Blog by Luca Lampariello. This channel is dedicated to my biggest passion foreign languages. I firmly believe that languages cannot be taught, they can only be learned. My goal is to teach you how to learn a language fast and efficiently, because the truth is that language learning is not difficult, and it can be fun!
You have a bad day, or two, or three. Maybe, you make a couple of embarrassing mistakes. You look for signs of progress, but end up focusing too much on your failures.
So you put things aside for a day.
But then that one day off turns into two, and those two days off turn into a week. Pretty soon, you’re out of the game completely.
Unfortunately, this happens to all of us. Without anyone or anything to keep us committed to the goals we set, we eventually give up, somehow forgetting how and why we wanted to do all of this in the first place.
What if, however, there were systems in place that kept you learning, even when you personally struggled with motivation? Tools and systems that actively keep you on the right path, so that you really can achieve your language learning goals?
Fortunately, there are many such systems. Today, I would like to share a series of seven ways to stay accountable to your language learning goals.
Here they are, listed in increasing order of accountability.
1. Make a Personal Pledge
When aiming to keep your goals on track, the first line of defense for any goal is alwaysYOU. You need to understand exactly what your goals are, and remember why you set them in the first place. If you lose sight of what you're trying to achieve and why you're trying to achieve it, then your goals are as good as dead.
To avoid this, the best thing to do is to make a pledge. This gets the 'what' and 'why' of your goals out of your head and down on paper, so that they can serve as valuable reminders, even when you've personally forgotten why you started.
So get out a pen and paper, and write down four things:
What you plan to do (e.g. pass the Spanish B2 exam)
Your process for doing it (e.g. learn one hour every day)
When you plan to do it by (e.g. the end of the year)
Write it in the form of a pledge, or commitment, like so:
"I commit to learning Spanish for one hour every day, in order to pass the Spanish B2 exam by the end of the year. I am committed to this because it will help me get a promotion at work."
Try it yourself, following the format. It’s simple, but effective!
Post a copy of your pledge on your wall, or bathroom mirror, so you can review it regularly. If you'd like, you can even repeat it to yourself, like a mantra or affirmation.
2. Use a Habit Tracker App
Personal pledges are an effective way to maintain a laser-like focus on your goals, but they're not a whole lot more effective at actually keeping you accountable. If you write the pledge, post it on your wall, and then ignore it, making the pledge will ultimately have made no difference.
What you really need is something beyond yourself to keep you honest and accountable. A system or tool that will check in with you and make sure you're achieving your language learning goals, as you said you would.
The easiest resources for this are habit trackers, many of are available at low-cost (or for free), can be downloaded instantly to your smartphone or computer.
Personally, I recommend apps like HabitBull and Habitica, both of which are available for iPhone and Android smartphones.
The majority of habit-tracking applications like these have features that will keep you accountable, motivated, and aware of your daily progress, including:
Daily reminders, delivered right to your phone screen
Detailed statistics about all your goals, so you know exactly how well you're progressing
Community features, allowing you to share your goals with others
Try these apps, and you'll no longer have to devote time to remembering your daily, weekly, and monthly commitments to your language learning goals.
The apps will serve as your reminder, so all you'll have to do is take action!
3. Make a Public Commitment
After you've enlisted the help of your daily pledge and your smartphone to keep you on track, there's no better accountability resource to turn to than other people.
Why? Because no one wants to look bad in front of others. It's a trait that's hard-wired into us as social beings.
If you share your language learning goals with the people in your life, and ask them to hold you to your commitment, no matter what, there's a high likelihood you'll follow through with your goal, just to avoid embarrassing yourself if you don't.
There are a few different ways you can put a public commitment into action:
One way is to make an announcement on social media. Post something similar to your personal pledge from section one, and mention how you're going to post regular updates so that your friends and family can follow along.
An alternative, more challenging form of this is to start a blog about your language learning goals. Commit to posting regularly (say, weekly or bi-weekly), and ask the people close to you to check in with you and leave comments.
4. Get an Accountability Partner
One problem with making public commitments is that even though you're letting lots of people know about your goal, none of them are likely to beat down your front door if you're ever in danger of actually giving up your language learning goals.
For that reason, it can be even more powerful to ask one or more people in your life to really keep you on track. People that know all about your goals and objectives, and will take time to regularly check in with you to make sure you're doing what you said you'd do.
These types of people are usually called accountability partners.
In theory, anyone can be an accountability partner, but ideally you'll want to find someone who won't let you off the hook. If you're faltering in your commitments, the ideal accountability partner will waste no time telling you to get yourself together.
Those kinds of people can be tough to find (usually close friends and family members won't be that tough with you), so you may need to try a few accountability partners before you find a good fit.
For the purposes of language learning, it’s a good idea to look for accountability partners in places where there are already large groups of language learners, like italki.com or on the HelloTalk app. That way, you can even keep them accountable for their language learning goals while they keep you accountable for yours.
5. Start an Accountability Group
Of course, if you think one accountability partner can make a powerful difference in your language learning, imagine the difference a whole group of accountability partners can make.
Accountability groups work just like a regular accountability partnership, but instead of one person keeping another accountable, each person in the group works to keep all of the rest of the group accountable.
Depending on how many group members you have, that can be a lot of accountability.
Furthermore, if all group members are language learners, you can potentially learn a lot from the methods, strategies, and techniques that each group member uses to actually learn.
As with regular accountability partnerships, look for your group members anywhere where large communities of language learners gather. If every member of your group is a language learner—great! If you're all learning the same language—even better!
6. Make Commitments You Can't Back Out Of
Another accountability method that I like to use is something I call "commitments with teeth".
Basically, these are high-intensity commitments that are either:
Incredibly difficult to break
Impossible to break
So, even if you have nothing and no one else keeping you accountable for these goals, you'll have to follow through, or pay a meaningful price.
When I used to regularly schedule lessons on italki, one way I'd use "commitments with teeth" was to schedule my lesson just outside of the 24-hour no-cancellation period.
italki only allows you to cancel lessons consequence-free if the lesson time is more than a day away. Any closer to that time, and it becomes a lot more difficult to cancel. Even if I was nervous, the fact that cancelling was no longer an option would mean that I'd have to follow through with the lesson, no matter how I felt.
You can find even more intense forms of this kind of commitment when you use the habit-tracking service called Beeminder.
Unlike most apps, Beeminder requires you to pay actual money when you don't follow through on your goals. Depending on your settings, they'll even charge you more each time you miss out on a commitment.
It's intense, but it works.
7. Join a Language Learning Challenge
Finally, I'd like to recommend one last resource you can use to stay committed to all of your language goals. In a way, it represents the culmination and combination of all of the accountability methods we have covered above.
What is it?
A language learning challenge!
More specifically, an organized online language learning challenge, where large groups of language learners gather together to meet specific goals.
Nowadays, the most popular of these challenges are:
The italki Language Challenge is generally a one-month-long language challenge where you compete with other learners to complete as many hours of italki language lessons as possible. Each lesson costs money, but if you manage to complete certain hour milestones or rank in the highest number of completed hours, you can win italki credits and other prizes.
The Add1Challenge is a three-month language learning challenge where you pledge to have a 15-minute conversation with a native-speaker of your target language at the end of 90 days. Along the way, you'll also be required to record three progress videos (on Day 0, Day 30, and Day 60). The challenge also features additional accountability options, like a habit tracker, accountability groups, mastermind groups, and more.
Language challenges like these are among the most difficult and expensive of all the accountability options, but if you manage to make it through them, you'll have built some wonderful habits and rock-solid accountability that will be sure to make a lasting difference in your learning.
Find Your Accountability, Achieve Your Language Learning Goals
These are seven of the best ways I know to stay accountable to your language learning goals.
Accountability systems are like safety nets for goal achievement—they'll keep you on track even when your own willpower fails.
Some of the systems I've shared above might seem intimidating. Others downright scary. But that's okay, because that's why they work. They create consequences for inaction, which then compel you to act.
