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Language learning hacks

Have you ever wanted to learn a new language? Yeah, me too. But, most of us enjoy talking 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. We can learn from them and get inspiration from their example. But they’ve also got some sneaky little tricks up their sleeves.

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

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Tap Into Your Inner Child

Children’s books, shows, and songs (which you thought were just for the little kids) have a secret weapon: they’re language-learning goldmines. So, 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 Chocolate Factory in French helped him hold a conversation in just 17 days. 17 DAYS! His accomplishment is impressive because he had not studied French before.

Plus, children’s stories and songs have the bonus of being fun (most of the time). One minute, you’re 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 language learning’s sake. 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 the law of the land for lazy/efficiency-loving humans. It says that 80% of your results come from just 20% of your effort. What? That statement is music to my ears. Who doesn’t love slacking off and still getting good grades?

This principle also applies to language learning, according to Tim Ferriss. His secret? Focus on learning the most common, frequently spoken and written vocabulary words. It’s 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 employs only 300 words? THREE HUNDRED! So, 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 spot those 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 magically appears in your brain without any effort.

But watch out for those “false friends” or “false cognates.” They’re like that 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 watch to identify these “false friends.”

Start talking with others now!

Are you tired of memorizing endless vocabulary lists and feeling like a parrot repeating words without acquiring communication skills? Benny Lewis recommends speaking with others from day one. What’s the point of learning a language if you do not communicate with people? Would you take swimming lessons without the intention of jumping in the water?

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

How can you get started? Hop on Skype and start chatting with native speakers in the language you’re learning. Sure, it might be a little nerve-wracking, but it’s the best way to practice and improve your skills. Where can you find people to chat with in your target language? Italki has you covered concerning finding native speakers to practice. And they also have a wide array of tutors (at affordable prices).

However, italki is not the only option. There are other platforms available. LanguaTalk and Preply are good alternatives. 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” that will stick with you all your language-learning journey.

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  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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