Advertising
Advertising

How to Hack Language Learning

How to Hack Language Learning
    Photo credit: Lorna87 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    There are no two ways about it: learning a foreign language is a lot of work.

    There is grammar to master, vocabulary words to memorize, and the culture behind the language that adds context. That’s a tall order. For that reason, so few people actually learn a foreign language. It’s demanding — and lots of people speak English anyway, so it falls off the radar. However, the payoff is huge.

    Speaking another person’s language creates a bond, and it demonstrates a respect and interest that is compelling. It also sets you apart, especially if you are American.

    Advertising

    So, if you have made the decision to learn another language, I am going to offer you three major hacks to speed up your progress. As someone with a PhD in Linguistics and varying degrees of fluency in Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, Czech, French and Spanish, I know a thing or two about this stuff. And these are real, field-tested hacks, not academic theory.

    The Ultimate Sacrifice

    The first hack is a big one, and it will only work for some people. The single best way to learn a foreign language is to find a girlfriend/boyfriend who speaks that language, whose English is pretty minimal.

    Why?

    Advertising

    You want to communicate with your beloved — perhaps their family — and you spend a lot of time together. I have seen this work many times. Among my fellow language students, we would jokingly call this “the ultimate sacrifice.” If you are THERE, in country, as opposed to HOME, where we speak English, all the better.

    Now, if you already married or otherwise committed, I would recommend against using this hack…for fairly obvious reasons.

    The Powerful Shortcut

    Okay — that was pretty “macro” but the next one is “micro”: Learn the adverbs. Why the adverbs? Well, there are tons of nouns and verbs and adjectives. You will eventually need to know many in order to have a decent conversation, but that is a lot of work. Also, you can often figure them out from context. If the other person says something like “I like that XYZ” and is pointing at some object, you can guess that it’s an XYZ. Adverbs are different, and they can change the meaning of a sentence dramatically. Look at the following pair of sentences (adverbs are IN CAPS):

    Advertising

    “John BARELY caught the train.”

    “John ALMOST caught the train.”

    Big difference in meaning, right? And it may not be obvious from context. The nice thing about adverbs, unlike nouns, verbs and adjectives, is that there are far fewer that are used commonly. If you learn 100 nouns or verbs, it’s a drop in the bucket. If you learn 100 adverbs, you have significantly increased your ability to have a meaningful conversation. Here is a link to a list of common adverbs in English. Find out how to say them in your new language and get to work!

    Advertising

    Maximize Input – No Excuses

    When I was in high school in New Jersey in the 80s, studying Russian, if we wanted a real copy of a Russian newspaper, we would have to drag our butts into Brooklyn to spend a ton of cash to get  two-week old copy of Pravda. That sucked. Today, you have access to amazing new resources via the internet. Go in the internet and type in “Russian [or whatever language] radio,” and you get a whole bunch of live streaming radio from all over, some from the mother country, some from the US. Listen to it, leave it on as much as you can stand, even if you have no idea what they’re saying, you’ll be picking up the rhythm and melody.

    Getting foreign language TV is easy too; there are services similar to Netflix for many languages. There is music in your language on YouTube (trust me, there is — no matter how obscure). Look up the major newspapers in your language and pick through them, word by word. You can practice foreign language chat at sites like SharedTalk or My Language Exchange.

    Why do this? Think about how much English you heard before you ever uttered “Mama”. You probably heard tens of thousands of words. You need that sort of input to make sense of a language, and you can do it passively, just like when you were a kid.

    So, just turn on talk radio or YouTube and you are off to the races — even when you aren’t paying attention.

    Conclusion

    The three powerful strategies for learning a foreign language so you can have an advantage in today’s global economy are as follows:

    1. The boyfriend/girlfriend who speaks <Foreign Language> but not English. This is the most fun, of course, but it is limited in application, and comes with certain other risks
    2. Learn the adverbs. You will have to do this anyway, and it’s the best way to enlarge your useful vocabulary FAST
    3. Get as much exposure to your language as you can. Listen to TV and radio, read the emergency instructions in the seatback on the airplane, in order to replicate the environment when you were learning English, without concentrating so hard on it…
    Have fun — and come back fluent!

    More by this author

    Dave Kaiser

    An Executive Coach who helps people make better use of their time, from productivity to living their life's mission.

    A New Year’s Resolution Worksheet That Will Make Your Resolutions Stick Want Life to Be Easy? Get a System! Why Joy Can Be Your Enemy Why You Need to Give It Away What Not to do to Get More Done

    Trending in Communication

    1 12 Powerful Habits of a Lifelong Learner 2 8 Proven Ways to Learn a New Language Fast 3 5 Best Language Learning Apps to Master a New Language 4 How to Change Your Mindset for a Happy And Successful Life 5 9 Free Language Learning Apps That Are Fun to Use

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

    12 Powerful Habits of a Lifelong Learner

    12 Powerful Habits of a Lifelong Learner

    Formal education is something everyone has to go through to a certain degree, and the knowledge it offers isn’t always that practical in real life. Life long learning is how you improve as a person, bit by bit and day by day.

    Life long learners recognize the importance and joy of growth so they never settle for what they currently know and always seek for improvement.

    Here are 12 habits of people who value lifelong learning have in common – see how many of them you recognize in yourself.

