7 Language Learning Hacks

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Many people wish to learn a new language. What do successful language learners do differently? We won’t lie; persistance and determination is key. That said, these clever language learning hacks can make learning another language easier. Why not give them a try?

Tap Into Your Inner Child

Children’s books, children’s shows and children’s songs teach basic vocabulary in a fun, easy-to-grasp format. If it’s a story or song you’re already familiar with, you might be surprised at how many words you can decipher on your own.

David Bailey, the CEO of Spotnight, didn’t know how to speak French when he arrived in France to stay with a friend. 17 days later, he was able to hold a conversation. As part of his language learning endeavor, he read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in French.

Apply the Pareto Principle

Entrepreneur and internet guru Tim Ferriss is a big fan of the Pareto Principle: 80% of the results you get comes from 20% of the effort you put in. How does that apply to language learning?

According to Ferriss, you should focus on learning the most frequently spoken and most frequently written vocabulary words first. For example, he notes that 65% of all written English is made up of the same 300 words. So, learning just those 300 words gives you a tremendous head start!

Look For Cognates and Loanwords

This tip comes from Benny Lewis, an Irish author and “language hacker” who speaks seven languages fluently. He recommends checking for commonly used cognates and loanwords in the language you’re trying to learn.

“Cognates” are words that sound similar in both languages.

"Loanwords" are words that have been incorporated from one language into another, though often with minor changes in pronunciation.

Start Talking- Now

You can spend years memorising vocabulary lists, but to learn a language you have to practise speaking it. When? According to Benny Lewis, there’s no time like the present:

Lewis recommends hopping on Skype to chat with native speakers in the language you’re learning. 

Use Spaced Repetition to Learn Vocabulary

Opera singer Gabriel Wyner has taught himself four languages to date, and wrote a book on language learning called "Fluent Forever". One of his secrets is using “spaced repetition” to ensure he spends the most time practising the words he’s having the most trouble with. 

A "spaced repetition" system uses flashcards (real or virtual), and organises them so that you spend the most time looking at the words you’re having difficulty learning.

Learn How to Listen with Minimal Pair Testing

“Minimal pairs” are words that differ by just one sound. According to Gabriel Wyner, listening to these word pairs and learning to distinguish between them makes it easier to distinguish between unfamiliar sounds in your target language.

Tell A Story

The key to learning a foreign language? Never overlook an opportunity to practise – even if only in your mind. In fact, thinking in your target language is an important part of becoming fluent. So, as you go on throughout your day, tell a story about everything you see and do, in the language you’re trying to learn.

March, 2023

Posted by Oxford Language Club

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