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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 August 16, 2018

    10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Enjoy Taking Risks

    10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Enjoy Taking Risks

    The ability to take risks by stepping outside your comfort zone is the primary way by which we grow. But we are often afraid to take that first step.

    In truth, comfort zones are not really about comfort, they are about fear. Break the chains of fear to get outside. Once you do, you will learn to enjoy the process of taking risks and growing in the process.

    Here are 10 ways to help you step out of your comfort zone and get closer to success:

    1. Become aware of what’s outside of your comfort zone

    What are the things that you believe are worth doing but are afraid of doing yourself because of the potential for disappointment or failure?

    Draw a circle and write those things down outside the circle. This process will not only allow you to clearly identify your discomforts, but your comforts. Write identified comforts inside the circle.

    2. Become clear about what you are aiming to overcome

    Take the list of discomforts and go deeper. Remember, the primary emotion you are trying to overcome is fear.

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    How does this fear apply uniquely to each situation? Be very specific.

    Are you afraid of walking up to people and introducing yourself in social situations? Why? Is it because you are insecure about the sound of your voice? Are you insecure about your looks?

    Or, are you afraid of being ignored?

    3. Get comfortable with discomfort

    One way to get outside of your comfort zone is to literally expand it. Make it a goal to avoid running away from discomfort.

    Let’s stay with the theme of meeting people in social settings. If you start feeling a little panicked when talking to someone you’ve just met, try to stay with it a little longer than you normally would before retreating to comfort. If you stay long enough and practice often enough, it will start to become less uncomfortable.

    4. See failure as a teacher

    Many of us are so afraid of failure that we would rather do nothing than take a shot at our dreams.

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    Begin to treat failure as a teacher. What did you learn from the experience? How can you take that lesson to your next adventure to increase your chance of success?

    Many highly successful people failed plenty of times before they succeeded. Here’re some examples:

    10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

    5. Take baby steps

    Don’t try to jump outside your comfort zone, you will likely become overwhelmed and jump right back in.

    Take small steps toward the fear you are trying to overcome. If you want to do public speaking, start by taking every opportunity to speak to small groups of people. You can even practice with family and friends.

    Take a look at this article on how you can start taking baby steps:

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    The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps

    6. Hang out with risk takers

    There is no substitute for this step. If you want to become better at something, you must start hanging out with the people who are doing what you want to do and start emulating them. (Here’re 8 Reasons Why Risk Takers Are More Likely To Be Successful).

    Almost inevitably, their influence will start have an effect on your behavior.

    7. Be honest with yourself when you are trying to make excuses

    Don’t say “Oh, I just don’t have the time for this right now.” Instead, be honest and say “I am afraid to do this.”

    Don’t make excuses, just be honest. You will be in a better place to confront what is truly bothering you and increase your chance of moving forward.

    8. Identify how stepping out will benefit you

    What will the ability to engage in public speaking do for your personal and professional growth? Keep these potential benefits in mind as motivations to push through fear.

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    9. Don’t take yourself too seriously

    Learn to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Risk taking will inevitably involve failure and setbacks that will sometimes make you look foolish to others. Be happy to roll with the punches when others poke fun.

    If you aren’t convinced yet, check out these 6 Reasons Not to Take Life So Seriously.

    10. Focus on the fun

    Enjoy the process of stepping outside your safe boundaries. Enjoy the fun of discovering things about yourself that you may not have been aware of previously.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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