22 Tips For Learning A Foreign Language

22 Tips For Learning A Foreign Language

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When I arrived in Buenos Aires in the beginning of 2010, I could barely order food in a local restaurant. Two years later, I calmly explained the mechanics of Russian grammar to a Guatemalan friend… in her native Spanish.

Today, I’m conversationally fluent in both Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, and low conversational in Russian. I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and tell you it was easy or that there’s some shortcut or hack. I practiced my ass off. Honestly, I’ve seen the supposed “hacks” for language-learning, and none of them worked for me. It took hours of study combined with stumbling through many, many conversations.

Here are some language-learning tips I’ve gathered over the past few years:

1. Conversation, Conversation, Conversation. If there’s a “secret” or “hack” to learning a new language, it’s this: hours and hours of awkward and strenuous conversation with people better than you in that language. An hour of conversation (with corrections and a dictionary for reference) is as good as five hours in a classroom and 10 hours with a language course by yourself.

There are a few reasons for this. The first is motivation. I don’t care how cool your study guide is, you’re going to be far more invested and motivated to communicate with a live person in front of you than a book or audio program on your computer.

The second reason is that language is something that needs to be processed, not memorized. I’m no expert on language learning, but in my experience staring and memorizing a word in a book or with flashcards 100 times does not stick the same way being forced to use a word in conversation a mere two or three times does.

I believe the reason is that our minds place more priority on memories which involve actual human and social experiences, memories which have emotions tied to them. So, for instance, if I look up the verb for “to complain” and use it in a sentence with a new friend, chances are I’m always going to associate that word with that specific interaction and conversation I was having with her. Whereas I can blow by that same word 20 times with flashcards, and even though I may get it right, I haven’t actually practiced implementing it. It means nothing to me, so it is less likely to stick with me.

2. Intensity of study trumps length of study. What I mean by this is that studying a language four hours a day for two weeks will be more beneficial for you than studying one hour a day for two months. This is a reason why so many people take language classes in school and never remember anything. It’s because they only study 3-4 hours per week and often the classes are separated by multiple days.

Language requires a lot of repetition, a lot of reference experiences, and a consistent commitment and investment. It’s better to allot a particular period of your life, even if it’s only 1-2 weeks, and really go at it 100%, then to half ass it over the course of months or even years.

3. Classes suck and are an inefficient use of time and money. All things considered, you get a really poor return for your time and effort in group classes. There are two problems. The first is that the class moves at the pace of its slowest student. The second is that language learning is a fairly personal process — everyone naturally learns some words or topics easier than others, therefore a class is not going to be able to address each student’s personal needs as well or in a timely fashion.

For instance, when I took Russian classes I found verb conjugations to be simple because I had already learned Spanish. But an English classmate struggled quite a bit with them. As a result, I spent a lot of my class time waiting around for him to catch up. I also had a German classmate who had already been exposed to cases, whereas I had no clue what they were. I’m sure he ended up waiting around for me to figure it out as well. The larger the classroom, the less efficient it’s going to be. Anyone who had to take a foreign language in school and retained absolutely none of it can tell you this.

4. Start with the 100 most common words. Not all vocabulary is made the same. Some gives you a better return on investment than others. For instance, when I lived in Buenos Aires, I met a guy who had been studying with Rosetta Stone for months (not recommended). I had been working on and off with a tutor for a few weeks, but I was surprised by how he could not follow even the most basic of conversations despite months of study and living there.

It turns out, much of the vocabulary he had been studying was for kitchen utensils, family members, clothing and rooms in a house. But if he wanted to ask someone which part of town they lived in, he had no idea what to say.

Start with the 100 most common words and then make sentences with them over and over again. Learn just enough grammar to be able to do this and do it until you feel pretty comfortable with all of them.

5. Carry a pocket dictionary. This made a much bigger difference than I expected. I carry an English-Spanish dictionary app on my phone and I used it all the time when I live in Spanish-speaking countries. My first two weeks in Brazil, I was lazy and kept forgetting to download an English-Portuguese application. I struggled in my conversations A LOT during those two weeks, despite knowing basic Portuguese.

Once I downloaded the dictionary, there was an immediate difference. Having it on your phone is great, because it takes two seconds to look something up in the middle of conversation. And because you’re using it in conversation, you’re that much more likely to recall it later. Even something that simple affected my conversations and ability to interact with locals a great deal.

