The Fastest Ways to Learn Any New Language


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Wouldn't it be wonderful to learn any new language almost "effortless" in a very, very short time, even within hours while having fun ? What is the latest wisdom on accelerated language learning ? A very short answer up front: Yes, it is possible! Please find below a summary of the latest insights and methods collected from outstanding teachers and experts in the field.

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The Fastest Ways to Learn Any New Language

  1. 1. The Fastest Ways To Learn Any New LanguageWouldnt it be wonderful to learn any new language almost "effortless" in a very, very short time, evenwithin hours while having fun ? What is the latest wisdom on accelerated language learning ? Avery short answer up front: Yes, it is possible! Please find below a summary of the latest insights andmethods collected from outstanding teachers and experts in the field and based on my 20+ yearsexperience in accelerated learning & development where I have helped over 300 000+ People globallylearn faster and better.Relax and Learn - both go well togetherWith his blog post in 2007: "How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour" Tim Ferrisinitiated a 5 year long still ongoing discussion and exchange about the methods of acceleratedlanguage learning.Not only did Tim introduce his approach to accelerated language learning but yet he attractedcomments from very knowledgeable readers and experts. With over six hundred comments this is nowa treasure trove for language learners and teachers. Additionally to the wisdom shared in this place Ihave added further methods that have emerged in the learning & development & changemanagement research over the last years.(If you want to see the current discussion or contribute to it please go to:Continuous Learning & Development: The Fastest Ways to Learn Any New Language)KEY INSIGHTSA) Motivation before ConfidenceFor any type of learning the key is first of all motivation and then confidence. If you are not convincedabout learning a particular language none of the following methods will work for you.
  2. 2. Motivation can be stimulated by external factors (extrinsic). Examples are your employer asks you tolearn a new language or you move to a new country for work. Having your own dream to be competentin another language or your objective to read one of your beloved authors in the original language areexamples for internal motivational factors (intrinsic).Usually intrinsic factors will be more sustainable than extrinsic factors and might keep you morelikely on track . Try to identify at least one intrinsic factor for learning the new language.Intrinsic motivational factors can be categorized and vary from person to person. This is based onthe Harvard Approach of Negotiation1) Security: example: understand and have access to information in local language, can ask fordirection when travelling2) Livelihood: example: will help generate income, do need to get a job3) Belonging: example: can talk to people in their local languages, can have local friends4) Reputation: example: local business partner respect me more when I know some words in theirlanguage5) Self-determination: example: I can navigate myself through the foreign country, I can visitplaces where no foreigner has been yet, ..What also helps for those who had already tried and fail to learn a new language is to analyze what hasderailed you from learning the new language in the past. Was it the teacher, was it because you had toor was it the method, ... ?And often in our educational school systems we are forced to learn a new language, we have no choice.Nobody will investigate what our personal intrinsic motivational factors are nor would anyone explorewhat methods would work best for us individually.B) Have a clear vision about your goalWhat do you see when you close your eyes and think about learning the new language ? Do you seeyourself reading a highly sophisticated book in this foreign language, do you see yourself writing abusiness contract, are you watching a television show or are you standing at an ice cream stand at abeautiful foreign beach asking for your favorite ice cream in the local language ?Get clarity for what you want to use the new language for. The amount of learning, the method and theeffort differs if you just want to find your way when travelling through a foreign country or become astudent at the local university or even work in a local company in this foreign country.In his book the 4-Hour Work Week Timothy Ferris has shown in the chapter "D is for Definition" howto make your personal dream more specific. His example: If your dream is fluency in Chinesethis is still quite broad. Try to make it more specific to the level as: "My dream is to have a 5-minuteconversation with a Chinese co-worker." It can be even more specific: "I want to talk in these 5-minutes about what I did last week-end and what movie I saw and what restaurants my co-workerwould recommend..."Recommended action: write down very specifically how your ideal state would look likeThe clear vision about your objective will help you to identify your personal threshold. It willindicate how much vocabulary do you really need to learn and to which extend do you need tounderstand the grammar, the number of characters if it is a pictorial language, etc.....
