só falar e não te preocupes.” Which means, Don’t have shame, just speak and don’t worry. Part of learning a language is making mistakes, and theres no reason to be ashamed of that. Make the mistakes, learn from them and keep speaking!

The second is to make a genuine effort. People will appreciate that you make an effort to speak their native language. Even if you’re struggling to find the right words, the fact you’re trying demonstrates your intentions and persistence to learn the language. You’ll find that people are patient and willing to help you learn.

If you don’t have shame and make a genuine effort theres no way you won’t have that first conversation.

Good luck, guys

Cheers, Ryan Q

Thoughts on Visiting the Azores

Imagine you’re sitting on a stone wall at the edge of a cliff letting your feet dangle below. Accompanying you are your closest friends and loved ones sharing the spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. The waves roll onto the obsidian shoreline in the distance and you’re all there with a cup of freshly brewed coffee to warm your hands. It’s sunrise. And right behind the mountainous landscape the sun rises into the opulent sky.

When you come to the Azores for the first time it isn’t difficult to see why these nine islands have risen to the top in tourism destinations. People all over the world come here to experience the sensation of adventure- outdoor, rural tourism activities surrounded by vast green landscapes and the constant meditative sound of the ocean. From June to the last few weeks of September the small aldeias of the Azores are swarmed with curious travelers.

This past summer I spent the majority of my time working at a local restaurant serving tables. Besides the locals, the majority of customers were from European countries (mostly France, Germany, and Spain) on vacation visiting as many islands as they could within a week’s or two time.

I wonder how many tourists passed by, came and went, as I stood in the entry way of the restaurant. Hundreds, thousands?

I wonder more so what all those people made of this place. Was it everything they expected after doing their proper research, scrolling through instagram, watching YouTube videos, reading blog articles? What did they feel on the ride from the airport to their hotel? Did they feel what I felt the first time?

Towards the end of August, after Semana Dos Baleeiros ended there was a noticeable difference in the number of tourists. Everyone seemed to pack up and leave as soon as the festivals were over. The town grew quiet through the month of September and on my daily walks back home from work I didn’t see any intrigued tourists taking photographs of the ivory-covered, abandoned building or the palm trees infront of Lajes’s church.

Instead I noticed the orange hues in the trees and how the wind carried all the fallen, dried leaves into the road’s corners.

The tables outside the popular bakery “Sabores e Aromas” remained vacant of pastry- munching, cappuccino sipping Europeans.

The only people who roamed the streets were the locals on their daily rounds.

Two years ago was my first time visiting the Azores during the summer. I spent the months of July and August experiencing the Azores as a tourist. I went swimming most days, I went sight-seeing, I ate at the best restaurants, took the ferry to other islands and finally climbed and summited Mount Pico.

I felt like an explorer charting new territory, discovering the unknown.

For my last two weeks I backpacked around São Miguel Island and visited all the top attractions: Ponta Delgada, Sete Cidades, Vista do Rei, Furnas, Lagoa do Fogo, Vila Franca do Campo ect. That trip gave me a strong sense of what Azores tourism is all about and I understand clearly why every year the visitation numbers steadily increase.

When I arrived on Pico Island this past June I experienced the Azores more as a resident than a tourist. I served tourists and locals alike. I gave people recommendations and directions. There were times where I wanted to be in their position, navigating around the island for the first time astonished with the surrounding countryside.

I envied their wanderlust. As beautiful as this place is, I became adjusted to it.

Now that it’s late October and winter is approaching the dust has settled, so to speak. Theres less people, less movement, less happening and this grants a certain flow to time that feels slower, steadier. The days get darker earlier and the sun doesn’t shine as bright. The ocean water is colder and less appealing without the aqua-blue surface dazzling under the summer light.

Yet with with that, I’m discovering my appreciation for this island again. The empty streets call attention to space and time. I look around at the old, stone buildings lined along the sloping roads, I hear the cagarros in flight, I smell fresh bread wafting through the air, I feel present and hungry, I taste the salt of the Atlantic Ocean on my lips. Is this what it means to be Azorean?

Living in the Azores is much different than visiting and I guess you could say that about any place, however here, in the middle of the Atlantic, theres a certain novelty I can’t quite put into words. At any moment during the day whether I’m working, driving, having a conversation I can stop what I’m doing and tune into the ocean. There it is if you pay attention, that meditative sound which pervades everything here.

Although autumn and winter aren’t necessarily the prime time to visit the Azores, I think they’re actually the best representation. Sure the festivals are over, tourism is at it’s lowest and it’s too cold to swim everyday, but this allows one to wander at their own accord and to observe the local life-style and culture without it being inflated by tourism companies.

Look at these awesome photos from Pico, Azores!

Hey guys,

I just passed the one month mark since arriving in Lajes do Pico, a small village on the south coast of Pico Island in Portugal’s archipelago. The last four weeks have been great. I picked up a job at a local restaurant, reconnected with friends, and on my free time I take photos.

Down below are a collection of photos I took on my second and third week. If you like these photos and are interested in seeing more, you can check out the photo collection from my first week and stay tuned for what’s to come!