The  classic “débutant” mistake I made when I started studying my first second language was thinking: the more I study, the faster I’ll learn. It’s true, you do have to study. But as I learned, none of the memorizing sticks unless the words come out of your mouth at some point. In other words, the only way to get a new language inside your head is to use it.

When I did my first Spanish immersion in Puebla, I knew the danger of studying too hard.

Some of my fellow students were earnest, disciplined and hardworking types who spent every spare minute of their in their books.

Instead of studying, I went to the beauty parlor. I got my nails done over and over. Which is funny for me since I’m really not the manicure type. But nails were not the point.

What I was looking for was a small, controlled environment with a captive audience to practice my Spanish. And what better fits that description than a beauty salon? Almost every one there is killing time anyway. A decent manicure takes an hour. And you can stretch it if you’re feeling chatty.  So I chatted away in my limited Spanish until I ran out of words, then came back a week  later when I had learned some more!

My fellow students didn’t believe me when I told them about my Nail Polish Technique for studying. But I think by the end of the immersion course, they could see I was getting results…