And ultimately, that's what you want. You want to act in the direction of your language learning goals, because that's the only way they're ever going to become a reality.
What accountability systems have you used in your language learning? What about in other areas of your life? Let me know in the comments!
Written by Kevin Morehouse
Kevin Morehouse is a language coach and teacher who is on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. A member of the LucaLampariello.com team since its inception, Kevin's principal role is that of writer, editor, and content developer. He is currently learning Korean, his primary language focus since mid-2017.
If you want to know how to learn any language then do it every single day, no matter for how long, and it will add up to significant numbers over time.
It's called the law of accumulation at work.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. With work, family, and other responsibilities, life can often get in the way of language learning.
In this article, I will share a few short tips to help you learn any language, and do it every single day.
1. Plan Beforehand
I love running. I love how it makes me feel, and I love that it makes me healthier the more I do it.
What I don't love, however, is waking up early to go running.
To be honest, I had such an aversion to waking up early that I ran very inconsistently for years.
One day, however, a friend gave me a key piece of advice that solved this problem once and for all:
He said that I should streamline my process, so that running was the result of a few simple choices, instead of many difficult ones.
According to this friend, I never went running because running meant expending effort. I'd have to wake up, avoid hitting the snooze button, find my running shoes and clothes, get dressed, and then just maybe actually get out the door.
Here's what he recommended:
Go to sleep with my running clothes on
Keep my running shoes at the foot of my bed.
With these two changes, the likelihood of going for a run every morning increased dramatically. When I woke up, I had all of my running necessities close at hand, so it was extremely easy to just get up, put my shoes on, and go for a run.
What does this have to do with language learning?
Simply put, you won't learn a language every day if it takes a lot of willpower to do it. If you need to carve time out of your schedule, dig up your books, find all of your notes, and go somewhere out of the way to learn, you probably won't do it every often.
So make things simple.
Plan your learning schedule the week or the night beforehand. Keep all of your resources in a central location, so that they are easily within reach whenever you have learning time.
Organize your life so that you can't avoid making contact with your target language every single day.
2. Learn When You Are Fresh and Willing
Has anyone ever asked you if you are a morning person?
What about a night owl?
Whatever the case, those common questions reveal something important about us as human beings—that we're not all fresh and energetic at the same times.
Hopefully, by this time in your life, you have a clear idea of when you have the most energy. If you don't, it's worth spending a little time figuring it out.
Because learning takes energy, just like exercising does.
In the last section, I discussed how I scheduled jogging for the early mornings. I did this because I know that I have the most energy at that time.
To get the most out of your language learning, you need to do something similar. You need to schedule your learning sessions around your high-energy periods.
If you know you're typically dead tired right after work, that's not a time to learn. If, by contrast, you catch a second-wind later in the evening, perhaps that's a more appropriate learning time.
Personally, I always feel focused and energized right after my morning run, so that's often when I'll sit down and study some Greek, or Hungarian. I also know that my energy levels rebound in the early evening, so if I can't get learning done in the morning, I've always got a second occasion then.
3. Start with a Countdown
Of course, if you don't have any desire to learn, no amount of planning and energy-management is going to make it happen.
Managing this desire—this motivation—is the last key to learning a language every day.
The modern conception of motivation seems to follow the law of cause and effect; motivation comes first, and then action comes second.
In all my years of learning, however, I've found this to be backwards. Normally, I've found that taking action creates the motivation to learn, and not the other way around.
When I act first, I see that I'm moving towards my goals. This inspires me, and gives me the motivation to take more action. Action creates motivation, which creates action. And so on and so forth, ad infinitum.
To learn a language every day, you need to train yourself to see motivation in this way—as something that is a consequence of action, and not the cause of it.
The simplest way to do this is through a five-second countdown.
Whenever you find yourself lacking the motivation to start a language learning session (or anything important, really), count down from five to one.
And then just start!
It might seem too simple, but I've found it to be a very effective method for taking action. And of course, once I take action, I have plenty of motivation to keep going.
Your Best Way to Learn a Language
There you have it!
With these three simple tips, you now know how to learn any language on a daily basis.
Reluctant to get started?
Then try tip three right away!
Count down from five to one, and get started planning your language learning for the week. Figure out when you usually have the most energy, and decide what kinds of learning activities you will be doing over the next seven days.
“Con los idiomas estás en casa en cualquier lugar” (“With languages you feel at home everywhere”) – Edward De Waal
I could have sworn I was in Mexico.
Every word I heard spoken was in Spanish. Every word I could read—on the walls, on the products, on the doors—were all in Spanish.
Though I was already fluent in Spanish by then, my language learning senses were tingling; here was a real, genuine opportunity to practice my skills, and it had just fallen into my lap.
After all, I wasn’t actually in Mexico. Or Spain, or Cuba, or in any of the other dozen-plus countries where Spanish is officially spoken.
I was in New York City. In Queens, in the middle of a small, unassuming convenience store.
Upon encountering what seemed like a small chunk of Mexico right in the middle of the United States, I finally realized the importance of Spanish as a worldwide language.
Spanish, like English, is a language with global impact. If you become fluent in Spanish, doors will fly open for you.
Allow me to share my story of learning Spanish, so that it may inspire you to begin your own Spanish journey as well.
Start Focused, Stay Focused
My first experience with Spanish was in 1996.
I had seen an ad on the television for Lo spagnolo per te (“Spanish for You”), the Spanish equivalent of the course I had used to learn German a few years prior.
Naturally, I bought it straight away. These were the days pre-Internet, so it wasn’t possible to instantly pull up endless lists of Spanish courses to choose from. I had one choice, and I ran with it.
Years later, I realized that that single course had a huge impact on my becoming fluent in Spanish.
Because with one (and only one) choice available, I had no alternative but to focus. And focus can be a huge difference-maker in language learning success.
Language learners nowadays have too many options to choose from. For every language, there are dozens—or even hundreds—of books, mobile apps, classes, and courses.
This leads to what is called the paradox of choice; when presented with too many options, it actually becomes harder to make a decision, not easier.
Here’s my advice: don’t overload yourself with too many resources.
Start with one single book, course, or app, and stick with it until you’re done (or at least until you’ve gotten all of the value out of it).
Choose the Right Spanish for You
Here’s another thing you need to realize about becoming fluent in Spanish:
There’s not just one Spanish!
Spanish is spoken as an official language in twenty countries across the world, and the language is spoken differently in each location.
I’m from Europe, so the natural choice for me was to learn the Spanish spoken in Spain, also known as Iberian or Castilian Spanish.
For Americans and Canadians, however, the choice is far less obvious. Unless you have a clear reason or inclination to learn one type of Spanish, you may be tempted to learn the language from whatever people or resources are available, no matter the source.
So if you want to be really, truly, fluent in Spanish, you need to decide which variety of Spanish you want to learn, and do so early on.
The Spanish you choose to learn will impact:
Your personality when speaking
Your formal and informal speech
So I recommend that you choose one variety of Spanish, and learn it exclusively for one to two years. This will allow ample time for your new Spanish “identity” to develop, and prevent your accent from becoming an unusual mixture of influences.
Focus on Lifestyle, Not Location
When people hear me speak Spanish, they immediately assume that I’ve lived in Spain. Which is fair, because I actually did do an exchange in Barcelona back in 2007.
However, they’re usually surprised to find out that Barcelona isn’t the place where I learned most of my Spanish.
Of course, I had lots of contact with Spanish during that time, but considering that my university courses were in Catalan and my housemates were Italian, I didn’t speak as much Spanish as you might think.
The truth is, I truly became fluent in Spanish outside of Spain, in places like Rome, and Paris.
When I lived in those places, I made a serious effort to look for Spanish-speaking roommates and housemates.
When I eventually found Spanish speakers to live with, I spent as much time with them as possible.
Don’t listen to the common advice that you need to live somewhere like Spain, Mexico, or Argentina to become fluent in Spanish.
Sure, it can certainly help, but it won’t do the work for you.