6. Keep practicing in your head. The other use for your dictionary is that you can practice while going about your day and not talking to anyone. Challenge yourself to think in the new language. We all have monologues running in our head, and typically they run in our native tongue. You can continue to practice and construct sentences and fake conversations in your head in a new language. In fact, this sort of visualization leads to much easier conversations when you actually have them. For instance, you can envision and practice a conversation about a topic you’re likely to have before you actually have it. You can begin to think about how you would describe your job and explain why you’re in the foreign country in the new language. Inevitably, those questions will come up and you’ll be ready to answer them.

7. You’re going to say a lot of stupid things. Accept it. When I was first learning Spanish, I once told a group of people that Americans put a lot of condoms in their food. Later, I told a girl that basketball makes me horny. Um, yeah… It’s going to happen. Trust me.

8. Figure out pronunciation patterns. All Latin-based languages will have similar pronunciation patterns based on Latin words. For instance, any word that ends in “-tion” in English will almost always end in “-ción” in Spanish and “-ção” in Portuguese. English-speakers are notorious for simply adding “-o” “-e” or “-a” to the end of English words to say Spanish words they don’t know. But stereotypes aside, it’s surprising how often it’s correct. “Destiny” is “destino,” “motive” is “motivo,” “part” is “parte” and so on. In Russian, case endings always rhyme with one another, so if you are talking about a feminine noun (such as “Zhen-shee-na”), then you know that the adjectives and adverbs will usually rhyme with its ending (“krasee-vaya” as opposed to “krasee-vee”).

9. Use audio and online courses for the first 100 words and basic grammar. After that they should only be used for reference and nothing more. There are a lot of study materials: Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, Berlitz, DuoLingo, etc. These courses are great for getting you from absolutely no ability in a language to being able to speak basic sentences and phrases within a few days time. They’re also good for teaching the most fundamental vocabulary (words such as: the, I, you, eat, want, thanks, etc.).

But the weakness of study materials is that they don’t allow for much useful practice. The greatest return on investment in language learning is forcing yourself to speak and communicate with others, and when you’re sitting in your bedroom with a book or a software program, you’re not being forced to formulate meaning and significance in the new language on the spot. Instead, you’re encouraged to parrot and copy concepts and patterns you’ve observed elsewhere in the materials. As mentioned before, I feel that these are two different types of learning and one is far more useful than the other.

10. After the first 100 words, focus on becoming conversational. Studies have shown that the most common 100 words in any language account for 50% of all spoken communication. The most common 1,000 words account for 80% of all spoken communication. The most common 3,000 words account for 99% of communication. In other words, there are some serious diminishing returns from learning more vocabulary. I probably only know 500-1,000 words in Spanish and in most conversations I never have to stop and look a word up in my phone.

The basic grammar should get you speaking fundamental sentences within a matter of days.

“Where is the restaurant?”
“I want to meet your friend.”
“How old is your sister?”
“Did you like the movie?”

The first few hundred words will get you pretty far. Use them to get as comfortable as possible with grammar, idioms, slang and constructing thoughts, jokes and ideas in the new language on the fly. Once you’re able to joke consistently in the new language, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s time to expand your vocabulary out.

A lot of people attempt to expand their vocabulary too quickly and too soon. It’s a waste of time and effort because they’re still not comfortable with basic conversations about where they’re from, yet they’re studying vocabulary about economics or medicine. It makes no sense.

11. Aim for the brain melt. You know how when you do a lot of intellectually-intensive work for hours and hours on end, at some point your brain just feels like a lump of gravy? Shoot for that moment when learning languages. Until you’ve reached brain-gravy stage, you probably aren’t maximizing your time or effort. In the beginning, you’ll hit mind-melt within an hour or two. Later on, it may take an entire night of hanging out with locals before it happens. But when it happens, it’s a very good thing.

12. “How do you say X?” is the most important sentence you can possibly learn. Learn it early and use it often.

13. One on one tutoring is the best and most efficient use of time. It’s also usually the most expensive use of time, depending on the language and country. But if you have the money, grabbing a solid tutor and sitting with him or her for a few hours every day is the fastest way to learn a new language I’ve ever found. A mere two hours a day for a few weeks with a tutor in Brazil got me to at least a respectable conversational level — i.e., I could go on a date with a girl who spoke no English and maintain conversation throughout the night without making too much of a fool of myself.