  3. 3. In the Chinese fluency example you would not need to read or write any Chinese characters. All whatyou would need is to speak and understand your co-worker about daily life leisure topics. (Movie,restaurant, leisure time activities).Recommended action: like in the very specific example above write down in your native languagewhat you would like to talk about with the other person. What questions would you ask and whatanswers you would give. Whatever your specific dream is try to write a story board for it. If it isfor example to present to a local audience in a business context than try write the presentation youwant to give in your local context. If it is to sign a contract than use the contract in your local language.The idea is to get a physical grip on your dream. Once you have a text, a story board, a contract or apresentation then put this content into google translate and see what kind of output you get in thetarget language. Then take the result and have Google translate it back to your native language.Analyze the results on what difference there are to your original text.And with Tim Ferris approach you can quickly examine in less than an hour how difficult it will be foryou to get into the new language.An example shared by Alan Little for the Russian Language using Tim´s grammar deconstructionapproachFrench: I have created an example and a small quiz on slideshare (3 slides).Finally rate your objective on what effort it is for you to reach it. Use a scale of 1-8. An 8 Iwould rate if it is comparable to hiking up Mount Everest the highest mountain in the world. A 1 wouldbe a stroll along a beach, a short walk with a friend through a forest. A 3would be walking up amountain with 6000 feet in altitude. Related to what effort it means to you. If you are like the famousalpinist Reinhold Messner hiking up Mount Everest would be then just a 4. To sum it up it should be arelative rating and not absolute.Would you like to get feedback from others by sharing what language you would like to learn, whatintrinsic motivation you have, what your specific visions looks like and how you rate the effort to getthere ? If you want to see the current discussion or contribute to it please go to:Continuous Learning & Development: The Fastest Ways to Learn Any New LanguageC) Learning Environment and ApproachIdentify your personal learning barriers.1) First Barrier: Mental: The Inner Game: Tim GalleweyThe game your mind plays with you before you embark on any new project such as learning alanguage. That is this little voice in your head that sets in once your excitement is over. The voicecomes up latest after the 4th day (old Japanese Zen wisdom) you have decided on or started your learning expedition.It could go like this: "Hohoho, I told you, you have no talent in learning languages". "You willnever reach your goal, you do not have the time for it". "You have no discipline, forget it." "You do notlike to sit down and learn all these words by heart, that is boring." "You have more important things todo in life". "Everybody is learning English now, why should you learn a foreign language." "You havenever have the budget to travel there anyways" "A new language in a few hours, you are crazy, italready took you 5 years to learn Spanish and you are still nowhere perfect" ...
  4. 4. The Inner Game in more detail. The relaxed concentration or flow state is important. Thishappens when your inner voice is silent. Highly successful sportsman always talk about it. Exampleis the world leading tennis player Roger Federer.It wont help if you fight it. Also the content is not decisive. If your inner voice would sayinstead "You are the best language learner that has ever walked this planet" or "I will succeed"or "I am so happy to learn this language" it might boost your energy but not get you into the relaxedconcentration mode.How to overcome this first barrier ?The inner judgmental voice can be directed and focused on the task at hand by giving it a newneutral observative task.Example:- Techniques shared by Professor of Linguistics Alexander Arguelles who speaks now 50 languages- Read each new word out loud and listen to your voice- Write on a piece of paper: The first rule is not to force yourself to remember or learn this word. Justenjoy. (see Michel Thomas)- Focus your mind on the point below your navel - the so called lower dantian (used in Qigongpractices)- Sing the word- Breath in when you read silently the new word and breath out afterwards and focus on the breath noton the learning of the word- Hit a gong before you read the word- Stand up read the word and sit down- Superlearning uses also relaxation techniques see research- any more suggestions please leave in the comment:If you want to see the current discussion or contribute to it please go to:Continuous Learning & Development: The Fastest Ways to Learn Any New LanguageTim Gallewey demonstrates how he uses the Inner Game approach to teaching to nontalented beginners tennis in an extreme short time: I also do is to acknowledge in a nonjudgmental way what my inner voice creatively comesup with. I write it down in my diary. This will empty my head and eventually shut down my innervoice.There is also the outer voices that I collect in this manner. Everybody will have an opinion on how todo things and what you are capable off. Your mother, your father, your teacher, your best friend, thetelevision, the newspaper, the next best-selling author on language learning, the language learningschools and platforms who use a certain methods, experts, professors, etc. The outer voices are anightmare for sportsmen and famous team coaches. Roger Federer lately had to overcome thischallenge. When he wasnt successful in tennis the media started to talk about his age and suggestedhim to retire. Luckily he was able to overcome these voices and is now again the No 1 in tennis . Theremust be plenty more examples. Looking forward to your comments. (If you want to see the currentdiscussion or contribute to it please go to: Continuous Learning & Development: The Fastest Ways toLearn Any New Language)Some further evidence through scientific research is showing acceleration of learning as well as howrelaxed concentration or mindfulness reduces stress:
