Are you starting to learn French or other languages? Here are a few tips on how to learn languages fast.
Common struggles of language learners
On the other hand, acquiring a language is a challenging endeavor. Have you ever been frustrated that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t recall vocabulary?
Or perhaps when you believed you “understood” a grammar rule but then struggled to put it into practice in a conversation? Do you think that some people are more naturally gifted than others?
One of the most challenging jobs the human brain can complete is learning a new language. It’s typical to mispronounce words, exclude previously unknown words from a dialogue, or use improper grammar.
This frustrates a lot of individuals who try to learn a new language without understanding how it works.
Solutions to language learning challenges
You will acquire the foundational ideas of language learning from this article, which will help you advance in your language-learning activities. Additionally, you’ll be able to determine whether a well-known language software that is actually helpful or merely hype.
I gathered my recommendations into this awesome infographic:
Focus on speech over text
Any language should be learned the same way your mother tongue is, first and foremost. It’s time to think back to your early years and picture that you were a little child learning your first language without any understanding of the distinction between spoken and written proficiency in the language you were studying.
All you have to do is ask yourself, “How do you learn your mother tongue?”
The solution is:
- Listening + speaking = miming
So, prioritize speech over text. You naturally become fluent in your target language once you learn to speak it. Let me share an amazing fact with you.
Did you know that there are approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, with over half of them having no written form? This should demonstrate how critical it is to learn to speak a language rather than just read or write it.
For example, the Shanghainese, Hakka, and Hunanese dialects of Chinese have no written form. Similarly, many dialects of Arabic, particularly those spoken in Morocco, Algeria, and the Levant, lack written scripts.
Eighty percent of African languages spoken today lack written script. Another thing that will help you learn languages quickly is to focus on comprehensible input with a natural speech rate.
Simply put, you should listen to as much as you can in the target language, and the data you use should include language spoken in its natural context. There’s no rush, and it’s okay to make mistakes and not fully grasp something when learning.
Listen at a natural speech rate
Let us now examine why it is critical to listen at a natural speech rate. Slow audio is a “wonderful feature” that I frequently see listed in language tools.
Is it a good idea, however, to slow down the audio? Is it assisting or hindering your language learning? At first glance, slow audio is quite appealing.
“Are you having trouble understanding the news on French television?” So how about we slow it down? Then you’ll get it.” And, of course, it’s easier to understand when it’s slower. Not to mention the benefit of speaking with native speakers of our target language.
“Ahhh, they speak so quickly!” So, why is it so difficult to comprehend audio at normal speed? Real language, spoken in the real world, differs greatly from what you learned in school.
To begin with, textbook language is:
- Ideal for beginners.
- Whenever possible, use simple vocabulary and grammar.
Second, in textbook conversations, the audio is:
- Voices are provided by professional actors.
- Slowly, clearly, and articulately spoken.
Words and phrases are not said in the same way that they are written in your textbook. When words are spoken at their natural rate, their “correct” pronunciation is lost.
The words themselves change, as do their pronunciations. People in real life not only speak faster but also differently. What exactly does this mean?
Many of the characteristics that define speech are lost when audio is read slowly and clearly. As I previously stated, this isn’t always a bad thing. As a beginner, you require assistance.
However, it becomes a problem once you progress beyond the beginner stage and want to learn to understand native speakers – the “real thing.” There are only two reasons why you might not understand something said in a foreign language:
- You don’t understand what’s being said.
- You don’t understand how it’s said at normal speed.
Think back to the last challenging phrase you encountered in your language of choice. Whatever it is—news, a YouTube video, or anything else—it doesn’t matter.
Which of the two previously mentioned problems rendered it harder to comprehend? In my perspective, the main reason why people have trouble speaking naturally is that they lack vocabulary.
How to listen at a natural speech rate?
The first rule is to pay attention to understandable input, which is content that is just slightly above your current level. That way, you’re not expending too much effort on comprehension.
The second rule is to select the content that includes full transcripts so that you can read along while listening. If you need assistance, you can see what is being said, compare the spoken to the written word, and there is no need to slow down the audio with transcripts.
It’s also acceptable to omit some words. Listening to audio at normal speed helps you understand how native speakers speak, rather than just learning new vocabulary.
And, as if by magic, you’ll be able to understand native speakers when they speak at their natural speed.
