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7 Practical Tips On How To Learn a Language Quickly

7 Practical Tips On How To Learn a Language Quickly

Growing up bilingual in two opposite corners of the world, Denmark and Australia, I definitely had an upper hand in learning what is now half a dozen languages. So I often get asked about how you learn a language quickly, and to be honest; being multi-lingual is the most overrated skill in terms of perceived difficulty of acquisition. Because of the completely backward approach we’re taught in school, which time and time again, has shown a sad rate of efficiency, we’re lead to believe that learning foreign languages is one of the most difficult skills to achieve.

Not true.

In school we’re usually given a table of random verbs and told to conjugate the heck out of them. We then get all these fancy latin terms thrown at us. I still only know a few of these. This is the reason I did not learn much in foreign language classes; I would hear these fancy words and just immediately think “oh this is too hard.”

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To be honest, I’m happy this is the case. It makes me look super smart for having invested, what I perceive as, little effort.

Everybody can learn languages with the right framework. You’re lucky; because that’s exactly what I’m about to teach you.

So here are 7 practical tips on how to learn a language quickly.

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1. Pick a Course

My recommendation is going with anything Michel Thomas has released, and staying away from everything Rosetta Stone has released. That being said there’s plenty of great free resources available. Of all the ones I’ve tried, Duolingo is definitely the way to go. Duolingo has a great interface, and uses gamification to keep you staying consistent by competing with friends. Did I mention it was free?

2. Find Your Vehicles

We’re all spending loads of time on semi-mindless TV-watching and web surfing, so what I like to do is leverage this waste of time and use it as a vehicle for learning my target language. So instead of watching, say, The Simpsons in the original English version, watch the Spanish version. In the beginning you will find it difficult to keep up with the pace, which is why I like to take in the material at least twice, but the more you expose yourself to the target language the better your comprehension will be, even though you’re just passively taking in information. This method works especially well with material you’re super familiar with, so you’re not wasting mental energy trying to figure out the plot while trying to keep up with the dialogue.

One of the many ways I use this is I only play video games in French or German—that’s my rule. I keep dialogue in English but put everything else in the target language.

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3. Set Measurable Goals

Is there a specific event you want to achieve a certain level of fluency for? Having a goal can really help when learning a language. Assign an event where you will need a certain fluency level to keep you motivated. It’s important to set a certain metric so you can quantify whether you’ve reached your goal or not. A goal like “Speak good French” will get you nowhere; it’s unquantifiable. Something like “Have 5-minute conversation via Skype with French speaker” or “Read random Italian Wikipedia with only having to look up 5 words” is quantifiable and therefore effective. Remember the old adage; what gets measured gets managed.

4. Use Memory Pegs

Every single one of us are using memory pegs every single day to store information, whether you know it or not. The mind stores visual information way better than any other medium. This is one of the reasons why you’re able to remember people’s faces and nothing else about them. So using notable imagery will help you store new vocabulary so much better—the crazier, the better.

So say you have to remember the French word for house: maison. You could think of a house in the spring (May) sun, and that’s your peg. That was a peg I literally came up with just now, so it is super simple to come up with these. If you’ve come up with a peg and you still forget whatever you want to store, you might have to come with a more relevant or notable situation. Play around with this; it can help in way more areas than language learning.

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How to learn a language quickly
    Source: Wikipedia Commons

    5. Leverage-free time

    Instead of listening to the same radio station on your commute every day, start listening to audio tapes, podcasts or even music in your desired language. Learning how to learn a language quickly can get a lot easier if you’re making the most of your time every day. Saving articles in the language you’re learning on your smartphone with apps like Pocket can make you leap bounds in your language learning. Other apps like the CoolGorilla series, Flashcards and the aforementioned Duolingo can be super helpful in making the most out of standing in line or waiting for the bus.

    6. Speak!

    You won’t get good at soccer by playing FIFA all day. Sure, you might learn the rules really well, but you won’t learn to juggle a ball any better. You have to put your skin in the game and utilize whatever you’ve learned thus far. In terms of return on time invested, this is the most important part of your language learning. If you’re not applying what you’ve learned, it’s not going to stick. In the beginning it can be daunting to start speaking to natives. But there’s an easy way to make sure you will not have to fall back on English; chances are you pretty much already know what the other is going to be saying to you. Things like; Oh wow! You’re (insert-language) is really good. Where did you learn? Why? Where do you come from and what do you do for fun, etc. 50% of all everyday interaction is the same, so putting together a script for answering these anticipated questions can be of massive benefit in giving you the initial boost of motivation needed to keep you getting better.

    6. Learn More Languages

    The more languages you know the easier it gets learning more. See, the way you process information is your brain creates pathways between pieces of information, and the more information you learn, the better “paved” these pathways become. The more these synapses keep firing back and forth from each other, the better you get at storing that kind of information. Have you noticed how you store information a lot better if you can relate it to things you already know? So, say you know Spanish already, you will have a way easier time learning Portuguese or Italian because you can “relate” new vocabulary to what you already know. Same goes for, say, guitarists wanting to learn piano.

    7. Create stakes

    Stakes are important when wanting to achieve any goal. What happens if you don’t follow through? Are you just setting this goal to stroke your ego? If you’re not penalized if you don’t follow through, chances are you won’t. This is why it’s easier to learn a language leading up to, for example, a holiday in said country. If you don’t get studying you won’t be able to communicate and you won’t have as good a time. StickK is a great service for this. The way it works is you assign an “anti charity” and an amount large enough to make you follow through, and if your assigned “referee” deems your result inadequate, the money goes to the foundation you dislike.

    So that’s 7 practical tips to help you learn a language quickly. I suggest you play around with every tip and see which ones works best for you. Language learning is not math; there is no one way to reach your goal. Use the methods that get you where you want to go fastest.

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

    You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

    1. Connecting them with each other

    Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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    It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

    2. Connect with their emotions

    Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

    For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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    3. Keep going back to the beginning

    Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

    On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

    4. Link to your audience’s motivation

    After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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    Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

    5. Entertain them

    While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

    Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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    6. Appeal to loyalty

    Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

    In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

    7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

    Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

    Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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