We’ve heard time and time again that the best way to learn a new language is immerse yourself in it completely. But when you do that, you still need a foundation to build on. Over at the Guardian, writer Joshua Foer talks about how he managed to learn a language in about 22 hours of work, and how the 1000 most common words were the magic number for the rest of his experience.
Photo by elPadawan.
Foer used a service called Memrise to actually learn the vocabulary, but the interesting part comes from what he learned when he started speaking the language with the natives:
It goes without saying that memorising the 1000 most common words in Lingala, French or Chinese is not going to make anyone a fluent speaker. That would have been an unrealistic goal. But it turns out to be just enough vocabulary to let you hit the ground running once you’re authentically immersed in a language. And, more importantly, that basic vocabulary gives you a scaffolding to which you can attach other words as you hear them… [A]s I packed my memory with more and more words, these connections started to make sense and I began to notice the same grammatical formulas elsewhere–-and could even pick them up in conversation. This sort of pattern recognition happens organically over time when a child learns a language, but giving myself all the data points to work with at once certainly made the job easier, and faster.
Learning a language is never an easy task, but as Foer points out, it’s not nearly as hard as we all make it out to be. Head over to the Guardian for the full story on how he went about learning a language as quickly as possible. If 22 hours seems a little too quick, we’ve covered how to learn a language in just 90 days.
How I learned a language in 22 hours [The Guardian]