Speaking of which…

14. Date a girl who speaks the target language and not your native language. Talk about investment and motivation. You’ll be fluent in a month. And best of all, if you make her mad or do something wrong, you can claim lost in translation.

15. If you can’t find a cute girl to put up with you, find a language buddy online. There are a number of websites of foreigners who want to learn English who would be willing to trade practice time in their native language for practice in yours. Live Mocha is a great resource of this (I’m not a huge fan of their lessons, but the ability to video chat with other members is priceless).

16. Facebook chat + Google Translate = Winning.

17. When you learn a new word, try to use it a few times right away. When you stop and look up a new word in conversation, make a point to use it in the next two or three sentences you say. Language learning studies show that you need to hit a certain amount of repetitions of saying a word within one minute of learning it, one hour of learning it, one day, etc. Try to use it immediately a few times and then use it again later in the day. Chances are it’ll stick.

18. TV shows, movies, newspapers and magazines are a good supplementation. But they should not be mistaken or replacements for legitimate practice. When I was getting good at Spanish, I made a point to watch a couple movies each week and read an article on El País each day. It was helpful for keeping me fresh, but I don’t believe it was as good as use of my time as conversations.

19. Most people are helpful, let them help. If you’re in a foreign country and making a complete ass out of yourself trying to buy something at the grocery store, ask random people for help. Point to something and ask how to say it. Ask them questions. Most people are friendly and willing to help you out. Learning a language is not for shy people.

20. There will be a lot of ambiguity and miscommunication. Fact of the matter is that for many, many words, the translations are not direct. “Gustar” may roughly mean “to like” in Spanish, but in usage, it’s more nuanced than that. It’s used for particular situations and contexts, whereas in English we use “like” as a blanket verb covering anything we enjoy or care about. These subtle differences can add up, particularly in serious or emotional conversations. Intentions can be easily misconstrued. Nuanced conversations over important matters will likely require double the effort to nail down the exact meaning for each person than it would between two native speakers. No matter how good you are in your new language, you’re not likely to have a complete grasp over the slight intuitive differences between each word, phrase or idiom that a native speaker does without living in the country for years.

21. These are the phases you go through. First, you’re able to speak a little and understand nothing. Then you’re able to understand far more than you speak. Then you become conversational, but it requires quite a bit of mental effort. After that, you’re able to speak and understand without conscious mental effort (i.e., you don’t have to translate words into your native tongue in your mind). Once you’re able to speak and listen without thinking about it, you’ll begin to actually think in the foreign language itself without effort. Once this happens, you’re really hitting a high level.

And the final level? Believe it or not, being able to follow a conversation between a large group of native speakers is the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place. Or at least it was for me. Once that happens, and you’re able to interject, come in and out of the conversation at will, you’re pretty set. After that, there’s not really anywhere else to go without living in the country for at least a year or two and reaching complete fluency.

22. Finally, find a way to make it fun. As with anything, if you’re going to stick to it, you have to find a way to make it fun. Find people you enjoy talking to. Go to events where you can practice while doing something fun. Don’t just sit in a classroom in front of a book, or you’re likely to burn out fairly quickly. Talk about personal topics which you care about. Find out about the person you’re talking to. Make it a personal, life experience, or else you’re going to be in for a long, unenjoyable process which will likely end up in you forgetting everything you learned.

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  • Reply


    4 months ago

    Considering I’m in South America and I spent 30 minutes lost (possibly drunk) at 5:30am the other day in a cab because I can’t speak Spanish, I’m very happy to see this guide here….

    • Reply


      19 weeks ago

      hi! just wondering why do you want to learn new language? and what is hard on learning Spanish? just a cent :)
      coz from the part of the world when i came from we speak hhhmmm about say 20 or more language ^_^

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    Most online courses are rubbish but consider trying http://www.lingq.com

    With this you pick your target language, then you choose a lesson, usually a dialogue. You will see all the words are highlighted in blue, the object is to click the word and then assign the word of your native tongue to that word. So for German you would highlight the word ‘viele’ and choose the word ‘many’. The word then turns yellow. Do this with all the words and when that word comes up in a future lesson it will already be yellow, to show you have seen it before.

    After a while, as you come across the word more often, it will slowly fade to white background and this shows you know it. With each lesson, you read through the dialogue, highlight the words and the listen through a few times using the audio.

    I am in no way associated through the site but I have used it for German and so far I have over 2600 words known. Worth checking out.