Language learning vs acquisition
Furthermore, there is a distinction between studying and learning a language. You’re familiar with the struggle.
When you study a language, you concentrate on your grammar and vocabulary, which is beneficial because both improve your level, but language and its application in the real world are much more than this.
Language learning is a complex phenomenon, with two schools of thought, namely Behaviorists and psychiatrists on hand to demonstrate this. The former is linked to the works of B.F. Skinner defines language acquisition as the process of creating associations in the world through imitation and reinforcement.
The latter, on the other hand, elaborates on the idea that people learn a language because they are pre-programmed to do so. A child’s upbringing affects how they learn languages, according to Skinner’s theory of language acquisition, which provides an environmental explanation.
The Chomsky theory of language acquisition, on the other hand, asserts that language is a natural ability that all people possess and provides a biological explanation for how people learn languages.
Thinking about these notions can be frustrating when you’re just attempting to learn a new language. It’s noteworthy that the dispute over language learning hasn’t been settled despite all of these arguments.
No single school can address all aspects of language because it is such a multifaceted phenomenon.
Consider the following example:
A scene in the film Love depicts Jamie, played by Colin Firth, studying Portuguese. He’s in a classroom with row after row of similar language students, all of whom are wearing headphones and repeatedly repeating simple Portuguese sentences.
You may be familiar with the language learning trend alluded to in this scene. It was popular from the 1940s to the 1960s and was known as the “Audio-lingual Method.” The idea was that if you heard and repeated something enough times, you would eventually memorize it and learn the language.
That is just one of the hundreds of language learning theories that have gained traction over the last century. There are numerous others.
When considering the vast array of approaches to language learning, you may wonder, “Do we know anything about how people learn languages?” ” Especially since so many websites and businesses claim to use “scientifically proven” methods!
It turns out that we know a lot about language learning, and linguist Stephen Krashen’s input hypothesis has received a lot of research support.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Stephen Krashen proposed the Input Hypothesis. It consists of five hypotheses. They’re a little complicated, but Krashen is essentially saying that “learning a language” is not the same as learning geography or philosophy.
We can’t “know” something by reading a book about it. Language learning, on the other hand, occurs through an unconscious process. Comprehensible input is a necessary component—the critical, essential core—of that unconscious process.
What is comprehensible input?
Comprehensible input in English refers to a language that you can understand. Language inputs include both what you hear (podcasts, radio, conversations, and so on) and what you read.
Krashen emphasizes that you cannot expect to improve your language skills by simply reading or listening to anything. You should read or listen to material that you can comprehend.
He claims that language acquisition is most effective when the input is only slightly more advanced than your level. Is Krashen right? Is understandable input important?
Is there evidence to support the input hypothesis? Is this how you learn languages quickly? There’s plenty of evidence to suggest he is.
Several studies have found that language learners who have had more exposure to the language are more proficient in it. There is also evidence that foreign language learners frequently pick up grammar rules that they have never been taught, implying that language learning can occur without instruction.
These studies show that even in the absence of direct language instruction, substantial learning occurs through exposure to the language. Normal people who show us how to say things, not tutors who teach us grammar rules, help us become fluent.
Now, remember the time as a child when you crammed everything for exams? While you did well on the exam, consider how much you remember after a few weeks. Probably very little, right? There is, however, a better way to remember information.
It is known as spaced interval repetition. Simply put, we remember things better if we are exposed to them at regular intervals over time. It is because learning a language is not the same as learning other information, and if you use spaced repetition, you will be learning vocabulary, patterns, and grammar rules in the target language.
You can use spaced repetition techniques in a variety of ways, including practicing with friends and family, using flashcards, or even making your recording. It is entirely up to you!
We remember better when we repeat words and grammar. Don’t be concerned if you can’t catch words or keep up with the pace.
Even mumbling helps. This is one of the techniques called mnemonics that you often hear from memory gurus. But what if you just kept learning long lists of words without knowing how to use them?
Isn’t that a linguistic disaster? It is critical for language learning to learn the language as it is used in context. When we put information into context, we remember it better.
It also makes sense because you learn things to put them into practice, right? Language and context are inseparable, and the best way to learn a language is to learn phrases and their correct contextual usage.
Many language learners, in my experience, try to memorize vocabulary without understanding its proper usage and end up using language incorrectly.
