You're headed to unknown territories and need to learn a language fast?
Although language learning is no easy task, I will attempt to provide a recipe for fast and effective results. Please keep in mind, however, that this article is no "get-fluent-quick" scheme, but a set of guidelines I recommend you follow to cut the learning curve.
Instead of merely giving generic advice that you've probably already read elsewhere, the aim of this article is to provide novel ideas that I've found through my own experience as a language learner as well as through the advice of other successful learners.
These stategies are not exclusive - in fact, I recommend that you use them together.
Drive - Catch the Excitement
In my journey of trying to understand how motivation works, I've become acquainted with the work of Daniel H. Pink and his book Drive in particular. According to his findings, we've been wrong about motivation all along. It had been thought of as "extrinsic" (outside of oneself) and driven by either reward or punishment. In truth, motivation is more "intrinsic", that is driven from the inside.
This piece of information has been decisive in my language learning journey, and I will present two ways you can apply this knowledge for faster results.
A common misconception about language learning is that quantity is king. In other words, the more you ingest, the more you digest.
My experience tells me that this is partially true. Inspiration is the true king (or queen!) - the more inspired you are, the more effortless is your learning. In other words, you absorb more knowledge when inspired. Inspired learning seems to stimulate your brain much differently that "mechanical" learning does.
One way to be inspired would be not to try to do anything but expose yourself to the culture of the target language - be it through books, documentaries or other media.
A second way would be to get inspired by people who are successful at what you want to do. It can be people you know or renowned polyglots. One of my favorite is Luca Lamporiello, whose videos I used to watch on YouTube.
Having the humility to let yourself inspired by other people is key to learning faster and more effectively.
I often mention this in my article because it is that important. Learning through meaningful content is a strategy that was introduced to me by Steve Kauffman (yet another polyglot).
The idea is simple - content that is meaningful to you stimulates learning while the opposite does not. In other words, reading or listening to something you like is a recipe for success. On the other hand, boring vocabulary lists and other exercises won't do.
The usual advice I give to intermediate learners is to go with content they're already familiar with (if they enjoy it). I love Harry Potter books and I've read them in every language I've learned (let alone the movies!). Who said you had to read content written in the original language?
Additionally, this article covers various ways to learn from material you like.
Consistency - Stay On the Path
"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." Bruce Lee
Not that language learning has anything to do with kicking people, it certainly has to do with consistency. In a nutshell - practicing 10 minutes a day is better than practicing one hour a week.
Leveling up in Duolingo while watching TV is not language learning but distraction. Neither is any activity involving multitasking.
Your brain is designed to filter any information that it considers useless -and we've seen that boring material was so. Additionally most information gets filtered out when your focus is scattered. That's why focus is extremely important when learning a language.
Have you ever been so engaged in an activity that you forgot about time? That is called Flow - it is the ideal state you want to be in when learning a foreign language. I recommend you read more about this if you have a hard time focusing when learning.
Habits are the long-term recipe for consistent results. It is a mechanism you build over time in order to spend less energy to execute a specific task. When you first learn to ride a bike, it takes a lot of energy - but then you never forget how to do it.
Creating a routine is key to success. Instead of trying to do too much in a single streak, try to spread the learning in multiple intervals. For example, 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. The principle is to start small and then increment as you go.
Building habits is the opposite of being fast or effective. Yet, it is exactly what you want when it comes to language learning. It might not reap benefits at first but it guarantees success in the long run.
Social - Have Fun
The fastest way to learn a language is to have a real motivation to do so. In my experience, having friends who speak the target language has always been key for success in language learning.
When I tell people I speak Turkish but that I am not Turkish, they look at me with a weird eye. The real reason why I learned this language is because I came to know quite a few Turkish people and I became curious about it.
When I started learning the language, I would use Pimsleur, Memrise and other popular tools. Honestly, the process could have been quite boring. However, there was something magical in knowing that this learning would allow me to understand my friends when they spoke Turkish!
If you're looking for friends or just people to practice with, I wrote a few tips in this previous article.
Do not underestimate the power of friends! You'd be surprised how fast you make progress.
Having fun is crucial when learning a language - and the more the merrier! A fun environment gets you out of the "learning mode" and most importantly out of your head. When you let go, you actually learn more effectively. You have more positive emotions and your brain is more likely to remember new words or idioms.
The same thing is true for expression. When I first started practicing German in real life, it was a little awkward at first. But as soon as I hung out in bars in Germany (where the fun was), I would let go and speak with confidence.
To go further, I've written more about social interactions in this article.
If your goal is to learn a foreign language faster and more effectively, make sure to check out our program at Speechling. We provide feedback on your speech and that is invaluable in language learning. Feedback will help you learn faster by pointing out your mistakes so you can correct them without losing time!