What is possible in language learning?
How on Earth could language learning be fun?
What are your reasons?
Other cool things you can do in life
How to learn fast
Interesting and fun resources (apps, websites, books, comics…)
Preparing for the common questions
Social skills that support language learning
Links to other great resources
What is possible?
First, let’s see what is possible. If they can speak so many languages fluently, can we learn at least one more with relative ease? That was, of course, a rhetorical question.
Multilingual Interview with Amir Ordabayev (English,Russian,Italian,German,French,Portuguese)
Hyperpolyglot Interview – Luca Lampariello talks to Richard Simcott (EN,RU,FR,ESP,IT,NL,SVE,PT,EN)
Until I was 25 I spoke only two languages (Finnish, English) fluently. What helped me the most in my studies was seeing what is possible, that is seeing interviews of experienced language learners, and following their advice. From these people I learn how to make it fun and relatively easy.
Five years later, at thirty, I am able to have longer conversations in six languages (Finnish, English, Japanese, Spanish, Russian and Italian).
How on Earth could language learning be fun?
It may sound unbelievable but some people really enjoy cleaning toilets. Some consider people who enjoy learning languages as similar weirdos. If the conversation turns to languages, many of us get painful flashbacks of school times when we tried to look cool in front of the classmade we had a crush on, but the words that came out did not exactly have the charm of James Bond.
In a way, learning a language is like a new childhood. However, this childhood need not last for a long time. Contrary to popular belief, adults can learn faster than children. What can make the process much more fun is realizing that it is possible to acquire the language fast. It is certainly motivating to know that returns to your investments (time and energy into your studies) are well on their way.
One of the goals of this page is to show that learning can be fast – and also fun. There are now many new ways to learn a language, and this website will describe methods that I have tried, and some that I use daily in my own studies.
I have wasted time and money on many bad language learning products, and I have made some really good investments too. Hopefully my advice will save you time and money, and make learning more fun for you. I should add that many of the high quality resources described here are completely free.
Some people like to speak more, and this website will show ways to make this easier. Some language geeks like to listen more, and here you can also find websites (and other resources) where you can listen high quality material. Some prefer good ol’ books and comics, and this website will talk about those as well.
I hope that you will find learning methods that suit your personality, that will make the process more interesting for you. However, I also recommend staying open-minded and trying out tricks that, at least at first glance, do not feel so natural for you. The biggest problem for many, that slows down (or indeed prevents) their learning, is that they have a fixed mindset that says things such as “I’m not that kind of a person who could learn in that way”.
From my own experience I can say that some of the methods that I previously couldn’t imagine me doing are now a daily routine as natural as brushing my teeth. I bet there are things in your life that once felt impossible and are now second nature to you. Can you remember some of them?
Keeping in mind why you are learning the language certainly makes it more likely that it will become a daily, enjoyable habit.
I recommend thinking about ways how your new language will benefit other people as well. For example, for various reasons, not everybody in the world are comfortable speaking in English. If you can talk to them in their mother tongue, they may get a nice moment of relaxation, especially if they are living abroad.
Perhaps your effort will inspire them to work on their English or other language as well.
You are more likely to make interesting new friends, people who are learning the same language, as well as native speakers of your target language.
With the new language you will gain a deeper understanding of the culture, and you have more things to talk about with these people. Most people are happy and amazed when even if you know a few facts about the country and its culture.
You get an access to a new world of jokes and mind-blowing cultural insights. It is quite enjoyable to be able watch movies without subtitles, or without weird dubbing.
What could be your reasons?
Other cool things you could be doing in your life
Are you sure that you want to learn a new language? With the advice in this website you can probably make the process faster than you previously thought possible. But there are obviously many other cool things that you could be working at.
I respect other arts and sciences as well. It’s great if you have other passions. Personally I hope that I will have the inspiration to learn some musical instrument some day. I have enjoyed drawing (with my iPad and with traditional pens) and writing as well.
Maybe you can combine some of these with language learning. For example music and languages can obviously help each other in many ways.
Whatever you decide to do, I recommend looking at ways to learn them in non-orthodox, fast ways, such as the ones taught by Tim Ferriss. Being in flow also makes learning anything more fun and fast, and people such as Steven Kotler and Jason Silva will tell you how to get more of that in your life. Also learning some simple memory techniques can make learning anything by heart a lot easier. I learned memory techniques from the book of the Norweigian memory master (and the man with the coolest name ever) Oddbjörn By.
How to learn fast?
What made everything much easier for me was finding people (and their advice) with a lot of experience in language learning. Some even have more than ten languages under their belts, and, more amazingly, have other things going on in their lives as well.
When I first saw their interviews in Youtube and elsewhere, I said to myself ‘Damn! If they can speak so many new languages, I can become fluent in a couple of new ones myself.’ At that point, five years ago at the age of 25, I could only speak Finnish and English fluently.
I started using some of their techniques, and I started making a lot more progress in my language studies.
Here are some polyglots that have inspired me with their books and interviews: Kató Lomb, Steven Kaufmann, Luca Lampariello, Benny Lewis, John Fotheringham and Mike Campbell. There are others as well. All of them have their own ways of learning (and teaching) languages. If you need some inspiration, I recommend having a look at their interviews, blogs or books. Some of them even made a crazy song together.