The most important choices you can make as a Spanish speaker are how you learn, with whom you learn, and what you spend your time doing. That’s all.
Live Your Spanish Story, Become Fluent in Spanish
At its core, my Spanish story isn’t about the words I learned, the resources I used, or even the Spanish-speaking countries I’ve visited.
My Spanish story is really about how I constructed the new, Spanish-speaking version of myself.
I created a unique Spanish identity for myself by:
Focusing on one resource at a time
Immersing myself consistently in a single variety of Spanish, and
Building a lifestyle full of Spanish culture, language, and (most important of all) Spanish people!
To become fluent in Spanish, you need to build your unique Spanish identity, and live your Spanish story, just how I did.
Of course, your Spanish identity and story will not be the same as mine; in fact, I’m sure it will be quite different.
“Don't watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going”. Sam Levenson
Learning English nowadays is not an option if you want to comfortably fit in and enjoy the globalized era we live in.
I use English every day, and I simply can’t imagine not being able to speak it.
The truth is, however, that English and I have not always gotten along.
In fact, things were quite tough at the beginning.
I struggled a lot, but I had a vision. A clear vision of myself speaking English in the future. That vision never faltered.
Like a climber, who doesn’t see the peak of the mountain but knows it is there, still wrapped in the clouds, and all he needs to do is keep going.
Today, I would like to talk about my English-learning struggles, how I persevered past them, and what I have learned from the process. I’ll also tell you how you can benefit from all this, too.
A Language Which Would Not Fit in My Head
Susan, my English teacher, could not believe her ears.
I had just pronounced the word “enough” as “inaug”. Ouch.
I had been learning English for almost two years in middle school, but despite my efforts, I was still having a hard time with it.
The English lessons I had at school didn’t help much. In fact, I dare say they were probably the biggest source of my frustration.
I felt somehow betrayed by them. By the whole schooling process, really.
School was supposed to be the place where I would learn stuff, right?
But it wasn’t.
I had a teacher who spoke English with a very thick Italian accent, and his classes were a relentless series of boring texts to read and useless grammar patterns to drill.
I felt like I was going around in circles and not learning much.
My pronunciation was atrocious, the tenses confused me, and phrasal verbs gave me a headache.
Despite all this, there was a silver lining.
Even though English frustrated me to no end, the idea of learning it still excited me.
I wanted to learn and be like an American.
And I fantasized about having an American girlfriend.
I couldn’t see my future, then, but somehow I knew it would someday become a reality.
Let me tell you how it all happened.
1. Learn Every Day
I mean it. It’s the only way you are going to make it happen. In fact, if there is a secret to learning English —actually, any language—quickly, here it is:
Learn every day.
Regularity is what creates momentum, and momentum is what accelerates learning.
I call it “The Law of Language Accumulation”.
Imagine spending 30 minutes learning English every single day for one whole year.
“Only 30 minutes? That’s not that much”, you might think.
But 30 minutes of learning done every day for an entire year is actually quite a big deal.
Imagine learning from the 1st of January till the 31st of December 2019.
Doing the math, it would come out to 30 minutes x 365 days. In total, that’s 10,950 minutes, or just under 183 hours.
So here’s the thing: whatever you do, stick to it.
Learn every day for a minimum of 30 minutes. Some days you’ll do a little more, some days you’ll do a little less, but that doesn’t matter. Just keep learning every day, and whatever you do, don’t break the cycle.
If you need a reminder, take a post-it and write a message to yourself. Something that you’ll see every day that will remind you to sit down, focus, and learn.
Even simple messages like “Learn!” or “English today!” can do wonders.
So get in the habit of sitting down and learning.
If you don’t feel like doing it, start anyway. Just for two minutes.
You’ll notice that you’ll very quickly get into the flow of learning, and you won’t want to stop once the two minutes are up. This is because starting is the most difficult part of the process. Continuing is much easier, once you’ve already gained some momentum.
If you overcome that natural unwillingness to learn for the first few days, you will get momentum, and from there, nothing will stop you from learning English and speaking it fluently.
2. Tackle Pronunciation from the Very Beginning
If there is one piece of advice I really feel can make a difference is this: if you want to learn to speak English well, start working on its phonetics from the very beginning.
As I said before, back when I started, my American English pronunciation was atrocious.
To my credit, English pronunciation is a really tough nut to crack for native Italian speakers, both in terms of pronunciation (how we produce the single sounds) and intonation (how we utter entire sentences).
As an Italian, I didn’t understand why certain groups of vowels would be pronounced that differently from word to word.
“Ough” of “enough” would pronounced like “uff”, but the same “ou” in “cough”, or “tough” sounded quite different, even from one another.
I couldn’t even tell the difference between lax and tense vowels, such as “beet” and “bit”. Or long and short.
I was lucky though, because I never really developed bad habits in English. Not because I was good at it, but because I hardly ever spoke the language in class.
So, when Susan started giving me lessons, I had all the time in the world to work on my pronunciation.
And so I did.
I read texts out loud, spoke to her, and received corrections. Then, I started speaking English to myself in my alone time. And I absorbed every single correction like a sponge.
Over time, things got better and better.
Here’s my advice.
Start working on phonetics from the beginning. Choose a specific accent within the English world (American, British, Australian, etc.) and stay consistent. And get interested.
Don’t be scared of new sounds—welcome them!
This is how you will eventually learn to sound like a native speaker: by embracing a different reality and making it part of who you are.
3. Learn Holistically
I see every language as a living organism with four fundamental moving components: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Every single part counts.
If you think about it, when you say that you “speak” a foreign language, most people take for granted that you can also read, write, and understand language that is spoken to you.
This is how we all acquire our native languages. When we get out of our mother’s womb, we first hear, then utter the first few words, and then later learn to read and write.
However, when we learn a foreign language, the way we learn is not set in stone. Things are fuzzier, less defined. Most often than not, we tend to develop some skills better than others. Maybe we learn to read well, but end up speaking poorly. Or we speak well, but have horrible spelling.
This is like going to the gym and only training your arms, or just your legs. If you do this, your muscles will not grow at the same speed, nor in even amounts.
That’s how some gym-goers end up with big biceps and thin legs. They look uneven, and off-balance. The same thing happens in language learning.
Developing all the 4 main skills harmoniously is all the more important with English. In fact, English has a very difficult spelling and a complex phonetic system.
Reading and writing from the very beginning will help you understand and absorb the spelling system, will help you read and speak better, and you will be able to reap countless other benefits.
Remember that every skill you develop reinforces the other three.
This does not mean that you have to spend an equal amount of time every day developing each skill, but that you develop all of them on a weekly basis.
So, make a solid weekly plan, and make sure that you tackle all the 4 skills over the course of a week.
And there is an easy, cheap and extremely fun way in which you can develop listening AND reading comprehension at the same time.
4. Watch a Lot of Movies with Subtitles (link to other article)
If I told you that there are widely available learning tools that can expose you to real, authentic English, and help you have lots of fun doing it, would you believe me?
Well, there are.
They’re called movies!
I still remember that soon after I started lessons with Susan, she would bring one different American movie every week, which I avidly watched and rewatched as often as I could.
Watching a lot of American movies allowed me, first and foremost, to improve my listening comprehension. It also helped me dramatically improve my vocabulary.
On top of all that, I got exposed to how native speakers interact, speak, and make gestures—something you can’t do while listening to podcasts or the radio.
Honestly, the benefits of watching movies in English are countless.
As soon as you reach a decent level in English, make sure that you watch at least one English movie every week, possibly with English subtitles.
Don’t forget to also jot down which movies you watched, and when you watched them, too. Keeping track of what you do is essential for your motivation.
Let me explain further:
5. Keep a Logbook
When you are developing your English skills, it’s natural to ask yourself if you’re actually making any progress.
To detect your progress in English, you’ll need to measure it.
But the question is, how do you do it?
There are a lot of possibilities, but the most obvious method that comes to mind is saving and collecting words.
