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?

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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