If you’re interested in learning foreign languages, you might have been told it’s impossible to be able to speak one any time soon.
In fact, some people study for years and can’t say a lot to the locals once in their country.
But there are the other language learners, however, who’ve realized it’s just another aspect of life that can be hacked.
Meaning, if you do it smart rather than hard, you can be speaking fluently before you know it.
And no, we aren’t talking about natural gifts here. Although, that would help. Together with determination and interest for the particular language and the culture it comes from.
We’re talking about being strategic, doing things right from day one in order to see a consistent progress and learn faster than anyone around you.
So, here are some language hacks to make your journey easier:
1. Images over sounds.
Researchers found that our brain is much better at remembering what we hear, rather than what we see.
That means having your headphones on for hours daily listening to dialogues in a foreign language won’t do much if visuals aren’t included.
Luckily, that’s where apps can help, and we can find plenty of them in Apple and Google Play stores.
They work, and they even have a lasting effect, because they engage all of your senses. You move your fingers across the screen, see written words, hear them, but also use your visual memory and are distracted by pictures. What’s more, these evoke emotions in you and that helps even more.
Our attention span is bigger as a result of this, and we are actually engaging our mind with the activity, instead of multitasking, which is the case when just learning languages through audio.
2. Make it fun.
Did you know that if an activity is boring, your mind is less likely to put in much effort into doing its best job?
The opposite is also true. If we’re having fun during the process, it will become a positive experience for us, and not only will we do it often enough to actually get results, but we’ll also remember things more easily. In this case, the words and grammar of the foreign language.
One way to get creative is to gamify language learning with an app like Clozemaster.
It perfectly complements the other learning apps you might be using. What it does differently is the use of cloze test, which is text with specific words removed from it that you need to replace.
That’s one of the best exercises for the brain as it remembers better when it has gaps to fill and needs to extract information only from the context.
The success of this technique is yet another proof that the standard boring studying methods, together with revising, are not the right approach to learning languages faster while having fun.
3. Speak it as soon as possible.
One way our memory works is this: the more you need to recall something, the more likely you are to remember it in the long-term.
That’s why you often completely forget whole episodes of your childhood, or seemingly important facts. Because you never actually had to talk about them, or even think about them, ever again.
So, back to hacking languages to learn faster.
How can we put this tip into practice?
An article on BBC talks about the process of immersion.
Rapid growth comes the more you immerse yourself in the foreign language you want to master. That can happen by constantly being exposed to it, having to speak it sooner than you’d like (the discomfort here is present but it’s what makes us get to the next level too), reading in the new language, even thinking about it.
In fact, if you speak frequently (regardless of how ridiculous you sound or how insufficient your knowledge is), you can expect to be having fluent conversations in just a few weeks.
Immersion might mean volunteering at the country, spending a month or a summer there. If you can’t do that and it’s not urgent, you can connect with people online, be it tutors or other enthusiasts who want to learn faster, and chat with them almost daily. Making mistakes is natural. But to keep talking even when you’re shy (the language barrier does exist, after all), is something that will make you braver over time.
Show determination for language learning by constantly seeking feedback, asking questions and using all words you know.
4. You’re probably doing vocabulary wrong.
If you’re planning to learn a couple hundred words weekly, every week for an indefinite period, (or if that’s what you’re already doing), stop right there.
First of all, that has nothing to do with practice. You can learn all the words in a language, but nothing will happen until you go out there and start using them and thus letting your brain make connections between them to memorize better.
Second, most of them will never come in handy.
Last but not least, it’s super boring. Might even lead to you avoiding language learning as much as possible simply because it’s something unpleasant for the brain now, and there are better things it could be engaged in.
The good news is that with 500 words you can do wonders. You can taste the culture, communicate freely with locals, and only learn more and faster from there on, without much effort.
In fact, here’s a cool article from Fluent In 3 Months, sharing the power of knowing 300 words and what you can do with them.
Another thing you can do to hack the process of language learning is to focus on the cognates.
These are words that sound quite similar to those in your language.
Maybe you didn’t know this, but there are more than 1000 cognates between English and Spanish. Checking them out just once will be enough to remember plenty and move onto learning some more, before you go speak with confidence.
Now that you know these 4 approaches to language learning, you shouldn’t put off starting it any more.
If you’ve already began, simplify your process and work smarter with the tips you just read.