All you need to do is count how many words you’ve learned, and write them down somewhere.
But the truth is, measuring language skills is not always that straightforward.
There is so much more to language knowledge than just words.
Here’s the thing:
You might not measure language growth directly, but you can do it indirectly.
Keep a logbook.
By keeping a logbook, you get into the habit of tracking everything you do. You track what you do, how you do it, and how long you do it for.
With the logbook, you are building momentum, keeping yourself accountable, and making sure you stay on track. For greater accountability, you can even share your logbook with others.
Believe me, keeping a logbook can make a huge difference in your learning.
So, make sure that every time you finish something, you jot it down in your logbook. It only takes a minute to do so, and looking back at what you have done will give you an incredible feeling of accomplishment over time.
Then, the moment will come in which you won’t even need your logbook at all.
Let’s examine this moment, and see what it means for you as an English learner.
6. Move from Studying to Using the Language
These days, speaking English has become second nature to me.
I use English every single day, for many different reasons. Plus, I read books, listen to music, and watch TV, YouTube videos, and documentaries.
I speak English both in real life and on the Internet.
I write emails, and articles. Make presentations.
I think, and even dream in English.
In other words, English has become a fixture in my life and lifestyle.
In every language learner’s path, there comes the magical moment when you stop seeing a language as something to deliberately study, and you start simply using it because it is part of your life and who you are.
This is not to say that you will ever stop learning. Learning never really stops, even at the advanced level.
This moment I’m talking about is simply a huge paradigm shift. It will eventually happen, if you work hard enough.
From that moment on, things will be much easier and smoother.
It’s a major breakthrough.
There is not a specific moment when that happens. It just happens.
But in order to make it happen, you need English to be part of your life.
And one major factor is surrounding yourself with native speakers of English.
7. Develop Friendships and Relationships with English Speakers
I keep saying it, and I won’t change my mind: the best resource to learn a new language is people.
The languages I speak extremely well are not the languages I studied the most. They are the languages I lived the most.
That’s why speaking on Skype every once in a while or chatting through some app is not enough. You need to live situations, see faces and smiles, and hear laughter and other reactions.
You need people.
Over a long period of time, having one good friend to eat, drink, laugh, and generally hang out with can really help take your English to a whole new level.
I have countless foreign friends, but some are more special and close than others.
When I met Garrett, an American from Philadelphia, he was living in Rome. We started hanging out, and spent countless hours together. That was an invaluable experience to learn how Americans live their language and in this world. Priceless.
A friend talks to you.
Listens to you.
Smiles with you.
I like thinking that the side of the personality that we develop in a foreign language is partially shaped and sculpted by the native speakers who surround us, and the choices we make in life.
My English has been shaped by Garrett, Susan, and all the rest of the valuable people I’ve met along the journey.
I am grateful to them for being my friends, and I always will be.
So, if you don’t have friends yet, make sure to get out there and make an effort to get to know someone. You can go to local bars for language exchanges with native English speakers, search on the Internet, and even ask friends to introduce you to English speakers they know.
Ultimately, you want to aim for a long-lasting, solid friendship, because that is what helps you grow, both as a person and as an English learner.
Oh, and it goes without saying, having a foreign partner and developing a relationship with them is as amazing way to make your language skills more authentic.
Time to Live Your English Story
So there you have it.
Do you want to learn English to a near-native level?
Get to it! Learn enthusiastically for a long period of time.
Learn every day, and be proactive. Keep track of what you do.
Diversify your activities. Make sure you read, listen, speak and write on a weekly basis.
And then make English an integral part of your life.
You can make ton of incredible friends, and you—yes, you—can even find love.
I have detailed all these techniques and tips and more in an extensive course on how to improve your English, feel free to check it out if you want to have a deeper understanding of how I have taken English to the next level.
Luca, when you want to say in Polish that you are doing something “through the Internet”, such “as talking to someone on the Internet”, you don’t say “na internecie”, but “przez internet” - said Gosia, a good friend of mine, while we were conversing in Polish and walking through the railway station of Lodz, in the heart of Poland.
I was frustrated by the sudden and unwanted correction. She had uttered it with a tone of disbelief, as if to say, “you don’t know this?” — or that is at least how I perceived it.
Making that mistake and receiving that kind of correction left me with a stinging feeling that lingered all the way back to Warsaw.
All of a sudden, dozens, hundreds of mistakes resurfaced in my mind. Mistakes in Polish, English, French, Spanish, literally every language I’ve learned.
I then realized something extraordinary. For each mistake that I remembered making, I also remembered who had corrected me, when, where, and how they did it.
It is as if my brain got particularly good at recording unexpected corrections in situations where I was using the language to communicate.
When I was telling an interesting story that had happened to me.
When I was walking and talking with someone, just as I was doing with my Polish friend.
And of course, after publishing a YouTube video.
All of a sudden, everything was clear.
Those mistakes were not enemies, or something to fret about. They were my friends. Indeed, they helped me improve my skills.
What I’ve Learned About Making Mistakes1. If You Don’t Try, You’ll Never Know
On that train back to Warsaw, the first thing that came to my mind was that yes, being corrected didn’t feel good. In fact, it stung badly.
But then, I told myself that at least, I had tried. If I had resorted to English instead of speaking Polish, I would probably still be making the same mistake.
In other words, when someone corrects you, you have to pat yourself on your back and tell yourself “at least I tried”.
That mere realization can extinguish the frustration and anger you might feel for being corrected.
And the great thing is that the more you try, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the more you try.
However, many language learners—myself included, sometimes—prefer keeping their mouth shut instead of talking and actively making tons of mistakes.
They get into this terrible trap called perfectionism.
They think that if they wait and study long enough, then they will be able to handle everything perfectly, without errors.
But that’s thinking backwards.
Things simply don’t work that way.
Human interaction is the realm of improvisation and unexpectedness.
Not speaking a foreign language for fear of making mistakes: that is the biggest mistake you can make!
Every time you try, especially when the situation is not favorable, makes you stronger and more confident in your skills.
You feed and nurture that confidence and strength by acting, by living experiences, and by sharing your opinion, all with a wide range of people and in a wide range of situations.
2. Embrace Your Mistakes
Getting used to trying, experimenting, and venturing into unknown ground is great, but unfortunately, it is not enough.
You have to learn to accept the consequences of taking action.
Every time you meet someone new, discuss a new topic, or try to approach a certain subject in an unusual way, the higher the chance of making mistakes.
At this stage, it is where you put your attention that makes a world of difference.
Going back to that episode with Gosia, I realized that there was no reason for me to be angry or frustrated.
She had done me a huge favor. She showed me how to use an expression correctly.
My frustration, ultimately, gave way to gratitude.
I have learned to be grateful every time someone corrects me, no matter who that is, where, when, or how.
Even a nasty comment on the Internet can contain something valuable.
If you learn to be grateful, if you learn to see criticism as beneficial—even when it comes from so-called Internet trolls— you can become invincible.
Remember: you were not born with a positive or negative attitude towards making mistakes. You developed it with time, training and perseverance.
If you have a positive attitude towards mistakes, great! If you don’t, then all you need to do is unlearn the negative attitude and replace it with a positive one.
3. Develop Self-Awareness
Mistakes are also great because they help you become more aware of how a given language works, and what kind of mistakes you tend to make.
This also helps you to self-correct.
I’m sure that you have sometimes caught yourself saying something wrong, either just before or just after you say it out loud. Once you notice the error, you correct yourself immediately.
That is self-awareness.
The more you become self-aware, the more you can reflect on how you could formulate certain sentences better, you tend to notice patterns more, both when you speak as well as others do.
Your mind creates a mental space that you can use to observe yourself, instead of getting into automatic and unconscious patterns.
When you create this mental space, you are able to keep improving across the entire language learning journey.
Self-awareness comes from a combination of training, attention, interest and attitude.
Again, it is not something you were born with, but something you can develop over time.
And if you develop it with one language, that will transfer to another language. And another.
