Application Is The Key To Learning A New Language, Fast

Application Is The Key To Learning A New Language, Fast

No, it’s not the Rosetta Stone. Like most skills, the key to really acquiring a foreign language is to actually apply it.Photo by roryrory

“Language hacker” Benny the Irish Polyglot (who learned to speak eight languages fluently within seven years) shares his best zenhabits strategy for learning a new language: start speaking it with other people right now.

Although that might seem commonsensical, consider all of your previous foreign language learning experiences, which probably involved a lot of reading, writing and listening exercises. Despite how easy those exercises might have been, though, you might still not have felt confident enough to speak aloud in the other language.

The reason? You didn’t practice speaking the language or conversing with native speakers enough — or didn’t do so as early as you should have.

To achieve conversational fluency, you don’t need a higher IQ, a mailing address in the foreign country, or some other advantage. All you need to do is actually start speaking the foreign language as soon as you can—and with a positive attitude—to anyone who can understand you.

So, time to join those language meet-ups, host a foreign exchange student, or otherwise find a way to really use the language while you learn it. More tips in the link below. Have a tip for learning a new language quickly? Speak to us…

Simple guide to speaking foreign languages [zenhabits]


  • I found the trick to learning a language and getting a better understanding of it while not having the opportunity to speak with native speakers was to walk around looking and street signs and try to translate them.
    Whenever I saw a word or phrase I didn’t understand I would look it up, either on my phone or in a dictionary. In doing this I was able to learn Spanish much faster than my colleagues and I ended with a better understanding of Spanish grammar than English grammar.
    I think it was because I was getting myself into a mindset similar to that of living in a community of native speakers where I would be thinking about the language constantly.
    I practised this technique for 2 months before travelling to Argentina and people kept telling me they thought I was Argentinian.

  • Manga is great if you’re learning Japanese. There is a large chain of second-hand book stores in Japan (Book-off) that has aisle after aisle of 105 yen manga. I took an additional breifcase on my most recent trip, just to fill it up with more books. Manga aimed at a teenage market is perfect because the more complex kanji has Furigana, which is a reading aid that places the quick to learn kana syllabaries next to the more complex to master kanji.

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