In the course of her 16-year boxing career, Olympian and two-time world champion Ariane Fortin travelled the world, earned boxing titles and learned to speak English and Spanish fluently. She’s retired from boxing now, but she continues to work on her Russian. Here’s what the multilingual athlete had to say about learning a new language.

1. Charge Ahead!

If you want to learn a new language, you need to practise. Putting yourself out there requires a level of commitment, determination and courage.

“You have to overcome your fear of ridicule,” Ariane explains. “Getting teased is actually a great learning opportunity. Someone laughed at me once, when I made an error, and I can tell you I never made that mistake again!”

2. Find your Motivation

Given the effort that goes into learning a new language, you want to be clear as to why you are doing it. Is it to spend months at a time in another country once you retire? Did your son or daughter marry someone who speaks a different language? Are you looking to exercise your brain power? These are all great reasons that can provide the drive you need when the going gets tough.

“I’ve always really admired Russian boxers and this made me want to communicate with them in their language. I’m not quite there yet, but becoming fluent in Russian is definitely on my bucket list!” she says.

3. Learn the Basics to Communicate

Communicating well enough to be understood will do wonders for your self-confidence.  Ariane recommends starting with the basics. For example, your basic verbs, such as go, sleep, eat or come. At first, don’t worry too much about conjugation, since people will still be able to understand the gist of what you’re saying. Focus on position words, too (up, down, right, left, under, over, etc.). Then, work your way up from there.

“If all else fails, fall in love. I had a Swedish friend who fell in love with a Frenchman. It didn’t work out, but now she’s fluent in French,” she adds jokingly.