Time For Practice
Speaking languages well and minimizing mistakes is a long process, and more often than not, it is the result of a steady, slow improvement over a long period of time.
You can’t eliminate mistakes altogether; they are part of human nature, and they are a necessary part of the process.
They are actually your best friends in the journey to fluency.
You can’t avoid them, but you can learn to deal with them in a different way.
You can do this by developing courage, gratitude and self-awareness.
By fostering courage, you will act and speak even when you are not sure about what you will say, how you will say it, and if it will be correct.
By nurturing gratitude, you will learn to get the best out every situation, even coming from those who, for their own reasons, want to hurt you.
By feeding self-awareness, you create that mental space necessary to keep improving through all the phases of language learning, and overcoming the inevitable roadblocks along the way.
I have been training hundreds of students through my language coaching lessons, and I feel proud and privileged to have witnessed people change and become great language learners and better people.
They have taken the courage to listen, think outside the box, take action, and ultimately, become a better version of themselves.
(Luca's note: This post is written by Kevin Morehouse, a LucaLampariello.com team member).
Do you remember what it was like when you first realized that you could learn multiple foreign languages, instead of just one or two?
For me, it was electrifying.
I had always loved languages, and for once, the possibilities seemed endless.
For a long time, I had assumed that the only way to learn languages was to study them for years in an academic setting. It was that very thought that led me to choose Italian Studies as my undergraduate major.
A couple of years into my degree, however, I accidentally stumbled upon a number of YouTubers who turned my world upside-down.
These YouTubers—Luca Lampariello among them—didn't just know two or three languages, as I had assumed was the limit. They knew five, ten, even fifteen or more, and spoke many of them to impressive levels.
Suddenly, the impossible was possible. Now that I knew that I could learn as many languages as I wanted, the rest would come easily.
Or so I thought.
Today, let me share my story of how dabbling in too many languages hurt my progress as a language learner, along with tips to help you avoid the same.
How Not to Learn Multiple Languages: A Case Study
I began with a list:
First, I wanted to learn Mandarin Chinese on my own.
Then Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, French, and German.
Then Esperanto, and Japanese. And then Welsh, Irish, Swedish, Hebrew, and even Basque too!
Next came the actual work—the learning.
From the examples I had seen online, I figured it would only take around 90 days to learn a language well, and maybe up to a year if I really needed it.
So I got started.
For Mandarin, I began with Rosetta Stone. I did well, and enjoyed it, but soon felt the material surpass my skills.
Thinking Mandarin was perhaps too hard, I switched to Brazilian Portuguese, my next language.
Again, I studied for several months, this time with a variety of resources. Though I didn't find Portuguese too hard, I soon grew bored with it, and dropped it in favor of Spanish, because it was "more practical".
Months later, Spanish was replaced with a combination of Spanish and Mandarin (again). Then both of those were replaced with Esperanto, which was then replaced by German.
And then, one day I stopped. I was exhausted. At that moment, I realized the truth:
I had become a foreign language dabbler.
Why Dabbling Can Hurt Your Language Learning Progress
In the community, dabbling is the practice of continually picking up and dropping languages before you learn any of them well.
Dabbling works just fine for some people. If, for example, you just want to know enough of a few languages to get by in your day-to-day life, then it can even be a good thing.
This is usually because it is a waste of three major resources: your time, your energy, and your money.
Dabbling wastes time because it forces you to learn languages quickly and poorly. Languages abandoned before the mid-intermediate level are usually forgotten in a matter of months.
Dabbling wastes energy because it forces you to keep re-learning what you’ve already learned before. If you don't forget a language outright, you will have to keep reviewing old material just to maintain your skills at the same level.
Dabbling wastes money because language learning is rarely free. If you forget a language that you bought resources, apps, or tutoring time for, all of that expense goes to waste.
The Benefits of Focusing on One Language at a Time
By trying to study a half-dozen languages within just a few years time, I had wasted lots of time, plenty of energy, and more money than I’d like to admit.
If you're reading this article, then I have a feeling you've wasted the very same things, all in hopes of a multilingual dream that didn't quite pan out.
Fortunately, I've had enough time to reflect on my dabbling days, and I've come to an important realization: if you really want to master multiple languages, it's best to go slow, and focus on one language at a time.
I've since practiced this with a new language (Korean), and here are some of the best benefits I've encountered.
Learn more, faster - Focusing on one language allows you to build learning momentum, which otherwise can be lost when moving from one language to the next.
Remember more of what you learn - Learning a single language consistently will train your brain to value the language, and thus remember it better.
Avoid confusing languages - If you can learn one language past the mid-intermediate (B1-B2) stage, you will be less likely to confuse it with future languages.
Build long-term language learning habits - Each level of the language learning journey is different. If you never learn any language past the beginner stage, you won't develop good intermediate and advanced-level habits.
Experience the joy of truly understanding a language - At the beginner level of a language, you really don't understand much at all. If you persist, and grow your skills to intermediate-level and beyond, you get to experience the wonder of really understanding what you're hearing, speaking, reading, and writing.
The secret to learning lots of languages - learn one at a time! - YouTube
The Road to Never-ending Improvement
Today's language learners are probably the luckiest language enthusiasts who have ever lived. Thanks to the Internet, we can start learning nearly any language on the globe with just a click of a button.
With those benefits, however, come some serious drawbacks; if you're not careful, the temptation to dabble in new languages can keep you from ever reaching any significant learning goals.
The solution to this is to find your focus, and stick with one language long enough to actually speak and use it comfortably.
As you gain experience with a language over the long-term, you’ll notice that you’ll face new challenges and gain new capabilities, all of which will shape the way that you learn and use the language in the future. You’ll come ever closer to the top of the mountain, and be able to look back, in awe, of how far you’ve come.
So, don’t take the easy route.
Don’t let go of everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Because the language learning journey never truly ends. You can always improve, every single day.
So get to it! I think you’ll find that the journey will take you places you’ve never even dreamed of.
Kevin Morehouse is a language coach and teacher who is on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. A member of the LucaLampariello.com team since its inception, Kevin's principal role is that of writer, editor, and content developer. He is currently learning Korean, his primary language focus since mid-2017.
“The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around” - Thomas A. Edison
There are more neurons in our brain than there are stars in the Milky Way. No wonder we can learn any language, play any instrument, or acquire any other skill we put our mind to.
It was getting dark in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Leaning on the glass balustrade of the Dynamic Earth building and looking at the sky slowly filling with stars, my head was swirling with thoughts about the brain, languages, the universe, and ultimately, about the beauty of being alive.
I felt as grateful for being there as I was sad, because the last day of the Second Neurolanguage Conference was coming to an end."
An amazing day had gone by, with invaluable speeches about language, the brain, and coaching.
“I want to do this again next year”, I thought to myself.
And so I did.
In fact, I did one better. For this year’s conference, I’m not just attending it, but I’m helping to organize it, as well.
As a result, I’m proud to say that this year’s neurolanguage conference is soon on its way, and it promises to be more exciting than ever before.
More than the sounds coming out of my mouth, I remember the vibes I gave off and received from the audience.
Education—in particular, language education—is something I take to heart.
The participants liked my speech so much that Rachel Paling, the conference organizer, not only invited me to the third Neurolanguage Conference, she made me a co-host of the conference itself.
Allow me to explain what this is all about:
The 2019 Neurolanguage Learning Conference (and More) - YouTube
A Chance You Don’t Want to Miss
I am more and more convinced that the best investment that you can make in the 21st century is to acquire new knowledge and skills.
Among all possible cognitive investments you can make, learning about your brain and how it works will improve your life in ways you cannot even start to fathom.
Improving your relationship with your parents, friends and colleagues?
Being more efficient at work, staving off inner and outer distractions, focusing much more deeply, and getting things done in record time?
Reading faster and better?
Learning languages like a pro?
Working out or running more efficiently and more smoothly?
You can do all that.
In fact, everybody can.
And the more you know your brain, the easier doing all this becomes.
