Your approach to learning a new language should be aggressive. Why plan on learning a new language over the course of a few years?
Remember our goal is to learn a language fast while being able to effectively retain it. This can only be accomplished through a rapid learning pace with optimized and frequent consolidation.
Learning slowly just gives you more time to forget what you have already learned. Instead, focus on retaining what you have already learned.
Plan on frequent exposure to new materials and learn with a strong desire to master the language. Intensity always pays off. Make sure your attitude reflects your desire to learn the language.
Intensive and frequent exposure to a new language can help make it a part of your life.
Although you have to constantly challenge yourself with new material, revision is of utmost important and should not be neglected.
In fact, revision is a key element in our system since we emphasize aggressive exposure with high retention rather than steady acquisition with low retention.
Of course you know that revision helps consolidate what you have learned and helps you to retain the knowledge. But are you doing it the right way?
I see so many language learners who eagerly proceed to the next level while neglecting the critical step of revision to make sure they remember what they have already learned.
The truth is that the more you revise and practice a certain skill the more familiar you get with it. Consolidation of prior knowledge also helps you to understand new material easily.
You will also pick up new information each time you go back to your older materials. As your language ability improves, you will be looking out for and recognizing different vocabulary, more complex grammatical structures or even cultural references with each revisit.
So don’t just collect your materials and expand your library to make it look impressive. Use it!
Languages are not learned in a day.
It takes time. A lot of time. And for every individual, this amount of time varies. You may need more or less time than others to achieve fluency.
Do not start off with a heavy work load. It’ll stress you out and you will be discouraged by the lack of results.
Let me share with you a far more effective method.
The secret is to work on your new language every single day. Before you freak out, this does not refer to extended periods of mugging. Rather, even 5 minutes of working on your new language is helpful. You do not lose touch completely and you still don’t overwork yourself.
Truth is, it is better to learn for 5 minutes every day than to learn for 5 hours once a week.
Also, the human brain works on a system of patterns. Once you have established a Patten of working on the language for a certain period of time each and every day, it’ll be easier for you to absorb and retain whatever you are learning.
Also, your language skills, no matter how good, need constant practice to at least remain at its level of competency. Of course, you should aim for your learning curve to always be inclining rather than for it to be staying at the same level.
Be careful not to get confused between revision and re-learning. As you revise, you should be picking up bits of new information you missed out the first time round. Do not waste your time re-learning what you should have already known by heart. That is just a waste of time and there will not be any improvement in your language competency.
There are various ways in which you can stay in touch with the language, while watching a film or reading the newspaper in that language, or simply having a short conversation with someone online.
Now you might be wondering, “What? That’s it? The secret is to learn a language every day, even for just 5 minutes?”
The reason you might be surprised is that you’re not doing it; If you do it, you’d amazed at yourself. When you sit down and started learning a language, 5 minutes seems like no time. You’ll find yourself wanting for more.
Let the momentum of learning a language carry you forward.
And how do you develop the momentum?
By learning every day, of course. This will prevent your momentum from becoming inertia, which will eventually slow you down.
It’s like driving a car. You need to constantly step on gas to keep it going. Do you step hard? No, you don’t.
What if you step on gas, make the car move, wait for it to stop, step on gas again, make the car move, wait for it to stop, step on the gas… Don’t you have to step harder each time you start to move the car?
One of the biggest myths about learning languages is that you cannot learn multiple languages at the same time or you’ll end up confused and mistaking one for the other.
While that seems like a logical conclusion to reach, it is simply not true.
It is definitely possible to learn more than one language at the same time. What is important is that you follow the right strategy. I recommend picking up a minor language, apart from the major language you are focusing on.
Once you have reached an intermediate level of fluency in your “major” language, that is, you are able to read, write, listen and speak in the language without much trouble, you can pick up a minor language.
You can begin by learning basic vocabulary, basic grammar, and basic structure. This language can be learned during your spare time, or when you want a break from your major language.
This way you’ll learn enough of both languages and you won’t forget either very easily. You can keep using them regularly and switch between the two.
For example, if you are learning advanced German, you can also take courses in French on the side. Once your German course ends and you are confident you won’t forget it any time soon, you can start with 2 other languages. Anytime you’re exhausted from your primary language and you want to try something new, you can turn to your secondary language.
Keep in mind that though you can’t really pursue your secondary language in full swing at the moment, when you actually do get around to doing it, you will have a good familiarity with the language already.
You should also take note not to learn two similar languages at the same time. This will make you terribly confused and is not very effective. For instance, learning Italian and Spanish at the same time will just give you a huge headache when it comes to your cognates and vocabulary.
Also, remember to be regular with your minor language. If you ignore it, then you might unlearn it (which means you might as well not pick it up in the first place). Also, a lack of focus on the language will make you over-confident and you won’t spot the mistakes you are making.
Remember I told you to write down your goals?
I hope you’ve written down a stretch goal and not…
“I want to be able to be able to order a meal in the language that I am learning.”
Come on, I am sure you can do better than that right?
“I want to be able to watch a foreign film and understand it without the subtitles.”
Is that it? Come on, why limit yourself?
“I want to speak the language like a native speaker!”
That’s more like it. Now we’re talking.
As a non-native speaker, you can expect to be treated like an outsider, someone who lacks knowledge with regards to certain cultural references and language intricacies.
Don’t get disheartened. There are ways to get around this.
One highly effective method is to adopt the “Native Speaker Mentality”. That is to say, not only should you speak the language well, you should also think and act like a native speaker.
And the first step in becoming a native speaker? “Forgetting” your mother tongue.
A lot of beginners make the mistake of thinking in their mother tongue and try to find word equivalents so that they can perform direct translations. This is the wrong strategy. Instead, you should learn to automatically switch to thinking in your target language.
Start thinking in the new language and learn it as it is. Soon, thinking and speaking, in the language that you are learning will come to you naturally. And hey, you might even start dreaming in the language.