New Year’s resolution: Learn a new language

I’m trilingual: I speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese. As a Puerto Rican, I grew up speaking Spanish as a child. When I moved to Maryland at the age of 7, I learned English.

My knowledge of Portuguese only developed in the past two years as I used my fluency in Spanish to springboard into a similarly structured language. Considering this is a time of resolutions and newfound determination, I thought I’d share one of my resolutions: to become conversational in another language, specifically, French.

While this may seem like an arbitrary goal, my objective is linked to my legal profession.

As an attorney, my linguistic capabilities have helped me greatly. As one can imagine, fluency in the same language as your client allows you to communicate and exchange information in a natural, relaxed manner. In fact, the ability to create a more inviting environment often encourages a greater exchange of information and leads to less surprises in the courtroom (as a public defender this has helped me tremendously).

What’s more, the ability to communicate in a client’s mother tongue often leads to more referrals from similarly situated potential clients – more clients mean more revenue and profit.

So, how can you learn another language? As an attorney, you may not have time to learn via the traditional method of attending classes at a local university – I didn’t.

Instead, I used one of the language programs available online.  Warning: Do not expect a language program alone to transform you into a multilingual person. A language program such as Rosetta Stone or Transparent will only give you the building blocks to move forward — a few thousand vocabulary terms, verb conjugations, and grammatical rules.

Instead, the main brunt of learning will come from studying and memorizing vocabulary, verb conjugations, and grammar through workbooks and flashcards. In addition, it is critical to immerse yourself in the language — listening to TV and radio shows, for instance, speaking with native speakers, and reading magazines, books, and newspapers in said language.

By instilling all these components, you will inch ever closer towards developing a fluency in another language. In turn, you will be more ready to serve the needs of potential clients as Maryland’s population grows ever more diverse.

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