It all comes down to the brain and how it functions.
Know your brain.
And know your world.
This conference is about the brain, the art of coaching, language learning ..and more.
See it for yourself:
My Own Contribution and Experience
This time, I will give not one, but two speeches!
The first one is about the 10 Golden Rules to Learn Any Language.
I am convinced that if you know the principles that govern language learning, you have done 80% of the job, and the remaining 20% is figuring out how to adapt these principles to your own life.
I will be bringing my experience as a language learner and a language coach to show students and teachers how to:
Start on the right foot, and make sure you never give up
Make sure you will learn every day
Learn how to use resources well through the “one resource rule”
Find the best learning method that works for you
How to get the best setup for deliberate speaking practice
Communicate effectively with whatever you have
The second speech is How to Learn the Phonetics of Every Language.
You will learn how to:
Break The “Psychological Filter” to speak like a native
Learn how to identify the key phonetic components of any language
How to leverage your own interests in order to absorb phonetic structures
Learn the right phonetic patterns from the very beginning
Adopt a top-down approach, tackling intonation before pronunciation
How to develop awareness of your own sound production
Come and see for yourself!
If you'd like to attend, and learn from some incredibly-skilled language experts, here is the Neurolanguage learning conference website to get more information. As a special bonus, use promo code ---> LUCACONF2019 to receive a substantial pre-order discount on any "Early Bird - Conference" Tickets.
“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
― Dr. Seuss
As someone who speaks multiple languages, one of the questions I get asked a lot is if I have had many foreign girlfriends.
When I reply that, well, yes, I’ve had my fair share of “foreign romances”, I am always confronted with the inevitable conclusion that THAT must be the reason why I speak so many languages.
Yes, having foreign girlfriends has helped me speak various languages better than I would have otherwise. I’ll even admit that, for a certain period of time, I had convinced myself that that was indeed the reason why I had learned certain languages extremely well.
But in hindsight, I know now that no, it is not romantic partners who make the biggest difference in learning a language.
Don’t get me wrong, they can and do play an important role.
But that’s not what counts the most.
Let me explain:
To me, the act of starting to
learn a foreign language yourself is what makes the difference.
Before, during and after meeting a potential romantic partner.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
Let’s take a step back.
A long step back.
Precisely, 23 years ago.
The Power of Language and Romance
The year is 1996.
A poorly-lit porch on the outskirts of Dublin.
Oh. My. God.
I was kissing a girl!
It was my first time abroad.
I had gone to Ireland with a group of thirty Italians.
The idea was to spend time in an Irish family and go to school every day to improve English.
And that’s what we did.
During those days, I quickly made friends with three other guys from Rome, and we used to hang out a lot.
A week after we had landed in Dublin, these guys had invited me to come with them to get to know some girls in their neighbourhood.
Four of them, four of us.
I remember that when we met the girls, everyone started chatting straight away. Everyone but me, that is. I kept my mouth shut for quite a while.
I remember them saying to each other — thinking we would not understand a word — who was cute and who was, well, less cute.
And I remember as if it were today the shocked faces when I started speaking.
The awkward silence that followed for seconds that seemed like minutes, or hours.
In the end, I found myself kissing this one girl when all the others had left.
It was not exactly the most romantic encounter, it was very physical and very short.
But that encounter made a significant impact on me from that point forward.
Even if I was very young and naive, the power of language had unfolded in front of my eyes.
It is speaking foreign languages, at least at a certain level, that creates opportunities to connect with people romantically.
That spark that changes everything in a moment.
From that moment on, there was no going back.
I knew then that I wanted to live most of my romantic life with foreign girls.
So I know a thing or two about having relationships — short and long — with foreign girls, and I hope you can learn from my experiences, mistakes and all the rest.
Lessons Learned from International Relationships
1. Language learning opens a world of opportunities
In July 2007, I met a French girl, who soon became my girlfriend.
My two friends and I were sitting in the hallway of a hostel, and she was sitting with 2 friends of hers.
I broke the ice by speaking French, and my ability to speak French made a huge difference.
They say that the first impression is key, and I think that it is true.
We ended up staying together for five years.
The first lesson I have learned is that language learningopens immense doors.
2. Languages can help you build a solid and unique relationship with your partner
Language is a great ice breaker, but it also plays a key role when it comes to developing a relationship.
Communication is about so much more than words.
Communication is about facial features, smiles, gestures, phrases said in a certain way, with a certain intonation, and in certain circumstances. And so many other things, as well.
Each language has its own way of being, and it causes us humans to act, think, and be in different ways.
When you speak your foreign partner’s language, (or when he or she hears yours) you are in synchrony. You are in harmony.
Language stops being a barrier, and becomes a trampoline, for leaping over barriers.
3. Build a romantic relationship in your target language right away
The third lesson I learned is that once you start speaking a language with your partner, it is really difficult tomove to another language later.
That’s a crucial point. That’s why, with all the girlfriends I had, I already spoke their language, at least to an intermediate level.
It allowed me to develop my relationship almost exclusively in that language, and that allowed me to quickly improve my skills with time.
If I hadn’t been able to communicate in their language we would have switched to — go figure — English.
Looking back, I can ask the question: would I have learned French, Russian or Polish well, had I not once had a girlfriend who spoke each of those languages?
My honest reply is yes...and no.
Yes, I would have learned the language anyway, because once I decide to start learning a language, I learn it for life.
And no, because when you have a foreign romantic partner, and you want to speak his or her language, you are motivated. Much more so than if you didn’t have one.
You are in a state of mind of openness and curiosity.
And your possibilities of speaking, using and hearing that language multiply.
Most often than not, I ended up visiting (or even living in) in my partner’s country, speaking the language with her, hearing it on the street, getting interested in literature, film, living countless situations, you name it.
You will spend more and more time with the language, and will end up developing great skills as a consequence of exposure, use and curiosity.
But this ONLY happens if you are motivated and open.
Having a girlfriend is not enough, and even when you get opportunities to speak every day, things can get discouraging.
One day you can talk about Kantian philosophy, and the next day, you catch yourself being unable to say the simplest of things.
Naturally, you get frustrated.
Also, it is important to remind yourself that your partner is NOT your teacher, and should not be treated as one.
Sure, your partner can help, encourage and correct you just like in a language exchange, but you will learn and improve your language mostly by yourself.
Through exposure, self reflecting, and experimenting.
I have learned a lot by speaking, asking, being curious.
One thing that really helped was to keep a notebook with me at all times and jot down things on the go.
Small things. Questions that I asked my girlfriend, on and off.
For instance, I have an entire notebook full of notes in Russian. The amazing thing is that I remember almost every word or expression in that notebook, and when and where I learned it.
Meeting the Parents
When you get with someone and the relationship becomes serious, you get the whole package.
And sooner or later, the moment comes when you “meet the parents”.
If you all speak a common language, that’s great!
But what if they don’t?
Most often than not, it turns out that they can’t.
This happened when I met the parents of my girlfriends from France, Russia and Poland.
The great thing was that, thanks to the fact that I speak these languages, things warmed up pretty quickly.
I could not have imagined trying to communicate with them solely in English, or by using my girlfriend as an interpreter.
But I confess to my fair share of embarrassing situations, even when using their language with them directly.
Growing always entails some amount of discomfort, and learning your partner’s language is no exception.
The moment when, in the middle of a table full of relatives, someone asks you something point blank that you don’t understand, and you don’t know what to say.
The moment when you try to say something and you get tongue-tied and your mind goes blank.
The moment when you try to say one thing and end up saying something completely different.
The moment when you mispronounce a word and it turns out to be a curse word, or an insult.
And so on, and so forth.
But it is all part of the game.
You have to accept these mistakes as part of the game. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
And let’s face it, in exchange for a few embarrassing moments and misunderstandings, you will get countless moments of beauty.
And, of course, love.
Learning foreign languages allows you to create incredible opportunities.
When you get a foreign partner, you should aim to speak his or her language at a conversational level if you want to develop your relationship in that language, and improve it.
