It’s simple, really. Now, no, I’m not fluent in another language, not yet. However, from the stand point of a professional language teacher I can tell you from my studies and from my experience teaching what the two keys are! And the good news? One of them is not be born a linguistic genius.
1) Bravery- in linguistic terminology it’s called having a high tolerance for ambiguity. My Turkish friend Elif (who is fluent in English and making good headway in Korean) decided this the other day. You have to have gumption, put yourself out there, and just do it (Thank you for the inspiration, Nike). If you wait until you can construct the perfect sentence, you’ll never speak. This involves figuring out how to communicate even if you can’t quite pull out the perfect word. A good example of the gumption it takes to learn a foreign language is beautifully displayed by my midwife.
2) Hard work- Well, if you are not willing to put in the time to learn, then forget about it! You might be able to swing this if you are a native English speaker living in Mexico learning Spanish, but not if you are a native English speaker living in Hungary. Believe me, I know from personal experience. I was brave so I learned some Hungarian, enough to manage my daily life. However, since I didn’t have much of a desire to commit work ethic to it, I only learned so much.
And, those, my friends, are the two secrets. Not so bad, eh?