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How to Learn a Language Quickly

Find out how learning a new language like an adult can help you get up to speed quickly.

By
Stever Robbins
June 7, 2010
Episode #136

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Listeners recently posted a question to my Facebook page, asking for tips on how to learn a foreign language.

I have enough trouble with my own language. Tips on foreign language?!? Don't make me laugh! Fortunately, John Fotheringham of LanguageMastery.com came bounding to the rescue and sent in all the following tips on how to learn a language quickly.

How to Learn a Language Quickly

I used to think you should learn a language the same way a five-year old does, starting from that special, innocent, young frame of mind. The quickest way to get back into the 5-year-old state of mind is with Tequila shots. Just as I was about to start, I read John’s tips and learned that adults can learn language faster than children. Our existing vocabulary and advanced thinking abilities gives us a head start (sidenote: have you ever noticed how few politicians speak foreign languages?) We adults can seek resources for learning language: blogs, podcasts, language-learning meet-up groups, and obscure R-rated foreign movies about mysterious women with unidentifiable accents, speaking in riddles in shadowy, smoke-filled rooms. Infants just can't compete. They just lie there and gurgle.

Leave the Classroom, Embrace the World

In the 1981 film Private Lessons, America was treated to private language lessons between a 15-year old boy and a 30-something French teacher. The lessons were clothing optional. Sadly, some viewers didn't realize it was fiction, and have gone on to recreate the situation in real life. That is not good. Fortunately, study after study (or should I say, étude après étude) has shown that classroom learning—even clothing optional—is not necessary to learn a language. Language is like sports: you get better through practice, experience, and interest in the culture.

Language Learning Tip#1: Learn Little Bits at a Time

Learn faster by exposing yourself to listening and reading in short bursts, several times a day.

Tip #1 for learning a language is to start seeking out exposure to the language. That only takes a few minutes here and there. Five minutes here and ten minutes there makes the language sink in much better than marathon language study sessions. This tip is *so* 21st century. We've whittled down attention spans to five minutes anyway.

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