Have you ever traveled to a foreign country?
I don’t mean some walled-off resort where everyone speaks English and the guests are all American. I’m talking about Parisian café type destinations where people speak a language completely different from your own. The type of place where although the people may be accommodating to your language barrier up to a point, they expect you to at least know a few words in their language to show that you belong.
In these places, it helps to know even a few basic words, like “oui,” “s’il vous plaît,” and “merci” (yes, please, and thanks). That way, your hosts know you’re at least trying to speak the language, and that you’re willing to communicate with the livyers in their native tongue.
You may also notice that something curious (and wonderful) happens after you make an effort to learn the local language. For example, the next time you visit that café and order a “pain au chocolat” the server may greet you with a warm smile and a hot coffee, anticipating what you want before you even verbalize it yourself. You may find yourself receiving unsolicited suggestions for special items not on the menu, or suggestions for excursions you might never have known about had you not uttered a few simple words in the local dialect.
But how do you speak in the local language if “it’s all Greek to you?” Well, there are plenty of options. Get a guidebook, a phrase book, a foreign language dictionary (or, as a sign of the times—a translation app for your smartphone!). You can avail of any number of tools to help you bridge the gap between neophyte and aficionado.
Don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes at the beginning (or even much later—as nuances of language can sometimes even surprise fluent, seasoned speakers). But above all, you have to open yourself up, you have to have the willingness to learn in order to make the most out of your efforts.
What Does Learning a Foreign Language Have to Do With Twitter?
In many respects, learning how to get started on Twitter is like learning to speak a foreign language. It has its own vocabulary of esoteric terms like “tweets,” “hashtags,” and “DMs.” When you first start out on Twitter, the experience can be at turns intimidating (“What do I tweet about?“) and frustrating, as you wonder if you’ll ever be able to get fluent enough on the platform to make sense of the whole thing. The good news is that Twitter is a social network with an emphasis on social.
Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn that require some prior relationship with a person before you can connect with them, Twitter is all about reaching out in real-time and conversing with anyone who’s willing to chat. And there are hundreds of millions of people on Twitter willing to do just that.
All you need to do to get in on this conversation is to learn a few basics—starting with the fact that should aim to limit each conversation to 140 characters (more or less). Reach out to specific people who you’re interested in by searching for their “Twitter handles” on Google or Twitter. Start the conversation simply by saying “Hi,” followed by the person’s name. Feel free to let everyone know that you’re new to Twitter but that you’re trying—and that you wouldn’t refuse a little help if they have some to offer.
Just like the friendly server in a foreign land who brings you your coffee before you even order it, you’ll find lots of people willing to help you out. Follow their lead, study their conversations, become a willing student of Twitter. Before long, you’ll realize that it’s an “opportunity engine” which thrives on the efficiency of words. It has a language of its own that once you master, it can bring you more enjoyment and opportunity
than you ever thought possible!