Speaking your partner’s language is an incredible glue that holds the relationship together, and even improves upon it with time.
Speaking your partner’s language has countless advantages, but learning won’t happen automatically.
You will experience frustration, bad days, and even embarrassing moments.
Meeting the parents and friends is part of being with another person, and it is also part of messing up, and growing as a person and language learner.
To conclude, I love thinking—no pun intended—that the romantic love for a person and languages are like a circle.
If you know more than one language, people will often wonder how you have the brainpower to keep them all in your head, and switch between them at will.
"How the hell do you do that?", I remember being asked.
"Do what?", I said.
"Switch languages! How is it possible?"
The person I was speaking to, a barista by the name of Amilcare, had just seen me switch between French, German, and Italian, all with little effort. He was aghast.
Amilcare's question made me realize that I had never questioned my ability to switch languages; in fact, it had always seemed like second nature, as if I were flipping a switch in my brain. It just clicked.
Your Brain's Natural Language Switch
Years after my conversation at the bar, I learned that the brain really does have a language switch, of sorts. At a language conference in Rome, I learned from cognitive neurologist Jubin Abutalebi that there is a specific region of the brain that allows bilingual people to exert control over known languages. As you speak one language, the brain inhibits other languages from taking over.
You can experience a part of this yourself. If you know two languages, simply try to say a word from one language in the middle of a sentence in the other language.
In Italian, you could say "Voglio mangiare a McDonalds con i miei amici"
If I really try to pronounce "McDonald's" with my American accent, I find it very difficult to complete the sentence in Italian. Once my brain switches from "Italian mode" to "English mode", it's hard to switch right back.
Today, I would like to share three tips that will help you train the "language switch" in your brain so that you, too, can switch languages with ease.
1. Don't Just Speak a Language—Embody It!
Speaking a language is about a lot more than using the right words.
If you've spent a lot of time with people from other cultures, you know this already. If you meet a French speaker from France and a non-native speaker of French from the USA, you'll likely notice that something about the French native just feels more authentically French, even in the moments when he isn't saying anything at all.
There are a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues that make it obvious he is a native speaker, including:
Intonation of words and phrases
The combination of all of these factors createa kind of physicality that is unique to every language. French speakers use a French physicality, American English speakers use an American English physicality, and you use the physicality of your own native language, too—whether you're aware of it or not.
If you're aware of the differences between the native physicality of your target language and that of your own, you'll have a much easier time keeping them separate in your brain. After all, if the two languages physically feel different from one another when you speak them, you'll be much less likely to mix them up.
To do this, you need to study native speakers, and try to embody the language just like they do. So, when you hang out with your foreign friends or you watch a target language movie, take note of the above factors (hand gestures, expressions, etc.) and practice using them whenever you speak, too!
2. Embrace the Sound System of Each Language
Just as every language has its own full-body physicality that incorporates posture, hand movements, and other modes of expression, there's another physical aspect to every language that will help you keep them separate in your mind—the sound system!
Every language has a limited number of sounds, all of which are made using specific movements of the tongue, the lips, the soft palate, and other parts of the mouth and throat.
Small details like these mean that (again) every language should feel differently when spoken, even when pronouncing words that are essentially the same.
Take, for example, these five words:
If you know Spanish and English, you know that these words have the same spelling and meaning in both languages. However, if you know the sound systems of both languages well, you're also aware that the English version is pronounced quite differently from the Spanish version, and vice versa. The difference in feeling and pronunciation is a direct result of the unique sound system of each language.
Become intimately familiar with the sound system of each language, and you will avoid confusing them.
You can even practice this with a fun activity:
Take a text in your target language with a lot of English words and read it aloud. When you read the English words, don't say them as you would in English; instead, practice saying them like a speaker of your target language would.
3. Cultivate a Connection with a Native Speaker
So far, we have focused on developing a unique physical feeling that you can associate with each language you speak. This will keep you from confusing languages, and help you to switch more completely from one to the other when you need to.
There's another type of feeling that can help you switch between languages as well—an emotional feeling.
Here's a quick question to illustrate this point:
What language do you use to speak to your mother?
Take a moment and trying to imagine speaking to your mother in a different language. (If your mother is monolingual, let's pretend for a second that she knows all the same languages you do).
It feels weird, right?
When we have a deep, emotional connection with someone, we subconsciously make language a part of that connection as well. To speak with a loved one in a different language than usual causes a loss of common ground; suddenly you can't use the same expressions you're used to, and you're less able to predict what they would say. They feel like a different person, even though all you did was switch languages.
Human beings have a natural tendency to associate languages with people. That's why, for example, international couples often stick to using the language that they first used with each other, even if one partner learns the other language later.
To improve your ability to switch languages, you need to connect each language you know with a specific person. That way when you see that person, your brain automatically switches to the common language, and completely deactivates any irrelevant ones.
If you want to improve your ability to switch languages, it is important to realize that you've already got all the brainpower you need. Your brain is hard-wired to do this automatically.
All you need to do is practice, and make it a habit.
A good way to do this is through an experiment:
If you have someone who you share a pair of languages with, practice switching languages, sentence by sentence.
You say something in Language 1, she says something in Language 2.
She says something in Language 2, you say something in language 1.
And back and forth, until it becomes second nature for you too.
You can watch a video of me doing this with famed Neurolanguage Coach Rachel Paling here.
How Polyglots Switch Languages - YouTube
Speaking of Neurolanguage Coaching, this year's iteration of the annual Neurolanguage Coaching Conference is soon upon us.
Last year I attended this great conference as a speaker, and this year I'm also organizing. If you'd like to attend, and learn from some incredibly-skilled language experts, click here to get more information. As a special bonus, use promo code ---> LUCACONF2019 to receive a substantial pre-order discount on tickets.
"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." – Michael Jordan
What if I told you that you can learn to speak a language fluently through the Internet, and that you can do it quickly and easily from the comfort of your own home?
Well, there is a way.
It is called a language exchange.
A language exchange is well, an exchange. It is a collaboration you establish with a person to practice your respective target languages.
Thirty minutes of your language for another thirty minutes of his or hers. Hell, even 1 hour. 2 hours each, if you like it.
Time literally flies when you enjoy what you are doing, doesn’it?
And time literally does fly whenever I have a language exchange in Hungarian, Polish or Greek.
I literally have a blast, and on top of that, I learn tons.
Let me know show you how you can have a blast too.
The Dream of Speaking is Just One Click Away
What looked like a dream was within reach.
Actually, to be precise, it was one click away.
That’s what I realized when, in 2012, I started learning Polish after a short visit to the country.
In Poznan, a nice Polish city, I made friends with Michal, a passionate language learner and a nice guy.
As soon as I got back to Rome, I decided to have a weekly chat with him, one-on one.
We would exchange my French for his Polish.
All we needed to do was meet on Skype, chat, and keep going.
But let me backtrack for a second.
I was lucky enough that I met a person in real life and then moved on speaking with him through the Internet.
Meeting foreigners is relatively easy for me, since I live in continental Europe and travel quite a lot.
But finding a person who speaks your target language in real life (and having a language exchange on the Internet) might not be that easy.
That’s where the Internet changed everything.
Nowadays all you need to do is to learn:
Where to search
Who to search for
How to establish a language exchange
How to make it last.
Let’s take a look at these together.
The Places to Meet New Friends
The Internet is a treasure trove to find pretty much everything you want, and language learning is no exception.
In particular, there are countless places where you can find people to have a language exchange with.
There are so many websites, in fact, that it would be counterproductive to list them all here.
So, for the sake and brevity, let me just point to those which I’ve used myself, to great effect:
Italki is a platform of online tutors, but it is also a real online community. So you can choose to find a teacher, a tutor, or a language partner (also known as a language tandem). You can have formal or informal chats, and the great thing is that you can take a look at people’s profiles, and even read reviews and comments from other users on teacher profiles.
Also, most teachers have videos where you can see the person actually speaking - which is an easy way to assess whether that person might be a good fit for you.