    1. They Read on a Daily Basis

    Whatever problem or dilemma you currently face, there’s definitely at least one decent book that discusses it and presents a variety of solutions.

    Reading is a great way to open up new horizons, train your brain and revolutionize your life. I can’t even count how many times books completely transformed the way I view the world, and it’s always a change for the better. Through reading, you can connect with successful people and learn from the lessons they share.

    Life long learners love to get lost in books and do it regularly. Bill Gates knows that reading matters a lot; on his personal blog, he reviews plenty of game-changing books.

    Due to technology, you can access a bookshelf of the wealthiest entrepreneur on this planet.

    2. They Attend Various Courses

    Whether it’s online or offline, there are countless courses you can participate in without spending a dime on it. These are great opportunities to connect with clever and like-minded people and learn from them.

    Advertising

    Because of the advanced technology, you can now gain knowledge from online programs, starting from coding through self-improvement to programs from top universities.

    There are literally endless ways to thrive. What life long learners have in common is squeezing as much as possible out of these opportunities.

    3. They Actively Seek Opportunities to Grow

    Instead of spending your free time laying on the couch and watching TV, you prefer doing something creative and practical. You know every wasted minute is gone forever.

    That’s why you’d rather practice your language skills with a native-speaker you’ve met, engage in local meet up or attend a class that teaches something you always wanted to learn.

    Life long learners stay up-to-date with growth opportunities in their areas and participate in them frequently.

    4. They Take Care of Their Bodies

    “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” — John F. Kennedy

    A clever mind combined with a body in a great condition is the best asset you can have. Our bodies were designed to run, walk, jump, swim, lift and much more. Leading a sedentary lifestyle harms both your physical and mental sphere.

    Life long learners know the body is your temple. In order to make it flourish for as long as possible, they train regularly, move a lot and eat healthy.

    Advertising

    5. They Have Diverse Passions

    Among Steve Jobs’ wise quotes, there’s one I like especially. It’s about connecting the dots:

    “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” — Steve Jobs

    Each dot is some event or skill in your life, and it’s only when you go through these elements that you know how to combine them into something great.

    Having a variety of passions indicates that you love to progress. By practicing different skills, you give yourself an advantage over the rest of the people. During hard times, you are more likely to to act intelligently and solve your problems with less effort.

    6. They Love Making Progress

    If behind the efforts, there is passion and a deep desire to grow, your chances of success are way higher, compared to when you are forced to learn.

    Life long learners love to experience the constant growth and improvement. The breakthrough moments help them to notice the impressive change that took place because of the learning process. Any milestone serves as a driving force for further headway.

    7. They Challenge Themselves with Specific Goals

    In order to keep growing, you clearly define your goals. Smart goal setting is one of the tools to ensure constant growth.

    Since you love challenges, a difficult goal doesn’t scare you. Quite the opposite, it keeps you motivated and engaged.

    Advertising

    Research showed that precise and ambitious goals increase the performance of an individual. As we already agreed, life long learners are people who care about their performance, hence they never stop improving.

    8. They Embrace Change

    A complete change can lead to incredible results. This is especially visible on the example of successful companies.

    Oftentimes, it’s that transformation which created space for their so-called overnight success. Twitter was originally created as an internal service to serve Odeo employees. Currently, it has over 300 million monthly active users and is considered the second biggest social network.

    As a life long learner, you know a change can lead to extraordinary results so you welcome it and stay open minded about making a shift.

    9. They Believe It’s Never Too Late to Start Something

    Some people tend to think after a certain age, they are no longer allowed to start something and become successful. The truth is, it’s just a lame excuse not to leave the comfort zone.

    Opposite to common misconceptions, there’s no wrong age to begin something. Henry Ford was 45 when he invented the Ford Model T car, which is considered as the first affordable automobile.

    Sure, for some domains like becoming a professional athlete, starting early is required. However, to learn and improve for its own sake, you are never too old.

    10. Their Attitude to Getting Better Is Contagious

    “We now accept the fact that learning is a life long process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” — Peter Drucker

    There’s nothing better than to see your surroundings getting involved in what you actively participate in. Oftentimes, the best way to achieve that is to inspire them and be the example. As Gandhi would say, you need to be the change you want to see in the world.

    As a life long learner, you are extremely passionate about the constant growth and people around you can sense that positive attitude. As a result, they start acting similarly.

    11. They Leave Their Comfort Zone

    Is it really better to step out of your comfort zone? The answer is always yes.

    You always embrace discomfort as you know the path to success leads through hardship and countless obstacles. Instead of being afraid of facing them, you challenge yourself to overcome more and more difficult handicaps.

    Every time you get out of your comfort zone, regardless whether you win or fail, you learn something new. That’s the part you love the most!

    12. They Never Settle Down

    “Knowledge is exploding, so you need to commit yourself to a plan for life long learning.” — Don Tapscott

    A sense of being clever enough is something you don’t experience. Without a doubt, you appreciate what you already know, but that’s never a reason to stop. You just know once you stop learning, you lose the amazing privilege humans have, namely an ability to a never-ending intellectual development.

    More About Lifelong Learning

    Featured photo credit: Christin Hume via unsplash.com

    Advertising

    Read Next