Many of these people learned their foreign languages while living in their home countries. It is not necessary to move to Japan to learn Japanese for example. I have not had the chance to visit Japan yet, but I am able to have long conversations in Japanese.
Of course having a chance to live in the country where the language is spoken is a great opportunity and can teach you many valuable things besides, but it is not a guarantee for language learning success.
Interesting and fun resources
It is important to use learning methods that suit your personality and interests. And at this day and age, there are more great methods and materials than ever before. I am not saying that we should throw away our books and other traditional materials. I like to read books in foreign langauges too (especially graded readers).
Comics are also great because they usually have a lot of dialogue in natural spoken language, and the stories are interesting, certainly not only for children. Often you will not need to check words from the dictionary as the meaning will be explained by the pictures.
Even if you have dyslexia, there are many high-quality audio-based courses these days such as Pimsleur and Glossika, which is even better. And having conversations with people do not require reading texts.
In fact, I do not recommend Glossika only for people with dyslexia. I have not done a whole Glossika course myself but the few weeks I tried it for learning Italian, I noticed that it is an excellent course that will teach you a langauge relatively fast in a non-brainer way. Unfortunately for me Italian has been a language that I have studied on and off which is not the ideal way to learn a language.
There are some excellent websites and apps available as well. And obviously many bad ones as well. In my own studies, I use Anki electronic flashcards on my smartphone every day. I have also used LingQ a lot. It is a treasure trove of interesting texts and interviews. All the content has text and audio. In the end of this page I will list some other good websites and resources.
I have recently found a smartphone app that I like a lot, Simply Learn Languages. It has a nice collection of big and small languages. Many people like Duolingo. See if you like their cool gamified approach, but I personally feel that the apps Anki flashcards, LingQ and Simply Learn Languages are more effective.
Preparing for the common questions that native speakers will ask you
Even if you are an absolute beginner, it is a good idea to learn the common questions that foreigners always gets asked. When you know them (and how to answer to them) it will be much easier to have little conversations with the native speakers. Even if your vocabulary is still relatively small!
Before my 5-month internship in China, I learned the common questions that Chinese people typically ask foreigners. I found them here and some from the work of the polyglot Moses McCormick. Thanks to this simple technique, I was able have small conversations with the locals, even though I had studied Chinese only for about four months before the trip. I was not able to have complicated conversations, but that did not bother me too much.
Unfortunately my interest in Chinese started to decrease as I became more passionate about learning Spanish and Japanese, so I never became fluent in Chinese. I hope I will get an inspiration to study more of that amazing and beautiful language in the future.
Before going to China, I made some Chinese friends and with them I practiced the questions, and ways of answering them. For example I asked my new friends “How can I tell about my hobbies in Chinese?”, and practiced answering that question.
Here at Language Nuggets you can learn most of the common questions in Spanish, Russian, Italian and Finnish.
On this website, you can also learn conversational connectors in the languages mentioned above.
They help to make your sentences longer and more interesting. For example, if someone asks me where I am from, I can answer either “Finland” or jokingly “I have to admit that I am from Finland.”
I learned this idea from a British gentleman called Anthony Lauder. He is an interesting example of a successful language learner because he learned his first foreign language as an adulthood. He is also a great speaker and tells many funny stories. I recommend watching his fun talk in youtube that he gave at the Polyglot Conference.
It goes without saying that better social skills mean more chances to the use the target language. This is common sense, but how common it is for us to search for ways in improving social skills?
I should also point out that having better social skills will give us more energy to study languages. If we are feeling lonely and angry at people we are probably less likely to study and immerse ourselves in the culture of the target language.
Social skills is an area where I have a lot of room for improvement as well, but I feel that I have already learnt some important lessons, so I hope sharing them will be useful for other learners – and in other areas where social skills are needed too (ie. almost everywhere). I look forward to reading your ideas about this important topic and learning from you.
Before meeting another person I try to remember to ask myself “What can I give to that person?” instead of the approach that is more common, “What can I get from that person?”. I am of course not talking only about giving physical things, like money or presents, although that can be part of it.
What is the greatest gift that we can give to another person? I’m starting to become convinced that it is following the Code of Trust in your interactions with others. Why? Because it is a system for helping people (including the person following the Code) in reaching their goals and feeling good about themselves.
According to the author Robin Dreeke, the easiest way to achieve your goals is to help other people reach theirs. Although he avoids using the word ‘help’ because it often sounds condescending. Dreeke claims that this doesn’t mean that you become a doormat.
You can read and listen interviews from the creator of the Code himself, for example here and here. Or you can read his book. Only cherry picking some of the ideas of the Code can make your relationships worse, so I would recommend studying the subject in depth, ie. eventually reading the book.
I will most probably write more about the Code of Trust later. I read the book once already and later read parts of it again. What I realized is that I was not using some of the important parts of the Code, so last few days I have been listening to Dreeke’s interviews again and reading the book more carefully. And this time I’m planning to do more of the drills in the end of the book.
I’m curious to hear from you. What are your advice for the improvement of social skills?