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    Bom artigo, Mark! :)

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    Any good tips for finding what the 100 most used words in a language are?

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    I totally recommend book2.de: Pick your native language, pick a foreign language, download an MP3 audio course for free. It contains no grammar, just phrases, starting with the most basic, going up to conversational. Perfect material to get good enough for conversations.

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    Google Chrome has the language immersion add-on, which is a pretty solid learning tool.
    You install it ( for free), pick your language, pick the difficulty level, and it will translate random words into the language you picked. If you don’t know the word you can click on it, and it will revert back to English.


    • Reply


      4 months ago

      Michael I have to say I just installed that add-on and it’s pretty awesome. It’s been frustrating that it’s been all or nothing Spanish this entire time if I switched back and forth. Thanks for sharing that I can see that it’s going to be really helpful.

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    This article couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I just arrived in Spain and will be studying here for 5 weeks, taking intensive language classes 4 hours a day, 5 days a week at the university.

  • Reply

    Dr Feelgood

    4 months ago

    Excellent tips! I would have a lot to comment on this.

    I think it also depends a lot on the type of learner you are. I, for example, like to get an extensive home study course right away and make myself really familiar with the grammar and a lot of vocabulary right away for a couple of weeks (really awesome return for little expense of money and time and even energy).

    When I’m done with that, I still can’t hold up a decent convo and will probably forget a lot of the vocabulary, BUT I have a solid fundament to depart from and a roadmap. That makes it a lot easier to understand stuff and put it in context, and when I hear the vocabulary again, it will stick to my memory better. The brain remembers things it understands well easier.

    That is just me though, I like to always have the big picture. Somebody extremely extroverted might be better off with studying 20 words and then throwing himself into it with the locals.

    When I was learning Spanish in 2004, there were no apps around, so I carried a small diccionary in my pocket at all time. After a year, the sides of the pages had turned black, and the cover was not readable anymore.

    I once told a gay Spanish friend of mine: “Me gusta ternura!” (“I like tenderness!”). What I meant was “Me gusta ternera!” (“I like beef!”). His eyes got big…

    The first time you catch yourself thinking in that other moment will be an awesome moment of victory…!

    And yeah, aviod classes, that just seems like an easy way out: “Oh, just sitting there and in the end knowing the language sounds good…!” But like most of the time, there is no easy way out…

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    I agree with most of the tips you said , I also made an article in the forum on how I learned to speak spanish and french in 6 months but you didn’t seem to consider it .
    Another very powerful and efficient technique is parroting . Repeat what you hear on a podcast.
    There are many others but Instead of writing another article I propose every one that has a genuine interest on this topic to search on forums like :
    http://how-to-learn-any-language.com where are many multilinguals exchanging tips on more efficient learning and offers language exchanging ( but I think you have to pay on this).
    There are some good methods to learn and make it easy for yourself one of the best ( and of the few) for most languages is Assimil has all that you need to begin .

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    I made very quick initial progress with Pimsleur in portuguese.

    A good way to learn a language fast and efficient is to immerse yourself in an environment and in topics that you enjoy while doing it all in the target language. Say you like BJJ and spend some time in Brazil to learn the language, just join a dojo and talk to the guys there about the stuff. Read books and articles about the subject in the target language.

    And yes, a girlfriend will speed things up massively.

    We see a pattern here: Doing something that you love and enjoy.

  • Reply

    Patron of corona

    4 months ago

    Check out Moses McCormick’s stuff.

    He’s a cool young dude who has a passion for learning languages, and has so far, on his own, developed a very effective language home study method. He became fluent in 50 languages so far, and his stuff is really solid and well grounded.

    I’m in no way associated with him, but he’s like the “Mark” of language learning :D

    His site : http://roadrunninglanguagecamp.com/

    • Reply


      20 weeks ago

      He’s learned many languages to a very low level. Not very impressive.

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    Thank you, this came at a great time for me. Learning a second language is an important goal of mine and I figure it’s time to follow through. The trouble is figuring out which one to learn…there are so many uses for a multitude of languages. Time to pick one and jump in!

  • Reply


    4 months ago

    Mark, Thanks for the lucid commentary on learning and living. By the way, have you heard of or checked out TripLingo? Easy, cheap app for doing just what your saying here starting with the basics.