  5. 5. Prof. Dr. Klaus Jantke showed in a research by one of his PHD Student Anja Hawlitschek that learningthrough games work best if students are not instructed up front. Just ask them to enjoy the gameversus the benchmark group who was told to focus on the learning in the game. The first group ofschool children performed better in the post test.Prof. Jon Kabat-Zinn on Mindfulness and the impact on health at the Google Academy also not to turn it against you by thinking that you only learn when you are in this relaxedconcentrated state of mind. You always learn, but in this state learning it is just accelerated. As soon asyou recognize consciously "Oh, now I am in the flow state" - it will be gone. It just happens, youcannot force it.2) Second Barrier: EnvironmentHave you been told that the only place to learn is at your desk ? If you look at Michel Thomas approachin methods below you will see that the best place to learn is where you feel comfortable and do notthink about that you must learn now. It can be your most comfortable chair, it can be when you arelying in your bed or if you enjoy driving your car than this is a good place as well. First advice: learnwherever you are comfortable and have your learning material available. Do not putenvironmental barriers up. Do not choose only to learn in the language school that is 20 km away fromwhere you live or have your learning material stowed away in a cupboard where you have to moveother things first in order to get to it. Professor Theresa Marteau shows how little details in our setupof our environment have a huge impact (Video) on us such as our health behavior. This counts aswell for many other habits and for sure for our learning behavior.3) Third barrier: TimeAre you programmed that you only learn when you spent at least an hour with a teacher on thesubject? Even if it is just 30 seconds do it. A quick glance in your material, a question to a friend howto say such and such a word in the language you are learning, etc. Remove any barrier that tells youthat you need to have a minimum of minutes per day to learn your new language. Also it puts youunder pressure when you did not find the time for it.It is the net time spent on learning the language that counts not the quantities amount per daycombined together. If you just learn when you have 30 seconds up to a few minutes this still can addup to a net time spent of one hour or more per day and it could be even more effective. Secondadvice: Drop your fixed time spent on learning assumption4) Fourth Barrier: MoneyThere you are. You have just got the tip of the best language teacher alive, the best method thatsomeone just recommended to you or the best place to travel to learn the language of choice fast andwell. The only thing you are lacking is the money. You have the motivation, you would have the timeand dam you do not have the funds.Wait, there are so many others way to start to learn your favorite language just now while at the sametime you start saving the money for the extraordinary opportunity that was recommended to you.Third advice: No money is no excuse. There are methods that are free to use, there is materialthat costs you only a few bugs.
  6. 6. D) MethodsYes there are methods that will accelerate your learning versus practices that will slow it down or getyou off track. Key for all effective methods are they need to strengthen your confidence. Myexample is how kids learn to ride a bicycle or swim. Kids that use small bicycles with two additionalstabilizing wheels when 5 years or younger will take much longer to learn to ride a bicycle withoutthese stabilizers. They cannot build their confidence in balancing the two wheel bicycle. Kids that havea so called training bike which they need to walk with will learn how to be confident on a bicycle withtwo wheels early on. At the age of five they switch effortless without training to a normal kids bike. Thesame is with swimming. Children with swimmies will not build enough confidence in swimmingwithout this support. Therefore in swimming classes swimmies are not used. To teach little kids toswim the modern swim schools have develop lots of small fun exercises that slowly build theirconfidence.Fourth advice here: do whatever that is easy for you now while you investigate which methodsare most effective and efficient for you. Latest research (HBS Working Knowledge) has shown thatperformance is better of those that do things related to their objectives that are easy to do and can bedone immediately versus those who only focus on the analysis first and undergo a thorough selectionprocess of identifying the best methods before implementing those.Fifth advice: use the learning practices that you enjoy and have fun with even if they mightslow you down. Applying the language more important than the method itself.There are plenty of methods available and they can be combined at your digression. Some are targetedat the first novice learner of the language and some can be added once you reached a certain level inthe new language. Listening to the local radio station in the new language could be quite a challengefor