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Language learning hacks

Have you ever wanted to learn a new language? Yeah, me too. But let’s be real, most of us just talk the talk without walking the walk.

But hey, if you’re serious about it, it’s time to look at what successful language learners do. Sure, they’ve got persistence and determination up the wazoo, but they’ve also got some sneaky little tricks up their sleeves.

These language learning hacks are like cheat codes to level up your language skills. Why not give them a try?

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Tap Into Your Inner Child

It turns out that all the children’s books, shows, and songs you thought were just for the little tykes actually have a secret weapon: they’re language-learning goldmines. Seriously, if you can handle a little Barney or Sesame Street nostalgia, you’re in luck.

According to David Bailey, the CEO of Spotnight, even reading Charlie and the freaking Chocolate Factory in French helped him hold a conversation in just 17 days. 17 DAYS!

Plus, children’s stories and songs have the added bonus of being fun (most of the time). One minute you’re just trying to entertain your toddler with some Italian tunes, and the next thing you know, you’re walking around humming the song like a lunatic.

So don’t be ashamed to dive back into those childhood classics for the sake of language learning. Your inner child and your future bilingual self will thank you.

Apply the Pareto Principle

Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle? It’s like the law of the land for lazy/efficiency-loving humans. Basically, it says that 80% of your results come from just 20% of your effort. This is like music to my ears, because who doesn’t love slacking off and still getting good grades, am I right?

Well, turns out this principle applies to language learning too, according to Tim Ferriss. His secret? Focus on learning the most common, frequently spoken and written vocabulary words first. It’s like the fast track to sound like a native speaker without putting in all the grunt work.

For example, did you know that 65% of all written English is made up of the same 300 words? THREE HUNDRED! So, just learn those 300 words and you’re already ahead of the game.

Look For Cognates and Loanwords

According to Benny Lewis, the Irish author and “language hacker” who speaks seven languages fluently, we should be on the lookout for those sneaky little words that sound the same in both languages. They’re called cognates.

For example, you already know what “attenzione” means in Italian, right? It’s like the word just magically appears in your brain without any effort.

But watch out for those “false friends” or “false cognates.” They’re like that one friend who always promises to help you move but then ghosts you on moving day. They may sound familiar, but they don’t mean what you think they mean. So beware and stay vigilant, my friends.

Start talking with others now

Are you tired of just memorizing endless vocabulary lists and feeling like a parrot repeating words without any actual communication skills? Benny Lewis recommends speaking with others from day one. I mean, what’s the point of learning a language if you’re not going to actually use it to communicate with people? It’s like learning how to swim without ever jumping in the water.

I know that Benny Lewis and Steven Kaufman disagree about starting to talk from day 1. But I personally believe that we all learn differently. Thus, this hack may not be for everybody. But I advise you to try it so you may know if it’s for you.

So, hop on Skype and start chatting with native speakers in the language you’re learning. Sure, it might be a little nerve-wracking at first, but it’s the best way to actually practice and improve your skills. Italki has you covered concerning finding tutors and native speakers to practice.

Besides, italki, there are other platforms available too, so don’t be afraid to explore options and find the best fit for you. Who knows, you might find a language study buddy/favorite conversation partner while you search.

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6 Comments

  1. Reading this article significantly eased my trepidation about taking the plunge into learning a new language. For the longest time, I had been holding back, afraid of making mistakes and sounding foolish. This article highlighted Steve Kaufman’s philosophy that it’s never too late to learn a new language, which was particularly reassuring for someone like me who had this lingering belief that age might be a barrier. What struck a chord with me was the example of children, particularly my nephews, who effortlessly absorb new vocabulary through watching cartoons. It’s a reminder that language learning doesn’t have to be a daunting task, but rather an enjoyable journey. This article made me eager to embrace the challenge of learning a new language and, more importantly, to not be afraid of making mistakes along the way. Steve Kaufman’s unique approach, offering Italian language learning through cartoons, feels like the perfect solution for me. I’ve seen how effective this method can be with children, so I have no doubt that it will work wonders for adults like me. I’m genuinely looking forward to getting started on this language learning adventure. One question that’s now piqued my curiosity is how many other languages they offer in their program. If the Italian language is any indication, I’d love to explore learning other languages through similarly engaging methods. This article has been a game-changer for my perspective on language learning, and I’m excited to see where this journey takes me.

  2. It’s so true. We tend to use the same 300 words and don’t expand our vocabulary; unless one reads. It’s very evident that those who speak with high vocabulary, seem very intellect. I was once interviewing just by recording their voice and I loved how simple but etiquette this young man spoke. I guess this model is true and it’s one of those things we don’t think much about. 

  3. Your article is helpful. I find it easier to learn languages that are closer to my mother language. Personally, I speak 5 languages and they are all close to my mother language. However, I would like to learn to speak Korean fluently, and this language is no way close to my mother language which is Danish. I am able to speak and understand a bit of Korean but I still find it hard to learn. Do you have any tips and tricks that I can use to learn Korean faster? 

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