  • Reply


    4 months ago

    For learning the first 100-200 most common words and using them in sentences, (and the grammar patterns to use them), the Michael Thomas stuff seems really good… no memorisation required. Shame the dude isn’t alive anymore, his stuff is such a different approach.

  • Reply


    3 months ago

    Brilliant synopsis. I say do away with college language classes entirely and force students to study abroad. 2 hours with a single tutor in the morning and then — on your own to explore, meet people, stumble around, buy some beer or bread or a pair of pants, fall in love (for a week or two max), and just get that lumpy gravy brain feeling down. One day you’ll be dreaming in the other language and then you know your brain has added the extra channel. Used to take me a few months, but now two to three weeks depending how patient the locals are with my incoherent ramblings and questions.

    Please write a book on this. You have a great outline going.

  • Reply

    Besski - The L.D.Lover

    3 months ago

    Marvelous tips! You just made it look so simple to learn a new language. I can’t help but feel a little enthusiasm in my body, to just start learning a new language right away! :)

    So, I’ll make sure to come back to this post when I’ll plan on learning a new language! Cheers!

  • Reply


    2 months ago

    These are really helpful tips for Language learners. I think the best way to learn a language is to speak in target language regularly. Practice commonly used sentences to start with. Rather than finding a partner who speak your target language, staying in the country (where target language is spoken) for some period of time and interacting with local people would really help to quicken the learning process and also you get a chance to learn local dialect.

  • Reply


    2 months ago

    Great article! As someone who is JUST beginning to learn a new language (Spanish), my first thought was to Google “tips” from other people. The main question that I had was, “(When learning the new language) Do people normally think in their native language or new language?” You did a great job of explaining the language learning process here. While trying to learn Spanish, I keep translating everything to English in my head and THEN processing it. I guess this will change as I get more experience in the language. :) Thanks again!

  • Reply


    2 months ago

    Can’t agree more about how important conversation is when learning a new language… Talk to anyone that will listen to you as much as you possibly can.

  • Reply


    1 month ago

    I keep reading your articles one by one and it’s just amazing how much I agree with almost everything you say! This article is no exception to that, although I disagree on one thing: making it fun is, in my opinion TOP PRIORITY. If anyone starts with that there is no way they can fail.
    I tutor people myself and even decided to start a blog about how to learn a language. Currently I’m trying to help people learn German, which may be one of the hardest languages to learn,, and not because it’s hard itself (because it isn’t), but because of the popular notion that it is so complicated and impossible to learn. With just changing some basic fixations in people’s minds you can achieve amazing results!

  • Reply

    prasad wadkar

    1 month ago

    your article is really great thanks for you thoughts it really encourage me and i really appreciate that

  • Reply


    29 weeks ago

    Regarding tip 17 (use a word a few times immediately after learning it), this is where flashcard software comes into it’s own. I use Anki. You make your own flashcard for a word you learned, and it tests you on it in increasing intervals (this process is called spaced repetition). This really gets the word stuck in your memory.

    I think the approach in Tower of Babelfish is really good, and it’s where I learned about Anki.

  • Reply


    25 weeks ago

    I got a chuckle out of your “dating bit” because it’s entirely true! I dated a man from Mexico for two months who only spoke enough English to brokenly ask me to dinner. I had flunked my way through Spanish in high school and gained more language (albeit, that’s the only thing..) from that relationship than I ever did drooling in the back of a classroom.
    Also, native speakers tend to get pretty excited when you know even a little bit of their language. But, you do have to be prepared to be laughed at… Because… You will.

  • Reply


    23 weeks ago

    These are really great points, I’ve always struggled with staying fluent in Spanish. I want to learn a lot of different languages but I haven’t managed to become fluent yet. I think that this advice will help me a lot. I was almost fluent when I spoke it every day but not quite. I think I want to be an interpreter, but I’ll have to master the art of learning languages first!

    Tara | http://interlangueinterpreting.com

  • Reply

    Olly Richards

    23 weeks ago

    Really great tips, and it reminded me of my stint in Buenos Aires back in 2005 (I’ve heard everything’s got more expensive now!). Love your emphasis on embracing ambiguity and letting the mistakes role… it’s definitely the way forward. I might slightly disagree with your number #2 (about intensity trumps time). Intensity is certainly good, but time is also essential if you’re playing the long game. I find that a lot of things I study intensively only start to really make sense once I’ve given them a few weeks to sink in.