the beginner as an example. To summarize it into the Sixth Advice: Use of Multimethods isbetter than applying just one single method at a time.In 1986 my best ever interpreter for my negotiations in China had learned English in one year fromscratch. I asked her how she made it in such a short time to such a professional level. Besides havingthis intrinsic thrive to connect to the outside world and grab the new opportunities she had used amultimethod approach. As soon as she got tired with her textbook, she turned to an audio cassette,then switched to television or radio, or tried to find other fun exercises to practice English. At a certainlevel she looked for any opportunity to have a conversation in English, mainly with foreigners. Thisway she would spent the whole day learning English by switching the methods as soon as she got tiredwith them during the day. She had build a total immersive learning environment around her. And ontop of it her accent even though she started English in her 20s for was perfect. I could not hear herChinese background.In my many years of experience I noticed the following tendencies when people learn. There ispreference or dominance of intuitive learning over analytical learning, social learning (learning withothers) over autodidactive learning, face to face learning over virtual learning and immersive learningover detached learning and contextual learning (in sentences) over object modular based learning(learning the vocabulary and grammar rules) and repetitive learning versus associative learning. Butonce again the seventh advice is:An as well as approach is better than an either or. You do not need to avoid any of the learning"styles" above. Add them all if you can. Besides feeling for example very comfortable with the intuitiveapproach this should not stop you using an analytical method from time to time. What will really slowyou down is to focus on just one single method or on a few methods and apply those in a sequential
  7. 7. order. There is no better way to fail then to apply a cascading approach. Industry at large and projectmanagement in particular have moved away from it. Today agile development is used and this is alsothe more effective and efficient system for your language learning project.Some useful methods are already listed here:Daniel Tammet - The Boy With The Incredible Brain [5/5] 2009 Daniel Tammet a memory champion or so called savant demonstrated how to learn a newlanguage in just one week. In the video he demonstrated this capability with the Icelandic language. Itis an immersive approach supported by language teacher who acts as his coach during the week. Hewill use his mnemonic techniques while participating in daily life and leisure activities. He is notsitting at a desk nor at a quiet remote place to acquire the new language. And what will your innervoice say if I tell you that with the wisdom collected in this blog post you could do the same as David inless than three days ? Looking forward to your comments!Why these mnemonic techniques are so powerful is shown here with the Baker/baker paradox andloci-method Reference: How to train your mind to remember anythingIn the Baker / Baker paradox research psychologist showed a photograph of a person with the nameBaker to the research participants. One group was told the name of the person and the other group wasinformed instead about the profession of this person is that of a baker. A few days later when theyshowed the photograph of Mr. Baker again to the different members of the two groups, the one groupwho was told about the profession members were much more likely to remember the name of Mr.Baker. To quote the world memory champion Joshua Foer: “If you want to make somethingmemorable, you first have to make it meaningful.” Reference.Immersive, associative and conversational confidence learning: Michel Thomas: Michel Thomas, TheLanguage Master Pt 1 of 3 key objective of the Michel Thomas method is to build conversational proficiency in a very shorttime. The first rule he tells his students is not to try to memorize or to take any notes. He wants hisstudents to be relaxed and concentrated. He teaches in a living room style setup. The students sit incomfortable arm chairs in a circle. I have used "Stuhlkreis" (Gestalt) settings myself. They support theenergy within a group for long periods of time. So it is no surprise that students who spent 8-10 hoursa day with Michel Thomas still find it enjoyable and exiting. Michel is not using any material nor ablackboard. It is a highly interactive conversational environment. Wherever helpful he will useassociative techniques and he is building up slowly and systematically the complex structure of thelanguage. It is a coaching approach as he will also encourage the student to find the correctsolution. This also strengthen the confidence of the learner. And to no surprise if you watch the abovedocumentary you will still learn some French without any effort.Social Learning: Sugata Mitra: Watch Minimally Invasive Education through Social Play Minimal Invasive Education by Sugata Mitra discovered in 1999 in New Dehli how Tamil only speaking children between the age of 8-12 years taught themselvesBiotechnology in English with the help of a computer and passed a test with the same results as agroup of children at a private school who had a teacher in biotechnology. Sugata Mitra discovered selforganized education of children with the help of the internet in 1999 in New Dehli. You will see thatthis is a universal capability of children. In whatever country he applied this approach it would lead tothe same results, independent if it were in UK, Italy, Bangladesh or South Africa.