You can learn a language faster if you learn phrases and their contextual usage because what we say in the real world is nothing more than a collection of phrases used by people in what we call social coordination with one another.
You simply need to learn how to adapt and replicate those phrases in different contexts.
Bypass your native language
It’s also worth noting that when you rely on your native language or use it cognitively to translate into the target language, you become dependent on it. On the contrary, thinking directly in the target language allows you to become fluent in it.
You should be thinking in the target language directly. Language immersion is the most effective way to accomplish this. This entails learning by trial and error while remaining focused on the target language.
Focus on useful vocabulary
With this in mind, did you know that 1,000 words can get you a long way in a foreign language? When you look at the raw numbers, they might not appear to be so straightforward.
The Oxford English Dictionary contains over 170,000 entries in English. The “Hanyu Da Cidian” dictionary contains 370,000 Mandarin Chinese words and the “Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language” contains 200,000 Russian words.
Most languages have a similar number of words that circle. As a language learner, these figures may appear absurd! How will you remember all of those words?
To communicate effectively, you don’t need to learn nearly as many words. Most native speakers are only familiar with a subset of these totals.
Setting goals and determining what you want to focus on are the first steps toward effective learning. Begin with a topic in which you are particularly interested. Maybe you’d like to learn how to cook like a local or read about soccer.
The most successful students are those who choose vocabulary based on their interests and needs. You should be as enthusiastic as possible about learning new terms!
Find the words that are used the most then. Whatever the speech or writing style, the most frequent words will be used. A paragraph contains them all over the place! In the French language, we can analyze the following four main categories of vocabulary words:
- words that occur frequently;
- academic phrases
- technical terms
- words that occur infrequently
Unless you have a specific need to learn them, you can usually ignore academic, technical, and low-frequency words. Focus on high-frequency words to quickly improve your communication skills.
Avoid using generic wordlists and instead create your own. You are more likely to remember a new word if it is used in a context that you find interesting or exciting.
Grammar tree vs mastery order
At the same time, don’t be disheartened if you have difficulty with certain grammar patterns. The order in which we are exposed to grammar patterns does not correspond to the order in which we master them. Articles in French, for example.
They are required to form correct sentences from the start, but even if you forget or use the incorrect one, you will be understood. There is a distinction between learning the rules of a language and applying them. When we learn language rules, for example, we are exposed to a whole world of “this and that” or “ifs and buts.”
However, once you begin speaking, you will realize how important it is to convey meaning to the listener/audience, and even if you forget to use, for example, an article in a sentence, you can still make sense to other people. So, don’t be discouraged because learning the correct language takes time.
Every language is different
For all of these reasons, learning resources should be tailored to the language. One-size-fits-all materials that have been translated into several languages rarely work.
As a polyglot, I can tell you that each language is unique, and you must choose the appropriate source for each language you wish to learn. Every language has a culture, and you must understand this distinction as a learner.
Second, the structure of languages varies.
Learning materials should make your life easier
This is also true for language classes. Many popular ones have so many fancy features that you lose focus, but is this how to learn languages quickly? Every minute of your study time should be spent learning and practicing, not on app maintenance or badge earning.
Stay motivated – fun vs progress
Many language apps use scores and badges to give users a false sense of accomplishment when they aren’t progressing. You should find your motivation to study rather than relying on flashy interfaces designed to keep you entertained.
Make friends with similar linguistic goals, switch between language learning tools, play language games, or even plan trips to the country where your target language is spoken to keep yourself motivated. If you want to learn French with a private tutor, you can find out more about the costs of French language classes here.
Remember that you are not alone in your struggle!
How to learn languages fast: Recap
Here’s a summary of what we learned today:
- When learning a new language, it is necessary to listen at a natural speech rate.
- Begin by focusing on speech rather than text when learning a new language.
- The distinction between language study and language learning;
- Language learning is possible via understandable input, which is an unconscious process.
- The spaced repetition strategy can aid in memory recall.
- Other fundamental methods for learning foreign languages quickly and effectively include taking live lessons or self-study programs that prompt you to speak.
Now that you know more about how to learn languages quickly, you can use more effective methods and set realistic goals for yourself. With a focus on speaking and daily practice with well-designed materials, you can make faster and more enjoyable progress toward fluency.
You’ll learn faster and be able to choose the best resources now that you understand how things work. Have fun learning languages!