Can you learn a language fast with language hacks?

Japanese kanji appPeople learning a new language typically search for ways to make their journey easier and faster.

Learning any language requires time and perseverance. Learning it more quickly requires no fear of making mistakes, and for you to already know how you learn – your learning style.

Language ‘hacks’ are ways that you can maintain motivation, increase productivity, and maximise the time spent in your target language. You will become fluent sooner than if you had not used the ‘hacks’.

Motivation and productivity when learning a language

  • Set time-limited, reasonable goals for learning the language.
    For me, exams and travel are the most motivating, but I also give myself smaller rewards for smaller goals.
  • Plan and track your progress and your daily commitment to studying the language.
  • Be accountable. Most people don’t succeed with just willpower alone, share your goals and progress with a language buddy, tutor, or class, or even a friend.
    If necessary, declare a penalty if you don’t meet your goals (and don’t back out).
  • Keep a positive mindset, even if you are stuck, make many mistakes, or in the middle of a plateau. Never be afraid of making mistakes!
  • Give yourself fun rewards for reaching your goals, and  as a bonus, make the reward target-language-related.
    For me, a cookbook in my target language is great!
  • Have variety in your materials and language ‘tasks’: textbooks, audio programs, flash-cards, radio programs, music, TV, websites, podcasts, word games, … immersion takes this to an extreme level.
  • Know your learning style: do you learn best when hearing (auditory), reading, writing or speaking?
    Most people are a combination – I remember best when writing. I almost never remember anything heard, unless it’s set to music. Knowing your learning style will let you choose tasks that you enjoy.
  • Choose the approach, tools and tasks that you care most about to maintain your motivation for learning.
    Some people hate writing, so blogging in their target language will be a chore, and stop them learning. Others hate talking over Skype, so a distant language partner is not a good choice.
    But don’t avoid one type of communication completely! To be fluent, you must be able to read, write, speak and listen in your target language.
  • Make use of ‘dead’ time, such as waiting in line, or on the phone.
    Keep flash cards or other portable study materials with you so you can keep learning while you wait.

Language immersion and finding language partners

  • Only use your target language, for everything and anything!
    Think, write to-do and shopping lists and other plans in your target language, keep all your media in the target language (TV, Movies, music, books, news, magazines), find native-speakers on social networks, join forums, tweet, blog and use websites in your target language, enter competitions, write a journal, mind-map, self-talk, switch your computer programs to use the target language — the list is endless!
  • Find a private tutor. Either check local classifieds, university language departments or online: EduFire, LinQ, TutorFinder (Australian site), TutorZWizIQ.
    Always check the qualification of and feedback about your potential tutor before you sign up.
  • Go to language-exchange events. Find language-exchange events on Facebook or Meetup.
  • Offer your home to couchsurfers that are fluent in your target language.
  • Travel to the target-language-speaking country for a holiday, a volunteer position, or an immersion language course. Talk to native speakers as much as possible – shopkeepers, people waiting at bus-stops, restaurant/cafe customers, anyone!
  • An extreme step – for complete immersion, avoid contact with people who won’t speak to you in your target language.

Immersion isn’t for everyone – be careful you don’t end up suffering from language learning burnout!

Do you have any additional tips and tricks for learning languages quickly?