    Great stuff!

  • Reply


    21 weeks ago


    Really helpful post. Foreign languages are very interesting in learning. New things come to know. We can use online courses, they are helpful and also saves time. Many well reputed online sites are offering such course to learn foreign language easily. Also a students can not feel embarrassing to ask any questions. Good luck.

  • Reply

    Jessica Preston

    20 weeks ago

    Thanks for these language tips and a good laugh on a couple of these tips! Also http://www.speaklanguages.co.uk has awesome phrase guides with sound and online language partners to practice conversation! Great site for language learning.

  • Reply


    20 weeks ago

    Awesome suggestions! I am currently living in Prague and struggling with Czech. I have successfully learned a few other languages but the grammar in Czech is frequently overwhelming. I fully agree with the concept that you must speak it conversationally, even at the risk of making an ass of yourself. Most people are very good natured and appreciate that you are at least trying. I confused “spat” and “psat” the other day – “to sleep” and “to write.” I constructed a sentence which I intended to mean, “I slept at 11pm.” She asked me, “What did you write?” LOL

    I keep plugging away, and hopefully, in six months or a year, I will look back and wonder what all my current consternation was about!

    Thanks again. :)

  • Reply

    Howard Hirshfield

    18 weeks ago

    Really wonderful post. It’s not easy to learn any foreign language but your given tips really great to learn it. I never read tips like this because your given tips really easy to learn a foreign language. I would love to come again to read more new because i liked your blog to learn many new things. Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Reply

    Jeffrey Friend

    17 weeks ago

    The brain hurting happened for about a full two months for me. After that I started to think I was becoming fluent. Nope. About a year after living in Costa Rica I went home to California and thought I was cool because I could order Mexican food in Spanish. Nope. About two years into living in Costa Rica I thought, “I’m definitely fluent, sí” – nope. The truth is, the deeper you get into a language, the more you realize you only know a portion of it. Now it’s been 2 1/2 years here in CR and yeah I’m conversationally fluent-ish, but it really is all about how much you put into it.

    An additional tip for #18 that might help some peeps – read a book/magazine/whatever in the target language OUT LOUD. Even if you don’t know what the hell you’re reading, it helps to build your accent when you hear yourself. Practice the pronunciation. Read slow or fast, depending on your level, but do it out loud.

  • Reply


    15 weeks ago

    “I probably only know 500-1,000 words in Spanish and in most conversations I never have to stop and look a word up in my phone.”

    I think you exaggerated a bit here, Mark… If you have been studying spanish for some years you have to know many more than 1000 words.

  • Reply


    13 weeks ago

    Yes, nothing beats exposure to the language.
    You start with “bakery, where?”
    Then “where bakery is?”

    And eventually you arrive at “Excuse me, is there a bakery nearby?” :)

    You can’t do much without vocabulary, and that is why I’m still for learning words, lots and lots of them. For that, Quizlet.com is the global flashcard powerhouse. Highly recommend it.

    For learning from ground-up, including how the languages works (yes, grammar :) ), try http://sapaacademy.net/

  • Reply


    12 weeks ago

    You might want to have the new intern go through some of these old articles and clean up things like “[magicactionbox id="11709"]“

  • Reply


    9 weeks ago

    Point “16. Facebook chat + Google Translate = Winning.” that I always try. Thank you for your guide best tip

  • Reply


    4 days ago

    Sorry, but I had to chuckle at the “learn the top 100 words” then forget whatever language program you are learning. Try doing this with Korean, for example. I know THOUSANDS of words and am a beginner. Honorifics and varied endings alone and you’ve got yourself your first 1000 words. The language is also completely foreign, different word order. It takes hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours to get used to how the words work with one another. That’s without evening learning new vocab!

    There is no race.

    1. Motivation
    2. Time with the language
    3. The ability to notice.

    You will not become at all fluent in any asian language in a mere months (at least not from a latin-based language background). Just accept it.

    And forget 100 words. You need thousands and thousands. And don’t worry about speaking. Focus on listening and reading and writing. Speaking is the result of language acquisition not the cause.

    There are no shortcuts if fluency is what you are after. 1000 words is not fluency. Not even close.

  • Reply

    Ann Sander

    3 days ago

    Great article Mark.
    Another suggestion, if I may have you tried looking for language exchange partners online? The one I use is http://www.languageforexchange.com/ Found a good few people to practice my Spanish

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