Summer is around the corner, and many of us already have a trip coming up in a foreign country. If not, we hope you’ll take time to unwind!
While it may not be #1 in your priority list, one thing to consider before your trip is learning a foreign language. Not only will it add some life to your trip, the benefits of language learning are vast.
Research has shown that it can prevent common brain diseases, increase your creativity, and even improves your native language!
For many, learning a language feels like an uphill battle as time is always the major constraint. However, learning a new language doesn’t need to be a long process. Nor does it need to be expensive.
If we have the right framework for learning faster, anyone with dedication can reach conversation fluency in any language in 90 days.
For the Type-A learners out there, reaching fluency in 90 days is within your grasp.
Let’s start with 3 important principles in how to learn a language fast.
1. Effectiveness (What)
If you try to take down a tree with a dull axe, it doesn’t matter how hard you hit it. You won’t get anywhere.
This logic applies to language learning.
We need to prioritize the materials we choose to learn in the limited time span we have, that will help us reach our goals faster.
Which brings us to the 2nd principle:
2. Adherence (Why)
There have been multiple, inspiring stories of middle-aged women who gathered up the strength to lift up a car by themselves to save their children.
If we have the right motivation to push us, we can achieve anything that we want.
In other words, we can have the most effective materials in front of us, but if we don’t review and expose ourselves to the material, it’s useless to us.
In language learning, we can simplify this into two core methods:
a. Content choice – expose yourself to topics that you truly enjoy reading, listening, or watching about in English.
If you can’t stand politics, then it doesn’t make sense to read about it for the simple goal of improving your skills.
It is not sustainable.
b. Learning method – how do you best learn? If you’ve always loved reading, then read books in the foreign language.
If you’re a social butterfly and enjoy human interaction, then find a language coach that can interact with you and keep you accountable. The key here is, don’t do anything you won’t do in your regular daily routine.
3. Efficiency (How)
The last principle is figuring out the “how.”
You may have the best materials and motivation, but if it’s going to take you 10 years to accomplish your goal – it’s not worth your time.
How will you reach your goal in the shortest amount of time?
This brings us to…
The Pareto’s Principle
In summary, Pareto’s Principle dictates that 80% of our desired results come from 20% of our output/effort.
We can transfer this principle into language learning.
We may be able to reach 80% fluency in 90 days, using the most effective and efficient learning process; if it takes 5 years to reach 90% fluency, it doesn’t make as much sense for us to invest in a diminished returning process.
This applies to any skill from sports to instruments to public speaking.
Now, it’s not to say that you shouldn’t invest the extra time reach 100% fluency, as long as your motivation is there.
Our personal coaches are here to help you with whatever your goals may be, whether it’s wanting to become 100% fluent, enough to be able to communicate with your family/friends, or simply maintaining your current skills.
Now let’s get to the meat of any language learning – words.
5 Tips on How to Learn a Language Fast
1. Start with the most common words
The first 25 words make up about 1/3 of all printed material in English. The first 100 comprise 1/2 of all written material, and the first 300 make up about 65% percent of all written material in English.
Now because our goal with this guide is to reach conversation fluency, let’s review the top 100 most common words in English. Keep in mind that the most common words as used in speech are quite different, and this applies to any target language.
If you can focus on familiarizing, or better yet embedding these words for the desired foreign language in your memory, you’ve covered about 1/2 of what you’ll need to use when having a conversation.
Beyond the 500 most common words, you should make the decision on your desired subject matter.
Ask yourself “How will you be using the language?”
2. Start memorizing 30 words and phrases per day
Why 30? Because in 90 days, you’ll have learned 80% of the language.
Knowing 80% of the occurrences is sufficient enough to reach conversation fluency, with the ability to have a fluid conversation with any native speaker you encounter.
This great article talks about the number of words in the Russian language.
the 75 most common words make up 40% of occurrences
the 200 most common words make up 50% of occurrences
the 524 most common words make up 60% of occurrences
the 1257 most common words make up 70% of occurrences
the 2925 most common words make up 80% of occurrences
the 7444 most common words make up 90% of occurrences
the 13374 most common words make up 95% of occurrences
the 25508 most common words make up 99% of occurrences
This may vary depending on the language you’re targeting, but you can expect it to be around this range.
In order to speed up the memorization process, we recommend you use a technique called Mnemonics.
‘Mnemonic’ is another word for memory tool. Mnemonics are techniques for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall.
A popular mnemonic that most of us were taught in school
3. Work with a language tutor
Whatever goal you have in life – health, love, business – having a teacher can not only guarantee you reach your goal, but it will accelerate your goal.
This is why the top-performers in any aspect of life, pay tens of thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars to have a dedicated coach that works with them. It makes sense because having a coach saves them years of struggle and has a direct return on accelerating their achievements.
Language learning is no different.
Having a native speaking professional, who is dedicated to helping you reach your goals is pivotal to your progress, especially when they know your personal goals, learning style, and knowledge gaps. Maybe you need someone to explain specific grammar rules that you’re struggling with or sentence structures that can be corrected with a simple exercise.
Once you have the basic foundation of the language, you need someone to play catch with (i.e. practice speaking the language and receive immediate feedback). Your language coach can have a deeper conversation with you on a regular basis, and unlike a normal conversation partner, they have the professional experience to recognize the same patterns of mistakes you’re making and put you on the right path.
4. Schedule it
The #1 rule to efficiency and productivity: scheduling.
Language learning is about building a new habit, and forming habits come from weekly, if not daily, rituals.
With a simple tool like Google Calendar, you can set organize your day around your learning schedule.
It can be as little as 15-30 minutes in the morning before your work, or during lunch hours.
With 45-60 minute a day and the right techniques, you have the abilities to memorize 30 words per day.
5. Immerse yourself
By Day 60 (around 1,800 words), you’ve probably reached a point where you can understand the basic conversation.
This is when you should think and talk in the foreign language as much as possible.
At the bare minimum, immersing yourself starts with working with your native speaking language coach on a weekly basis to familiarize yourself with conversation style, tone, timing, and even learning cultural slangs (this will truly set you apart from foreigners).
Take it further, and start watching Spanish movies and TV shows with subtitles. Netflix provides subtitles for multiple languages which you can access (we’re not affiliated with Netflix). After a few movies, you’ll notice similar patterns of expressions that the characters use but translated into conversation style. Keep in mind that expressions in other foreign languages are not always a direct translation of what you would say in English.
This is important to note because most of us think in our native language and perform a direct translation when speaking a foreign language.
You could even download some podcasts or audiobooks that are in your foreign language, whether it’s solely for entertainment or for language learning. It may be difficult at first, but the mere exposure to hearing people have a conversation can be powerful in familiarizing yourself and triggering memories in your brain.
As we mentioned in the beginning, adherence is critical in immersing yourself in the foreign language.
And the best way to do this is to avoid creating nonexisting obstacles in your daily routine.
To summarize: build language learning around your lifestyle, rather than building your lifestyle around language learning.
We hope this piece contributed in any way possible in your language learning journey.