All you need to learn any european language in less than three months
First of all – why can I write about learning languages in a profound way? Why isn’t it just another sensation-seeking “all you need to…” list?
I speak more than six languages on such a level that I was able to use them effectively at work. Among them are German, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese.
I studied one year of Economics in Rome starting with zero italian. The university level courses and exams were completely in Italian. You can double-check with any person who has studied in Italy that this is really possible. I have worked in Mexico and Brazil in a Fortune 500 Company on important projects speaking spanish and portuguese. I have also worked in China and now speak fluently chinese, but this is a totally different story. Chinese can’t be learned in three months, but European languages can.
Between my 23rd and 28th birthday I added italian, spanish and portuguese to my german and english. And this was in parallel to my engineering degree, world travelling and a full-time job after graduation.
I wanted to write this post for years, but postponed it every time because I know too much about learning languages. Therefore let me keep it short this time, so you can have immediate practical use of it instead of reading only about theory. I can get into the details in later posts.
Now enough of prelude, directly to what you need to learn a european language in only 3 months:
- Environment: An environment which forces you to speak your target language (key to success: immersion)
- Mind set: The will and the self-confidence to stick with the local language and not fall back into a more comfortable one, i.e. english or your native language. You will feel stupid because people treat you as uneducated if you speak their language in a broken way, if you speak like a child, most people treat you like one. You need to overcome this feeling and stick to it, it will pass after two months. (key to success: persistence and suppression of a false sense of pride)
- Tools: The shortest grammar available (about 100 pages), a basic vocabulary book with the most important 2000 words, a dictionary and an audio course with recordings of native speakers; any will do, the simpler the better. (key: focus on the essential),
Really, that’s all you need to learn a european language. Think for yourself why I focus only on the these three factors: environment, mind set and tools.
Sure, I realize that few can afford to get into the right environment, but I believe you can all start with the tools and with your mind set.
Lack of will power can be circumvented by putting yourself into a situation where you have no choice but to do it, i.e. you can trick yourself into doing things which you lack will power to do (reading hint: Predictibly Irrational, Dan Ariely).
Another tip: Read the grammar from the back, also the basic vocabulary book. Strange? It isn’t. In most grammar and vocabulary books I have seen, the key words of a language are found in the back. For example words of positioning (above, under, next to etc.), question (what, where, when …). But I am getting into too much details already.
So this is what you need to do:
- Read the grammar book in 1 day. Don’t focus on the details. Just get an overview.
- Flip through the vocabulary book in 1 day. Don’t try to remember anything. Just get an impression.
- Listen to the audio recording of the audio course while you are reading. Don’t try to understand anything. Just get a feeling for the language melody.
- Most importantly don’t get a non-native speaker as your first teacher to teach you pronunciation. The accent of your first teacher sticks with you for a lifetime! Seriously. I apologize to all the non-native teachers out there, but you must admit that this true for most people. I am not talking about grammar and vocabulary. For all other purposes than pronunciation, you can have any teacher you want. For all topics other than pronounciation a non-native speaker is even better as they understand your difficulties whereas native speakers seldem struggle with grammer.
- Don’t get hung up on details in the beginning, the only exception being your pronunciation.
- Don’t focus on your mistakes, that only stops you from expression yourself inhibiting you to learn the language and actively using it.
- Don’t get stuck by looking for the perfect tools, the perfect book, the perfect audio recording. There is none.
Generally – don’t let anything get in your way of learning a language, just start. Overcome your procrastination. There is no ideal moment, no distraction-free environment. A time slot doesn’t open up, you have to make time.
Just get one the books I told you have and start – with reading your grammar book, browsing the basic vocabulary or listening to an audio recording. It doesn’t matter. Just get momentum.
All the issues above have their practical reason, I spare you the details and explanations for now. I may get into it in later posts, but I wanted to give you quick-start instructions without the distraction of too much theory around it. It would only stop you from learning a language.
So, what’s the most important step now?
Go to a book store, buy a grammar, a basic vocabulary book and an audio recording.
Or even better. Go to a search engine look for those things. Give yourself 30 minutes only to download the most important files, and stop there. Don’t exceed 3 minutes, or you will get lost in surfing.
Have fun learning and talk to you in 3 months! 🙂