Almost Fearless

Starting Your Bilingual Summer


Motivation. It’s strange how it works. I mentioned on Facebook that I was loving Duolingo for Spanish and offered to follow anyone who wanted to join me on that site. A few people took me up on it. The next morning TWO of my readers had beat me on points when they had just started out at zero.

So I did what anyone would do — I crammed in order to beat them! Of course! (haha, I’m so competitive.)

My score inched up, but so did theirs, they were keeping just ahead of me. So frustrating! Yet so motivating! That’s when I had this idea, isn’t it more fun to do things together?

Announcing: Bilingual Summer!

We just passed Memorial Day, so I propose between now and Labor Day we set the intention (not a resolution, not a rule, not have-to) of learning a new language this summer.

Three months. One language of your choice. Your Bilingual Summer.

I will be keeping my language learning process really transparent and writing about what’s working here. But I also want to hear from you guys, so as this summer progresses I hope you’ll keep us updated on how things are working for you, what you’re discovering and any tips you want to share.

1. Pick a language

2. Set an intention to learn it

3. Create an immersive environment this summer full of movies, music, books and other media in that language. Reach out to native speakers on sites like for language exchanges. Find local resources. Be creative.

4. Do a little bit, at least, every day.

5. Keep yourself motivated, by participating in our summer long language love-fest.

On using the word “Bilingual”

I usually shy away from using the term bilingual or fluent because it can mean so many different things to different people. But there has to be a term, something to represent a desire to learn a language to a certain skill level. I like bilingual because fluent is a temporary state (it can be lost) whereas bilingual feels to me more permanent. I think of language learning as a lifetime endeavor, not a single mad rush towards a finish line, so when we reach for bilingualism we’re talking about gradually adopting a language into our lives. There are also lots of bilinguals that don’t have native-like fluency in their second language — so in that regard it’s more flexible too.

It’s not perfect, but I think it’s the best we’ve got. I’m embracing bilingual even though I won’t self-identify as one (yet) but that’s definitely my long term goal.

Submit inspirational posts and articles

Part of this experience, I hope will be not just what I write about but what you guys come up with — and I know some of you have already been through all this either yourself or with your kids! So I’ll be looking for your articles and posts in the coming weeks (or anything you want to send me, even if you didn’t write it). You don’t have to link to me or anything, just give me a heads up on Twitter or Facebook (you can use the hashtag #bilingualsummer if you want) and I’ll be re-sharing my favorite ones.

Get your kids involved!

Well, if you want. And you have kids. And you’re ready to be frightened and amazed by their freaky ability to learn. My son has hit the tipping point with his Spanish, I’m having to look up words routinely just to have basic conversations with him. He’s devouring new words in Spanish and he doesn’t even flinch. It’s awesome. And easier than you think.

Beat me at Spanish

And finally, for this week’s tip, here’s an instant ego boost if you want, you can join me on DuoLingo (if you’re learning Spanish, French, German, Italian or Portuguese) and you can compete against me by adding me as a friend (and you can add the other people who follow me, because those are all readers too). I’ll also be trying out and reporting on other language learning sites this summer, but this a good place to start. And it’s free.

Can you do this?

I want to finish off with a quote from Gretchin Rubin’s amazing book The Happiness Project:

“We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently. Anthony Trollope, the nineteenth-century writer who managed to be a prolific novelist while also revolutionizing the British postal system, observed, “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.” Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity.”

h/t to


Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



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