How to Learn Languages Fast
There’s no magic pill that we can swallow to learn a language in minutes. However, there have been proven tactics and strategies that would allow us to learn any language faster.
Whether you’ve set your eyes on learning how to speak Spanish, French, German, or another language, we can agree that time is the most important commodity we have. By being able to learn a language faster, we can use that time saved to learn another language, learn a new skill, spend more time with our families, and so on.
In today’s video and guide, we’ll share with you the proven steps you can take to go from beginner to fluency in any language.
5 Tips on How to Learn Languages Fast
Let’s start with…
1. Focus on the most common words first
Most of us only use a fraction of the words that we have at our disposal. That’s because there’s a selection of common words that we use over and over, including words like ‘you’, ‘we’, ‘me’, ‘that’, and more.
Rarely do we use complicated words like idiosyncratic or epicurean, especially when we’re around our friends and family members.
This is applicable for not just English, but for any foreign language. The biggest return on your time then is to focus on learning the most common words in your target language first.
In fact, a study shows that learning the 1,257 most common words in Russian make up 70% of occurrences. This similar ratio applies to languages like French, Spanish, and even English.
By learning 10 of the most common words per day, we can learn ~1,000 words in 100 days. We even created the Learn a Language Challenge newsletter you can sign up for that will email you 10 of the most common words every morning in your target language.
2. Treat ‘cognates’ like word your best friend
Cognates are your secret weapon on how to learn a language fast. It’s also translated as ‘borrowed words’ because languages from the same language family, such as Spanish, French, and Italian (Latin roots) share similar characteristics. The same applies to German and English (Germanic roots)
By understanding the cognate rules of your target language and one you already speak, you can instantly add thousands of new words into your vocabulary.
For example, for Spanish and English, words that end in -ar in English will also end in -ar in Spanish.
- Familiar (Spanish) – Familiar (English)
- Muscular (Spanish) – Muscular (English)
- Regular (Spanish) – Regular (English)
The same goes for words that end in -ble (ex. Terrible) and -al.
To give you another example, words that end in -ct in English will end in -cto in Spanish.
- Acto (Spanish) – Act (English)
- Correcto (Spanish) – Correct (English)
- Exacto (Spanish) – Exact (English)
Learn 12 other popular cognate rules in Spanish and English by going here.
See how much time this could potentially save you?
3. Use the golden sentences to master grammar
Grammar can be tricky for many of us in a new language. But it doesn’t have to be more complicated than it already is.
The functions of grammar can be broken down into 3 things:
a. Adds words (ex. You like it –> Do you like it?)
b. Changes existing words (ex. I eat it –> I ate it)
c. Chances order of words (ex. Is this nice? –> This is nice)
Since we’ve gotten the purpose of grammar out of the way, let us introduce you to the 8 golden sentences. These 8 sentences can be used as a simple framework to familiarize yourself with the grammar structure of any language.
We’re going to stick with English-Spanish for simplicity. The sentences below cover all the different usages of grammar rules that you may encounter. All that’s required of you is to translate the English sentence into your target language, and begin studying the difference between the two!
4. Immerse yourself at all times
Immersion is the name of the game. When you’re learning something new, you need to surround yourself with it as much as possible.
In this case, we don’t mean moving to a foreign country and conversing with native speakers. We get that not everybody has the luxury nor time to do this, nor is it necessary. What we mean is immersion that you can do as a secondary activity, while you’re walking, commuting, or even in the washroom.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of time during our day that isn’t being used most efficiently. We can use this ‘down time’ to learn a language, which will add up over time.
Here are some simple ways to immerse yourself passively:
- Change your smartphone language (to improve your reading skills)
- Listen to podcasts in your target language (improve your audio skills)
- Start updating your status on social media using the target language (writing skills)
This may sound very simple, and that’s the point. These are more passive learning methods that don’t take up your time nor your full attention.
You can also check out our post on how to immerse yourself in a language without traveling.
5. Work with a professional language teacher
There’s an endless amount of information online on how to learn languages fast. Including this one. But it’s rarely the lack of information that prevents us from learning faster, especially in today’s information age.
When we speak to students who quit learning a language, it’s never due to lack of information. Rather, it’s due to lack of accountability, motivation, and/or guidance. The same logic applies to achieving any goals we have, from getting in shape, starting a new business, or learning any skill.
This is where the importance of finding a coach or teacher comes in.
Working with a language teacher gives you someone to stay accountable to, and the open space to ask specific questions when you need to. For a small investment, it makes a world of difference of whether you continue to persist when times get tough (and they will) or quit.
Bestselling author Seth Godin calls this ‘The Dip’. When you learn something new, there’s a level of excitement (also called the honeymoon phase). But over time, motivation and determination diminish over time, and ‘The Dip’ is when you decide to give up or persist through.
More importantly, working with a professional language teacher that has the experience of helping dozens (or hundreds) of students can shorten your learning curve significantly.
It’s the same reason why mentorship works. Instead of making all the mistakes yourself, you’re learning from someone who’s already made them, and avoiding it.
Hope you enjoyed this post on how to learn languages fast. The 5 tactics we shared with you today should help you learn any language in less time.