The Importance of Talking to Strangers When Learning a New Language

At some point in your life you were probably told to not talk to strangers. “Stanger! Danger!” is how it was marketed to kids . I mean, I get that the young’uns probably shouldn’t be hopping into creepy full-size vans with no windows, but come on – most people aren’t out to hurt other people. Also, don’t hate on full-size vans — I used to own one and it was a-mazing.

Oh, just me, some friends, and a big, brown van. Those were the days. 

In fact, from what I’ve experienced it’s just the opposite. Most people want to help, be empathetic, and are there to point you in the right direction if you need it. This is the world I’m living in and while others live paralyzed in fear of what someone might to do to them I’m out proving every single one of them wrong.

Are there bad people out there? Sure, I’ve met some of them and I’m sure I interact with less than most thanks to the fact that I’m a male and 6’7”. But, I’ve talked to plenty of solo female travelers who feel the same way I do. It’s worth the risk to trust and to reach out to those who might be outside of your comfort zone and for me it’s how I’m living on a day-to-day basis.

Talking to strangers is part of learning another language

There’s only so much I can learn inside of a classroom, which is why I’m currently living on an island that most people don’t even know about just south of mainland China. I’m here because I want to learn Chinese and to do that I need to be reliant on the language to feel comfortable and must have a goal of being able communicate things for myself as soon as possible. And do this I need to talk to strangers. Lots of them.

I’m learning a lot in the classroom, but it’s not enough

Sure, I know some great locals here, but even the nicest people are going to get sick of me asking for their help when I need to buy a bus ticket or order something online. I have to be able to do it on my own, and the only way to do that is by talking to as many people as I can, making plenty of mistake along the way all while learning how to really speak Chinese.

It actually makes daily life really fun and interesting as I intentionally try out new words, phrases, or pronunciations whenever I go back to the same coffee shop or dumpling restaurant. It’s like I’m leveling up, one small win at a time and over time it’s all going to add up into me actually knowing what the hell I’m saying most of the time. Or, at least that’s the goal.

Talking to little kids is actually good or learning, too

I’m already picking up so much of the Chinese language and it’s only been a couple days, which makes me really excited for learning more. Today in class we started looking at characters for the first time, finished going over all of the initials, finals, and tones and also started talking in some simple conversation. Sweet.

It’s exciting for me to continue to gain a level of comfort and understanding in the language and I can’t wait to see what I can do in a couple weeks, months, or a year. It’s going to be so awesome.

But, for now I’ll keep on learning, day-by-day, as well as talking to strangers as long as they’ll still listen to me.

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