Conversation Exhange is a simple platform where you can find people. The cool thing is that you can use filters to find people who are willing to help you with your target language in exchange for yours and you can even filter those who live in your own city, and potentially meet them in real life.
The Person Whom You Talk to Counts
Never forget that the Internet is just a tool.
The best resource you have is and always will be human beings.
Let your language tandem be than more just a person you talk to for the sake of learning a foreign language.
In Polish, I have shared with my exchange partner my frustrations when my love story was not taking the turn I expected.
In Hungarian, I’ve enthusiastically described the beauty of space travel and landing on unknown worlds with my Hungarian tutor.
In Russian, I’ve shared daydreams about learning many languages and exploring the world with my friend Amir.
I have understood that it is not language that drives emotions, but emotions that drive language.
Let your language tandem be your source of inspiration when you are willing to learn, your source of comfort, when you are sad, and someone you can share your thoughts, hopes, and dreams with. And the other way around.
Share yourself and let your language tandem share himself or herself with you.
That’s why it is absolutely paramount that you find a person who is nice, willing to give and not just take, and who is reliable.
Take the proper time to find someone who is your perfect fit. You won’t always find them on the first try, though, so if you’re unsure about your partner, don’t hesitate to move forward and look for another one if you need to.
Let’s look at a few ways you can make sure that happens.
Making a Language Deal
Finding a person to talk to online is pretty easy, but finding someone whom you like and who works well with you can be quite difficult.
Once you have found a platform you like, make sure that:
You build a good profile
You send the right messages
A good profile should be:
Let me show you examples of both good and bad language exchange profiles.
Here’s a short one:
Hi. I am Luca. I would like to practice English and I can help you with Italian in exchange.
I understand that people’s attention span has dramatically dropped in recent times, this type of profile is so brief that it provides hardly any useful information at all. I have read countless times profiles where the person has left the bare minimum of information because, well, they probably they didn’t feel like writing that much.
But ten more minutes invested in crafting an appealing profile can make a huge difference in the long run. You should think of your user profile on any platform as an investment for the future. You never know who is out there looking to find someone just like you.
Ok, now, what about a longer profile?
Hi. I am Luca. I would like to practice English and I can help you with Italian in exchange. I live in Rome if you want to meet and have a cup of coffee!
This is better, but still, not very interesting.
What about this one?
Hi. I’m Luca! I was born and raised in Rome, Italy. I am a passionate language learner who LOVES meeting new people and talking about pretty much everything, especially cosmology, languages, history, and psychology! I believe that every person is a universe well worth exploring. I would be thrilled to speak to you on Skype or—even better—to meet with you in person here in Rome so we can explore my beautiful city together. If you speak Russian, Hungarian, Polish or Greek don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
A bit more appealing, don’t you think?
Look at other people’s profile for inspiration and ask yourself: after reading this profile, do I feel like contacting this person?
You should ask yourself that when you craft your own profile.
Reaching Out to Potential Exchange Partners
Writing a good profile is important, but you can’t expect people to flock to you just because you wrote a few facts about yourself. Things simply don’t work this way.
What you need to do is be proactive and take the time to look for people and send them messages.
Have you noticed how I have made sure I have added personal information in the last profile I have written?
Think about it.
That is not merely an exercise to share who I am. I am literally leaving “hooks” that inspire people to contact me. Specifically, I like to leave references to my passions, hobbies, and general interests so that people who share those things are motivated to get in touch.
Take the time to identify two to three people you really would like to have an exchange with. Look at their profiles and write in a personal way.
In particular, you should avoid the mistake of making one single message and sending it to lots of people at once. Instead, use information found on a person’s profile to create a unique message, just for them.
For example, if you discover in a girl’s profile that she loves cooking, you should make it clear that you’ve read her profile by actually mentioning cooking within your message.
Something as simple as: “Hey! I see you like to cook! Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies, too” can make a huge difference.
On a final note, I wanted to add that sometimes even the nicest message won’t earn you a reply from the people you contact.
If you get a refusal or simply no response, don’t take it personally, and just keep looking. People tend to have their own reasons for not replying—which, for the most part, have nothing to do with you.
Making the Language Deal Last
Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve found someone to talk to and you’ve both established a time to do the language exchange.
Now all you need to do is speak to them, with purpose.
Let me share some tips on how to make your chats literally memorable and how to make them last for a long time.
Here are a few not-so-obvious things to keep in mind when you have a language exchange.
1. Be Willing to Both Give and Receive Language Help
It is easy to forget that you are doing a language exchange. Your language tandem is not a tutor, teacher or coach. It’s not their job to just sit there and help you—they’re there because they would like some help, too.
So, make sure that you never lose sight of the fact that both of you should get value out of the time you spend together.
Be willing to give and not just take.
For example, make sure that every session has equal amounts of time dedicated to each language.
Prepare and be willing to share experiences, cultural insights, funny differences between your culture and your tandem’s, just to name a few. This generates a sense of fairness which fuels collaboration and a sense of reward on both sides.
2. Try to Meet at Least Once Per Week
Language learning is a marathon, never a sprint. In order to get good at speaking, you have to speak.
So, get into the perspective of seeing this as a long-term collaboration. To make it as fruitful as possible, you have to make it happen on a weekly basis.
Aim to meet at least once a week. Twice would be ideal.
Take the time to think beforehand on which times you want to make it happen and make sure that this is a great time for both.
Deciding on a time beforehand saves the time and energy to have to decide every week and constantly change or shift times.
3. Prepare Before Each Language Exchange Session
There is a surprising amount of people who simply have a language exchange without doing any kind of preparation beforehand, or any review afterwards.
This is usually because we treat chatting in a foreign language the same as we do in our native language. You don’t prepare anything before chatting with a friend at a bar, do you?
However, it’s one thing to casually chat over a beer, and another thing entirely to chat with the goal of improving your language skills.
Preparing your sessions can greatly impact the way language exchanges work. Preparing gives exchanges structure, and makes things easier and smoother for both you and your language partner.
There are countless ways to prepare for a language exchange, but for the sake of brevity, let me share just one:
Choose a topic you want to talk about and look up a few target language words that you think might be relevant to the conversation. Then try to use these words when chatting with your partner.
Do it and check what difference it makes!
4. Find a Place to Mutually Store and Share Exchange Notes
Another thing that can make a lot of difference is to set up a common space where to write things, corrections or suggestions. Often, people leave feedback on the chat of Skype or Google Hangout, with the result that information gets spread out and it is difficult to save or inconvenient to retrieve.
A very easy, fast and very convenient way to set things up is simply create a common Google Doc file. With Google Docs, you can write everything in a single, shared location that is easily accessible for both you and your partner—and you can do it live, during your chat!
5. Record and Review Every Session
Repeating things helps a lot. So, on top of having your language partner write everything on the Google Doc, make sure that you also record the audio of each session. In this way you have script and audio that you can review a few days later.
This is crucial if you want to easily reinforce what you are learning, because we tend to forget 80 if not 90% of what we learn unless we repeat it.
The Perfect Language Exchange in 5 Steps - YouTube
Making it Happen
So there you have it.
A language exchange is a fantastic way to improve your language skills.
Nowadays, it is possible to have a language exchange wherever you are by using the Internet.
You can find countless platforms which give you the possibility of finding your ideal language tandem.
The Internet is just a means to an end, the most important resource is, and will always be, human beings.
Make sure you find your optimal language tandem by building an attractive and detailed user profile, and make sure you select a number of people whom you want to make an exchange with.
Send a few catchy messages, be patient, and see who responds.
Once you have found the person you’re looking for, make sure that you organize things in advance, both in terms of scheduling and the structure of each meeting.
Make sure that you have language exchanges every week, and aim to keep doing them over the long-term.
Transform language exchange into a human exchange, an experience in which learning your respective language is a consequence of learning about yourself, about your tandem and about your respective languages.
Make your language dream come true, one language exchange at a time.