  8. 8. It started out as an experiment with kids in a slum of New Dehli and how they would use an openspace computer without instructions. The children achieved in this so called self organized learningenvironments fascinating and amazing results. In this social learning setting Sugata Mitra discoveredthat while 1 child is using the computer the four other children will give useful advice. Additionallythese 5 children are surrounded by 10-15 more children who will also throw in their tips andhypotheses. When you test those groups of children in a pre and post test it will show that all thechildren will have learned. It even became more effective with a coach who did nothing else as toencourage the children and ask them open questions such as "how did you do that", can you showagain what you have done ?Other examples for social learning is Toastmasters. There is no instructor in Toastmasters. It is thecombined effort of a group of people to advance their communication and presentation skills. I havestarted a company Toastmasters club and have witnessed and was amazed myself how highly effectiveit is to help people to become confident public speakers and communicators in a very short time.Tim Ferris: Watch Tim Ferriss: Accelerated Learning in Accelerated Times the video Tim introduces his Deconstruction Process to Learning anything from Languages toTango Dancing , Swimming or Body Building.He has developed a guiding process which he calls: DieSELs FaCE1. DEconstruction (minimal discrete units (look for anomalies and extrems) - plus Pareto 80:20principal)2. The Opposite of Best Practice3. SELection (elimination first)4. Sequencing (in what order to do the minimal descrete units identified in Step 1)5. Frequency6. Compression (one page)7. Encoding (mnemonics)Plus the Rules of Behavioral ChangeIn the video above Tim talks about Linkword Language method and how it accelerated his languagelearning. It is an associative method. Free examples on the site will introduce you to the method. Ferriss on language learningProfessor Alexander Arguelles on Language Learning: speaks, reads and writes in 50 languages Alexander Arguelles uses an autodidactive approach. To learn a new language he starts withlanguage learning books and materials from Assimil. It is a phased process where the learner slowlymoves into the new language. The aim is to stop the learner from translating back and force andbecome competent to learn in the new language only. The method uses bilingual books and issentenced not word based. Grammar is explained but very lightly at the bottom of each text. ProfessorArguelles explains in the video the process to apply to the learning material. The final state is when youcan say the sentences while writing them down. In the step before the learner will read out lout thesentences in the new language while listening to the recorded speaker. To get to this level of practicesthe students has to take several steps before. It is a repetitive autodidactical approach. A quick methodto build up structures and pronunciation in a new language. A good method for those who do not feelcomfortable in groups and enjoy autodidactical learning. I still would recommend the method to alllearners to include it in your curricula.
  9. 9. Dr. Kató Lomb (1909-2003) spoke 16 languages. Born in Hungary she learned the first English whenshe was at the age of 24. She is also was one of the first simultaneous interpreters in this world. In thisfree pdf ebook she describes how she learned so many languages. Key for her was to have fun with thematerial. Instead of choosing a language learning course book she chose to read books in the targetlanguage that fits her interest. In her words "The traditional way of learning a language (cramming 20-30 words a day and digesting the grammar supplied by a teacher or a course book) may satisfy at mostones sense of duty, but it can hardly serve as a source of joy. Nor will it likely be successful". Hersaying was "One learns grammar from language, not language from grammar". Polyglot Tim Ferriss inhis blog post "How to learn any language in 3 months" recommends the exact same thing.Sir Richard Francis Burton Method (1821-1890): learned 25 languages and understood 72. Sir RichardFrancis developed his own method to accelerate his language acquisition. He is more systemicstructuralist similar to Tim Ferriss. Key in the learning is to understand the basic grammar rules veryearly on and then fill it will vocabulary. The maximum time he spent learning a language per day was15 minutes. Longer period he said is tiring for the brain.Other methods that are now well known to the broader audience are Berlitz, who used total immersionlearning from 1950s onward. EF who organizes language learning vacations and Pimsleur who startsconversational without grammar. And well known is Rosetta Stone who use Multimedia (Computer)for language learning.E) ExperienceMy personal experience with language learning.I commute every day at least 60 minutes in one direction. So now my car became my study place. Notonly does this make my commute more fun at the same time I add new skills to my profile and becomemore attractive to my employer.The best way I learn a language is to listen to others. Same as kids do before they start to speak.I found this wonderful example for learning Russian and it costs nothing.It is in German and the teacher is a Russian lady who teaches her husband a German in Russian. It isdownloadable also through itunes. Details on the website. I have downloaded thelessons to my iphone.I have tried other tapes and cassettes from other more known companies in this area but none hasbeen so effective to learn to speak Russian than this one for me personally.For my French I just listen to the news and discussions on the radio. The jackpot for me is when theytalk about social media and learning. I can get an update on the topic or a new view point whileenjoying myself and improving continuously my French.What method do you use ? What is your recommendations ? Looking forward to your comments.If you want to see the current discussion or contribute to it please go to:Continuous Learning & Development: The Fastest Ways to Learn Any New Language