“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”—Zig Ziglar
It’s a solid truth: To reach the finish line, you must begin the race.
For language learners, the goal—or finish line—is clear. We want to be able to communicate in our target language. After all, that’s why we’re in this game, right?
Most of us want to hit that line as soon as possible. Like, yesterday!
Sometimes, our rush to fluency is motivated by a new job, upcoming travel, income potential, time crunch or even purely for pleasure. Who knows? Sometimes it’s all about romance! Whatever the reason for learning, sometimes we need some solid language skills, ASAP.
Am I describing your situation? Do you want to learn a new language—fast?
No worries if you do! It’s okay to be impatient or hurried out of desire or necessity. Many of us have stood in your spot!
Lace-up those running shoes and prepare to dash to the language finish line. We’ve got six powerful tips and some excellent resources to learn languages fast that’ll help you grab for the gold.
I won’t lie: This isn’t going to be easy. But I promise you, it’s definitely possible to learn a language fast. You probably won’t be fluent following a sprint learning situation, but you should be reasonably conversational.
I speak from experience. I was in your shoes a few years ago, with a time crunch to learn a language that I had absolutely no experience with. I became conversant in a really short time—30 days—so I have no doubt that if you want this badly enough, you’ll get it.
Enough chitchat. The clock is ticking.
Let’s see how to make this happen!
Want to Learn a Language Fast? These 6 Steps Will Get You There in a Flash
1. Start Speaking Right Away
Think about how you learned your native language. Or, if you can’t recall, just visualize the process as it occurred for any child you know. How did the adults in their life encourage language acquisition?
That’s right! Everyone nudged the child to speak. Why? Because it’s the natural way we learn languages.
Don’t fret over “getting it right” at the start. Correct pronunciation, vocabulary acquisition and all the other components will evolve with time. Just begin with a few phrases or words—and use them!
Learn by example with FluentU
FluentU is basically immersion brought to learners. The program takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
If your goal is to speak naturally, you’ll find FluentU to be an excellent speaking practice tool.
You’ll be able to pick up common phrases and words as they’re actually used by native speakers of your target language. Interactive subtitles mean you’ll never miss a word, while adaptive quizzes will help you actually learn these words and phrases and add them to your language toolbox quickly and effectively.
The authentic content here will also provide you with the opportunity to get a feel for the sound and cadence of the language. Since native speakers model the pronunciation, this is also an ideal way to grasp the sound of each word. No more guessing about which vowels are hard or whether you need to roll a consonant!
Use the accurate subtitles and transcripts here to practice your speaking. Start by pausing and repeating. Then, use the shadowing technique to speak along with the video. Finally, use the transcript to try speaking the lines on your own. For optimal learning, record yourself speaking, then compare your version to the original video.
2. Set SMART Goals
SMART is the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
Sure, you could say that your goal is to “learn a language fast.” But let’s be realistic here. You probably won’t attain fluency in an abbreviated time frame.
So, what exactly are you trying to learn? Do you need some basic meet-and-greet conversational skills for business? Is it imperative to learn some day-to-day topics in order to get by in a new location? Whatever your goals, make them as specific as possible, then use the SMART acronym to ensure that you can reach them.
Stay motivated with a sample a SMART goal plan:
Specific: “I want to be able to have a basic 10-minute conversation in my target language with a native speaker.”
Measurable: This is your blueprint for success with measurable factors that’ll lead up to your overall goal.
Think about all the smaller steps it’ll take to get there. “I’ll learn the 100 most common core vocabulary words, memorize the 30 most common conversational phrases, study basic present tense grammar and practice once a week with my language exchange partner.”
Attainable: Is your goal attainable? Theoretically, yes. But it’s up to you to determine whether you’re willing to work for it. Look at your goal and measurable sub-goals and make sure you realistically have the time in your schedule to fit in the studying. If you don’t, you might have to revise your plan.
Relevant: The “why?” of your language program. This should be meaningful to you. It’s your reason for embarking on this adventure! For example: “I’m meeting my cousin from overseas in two months and I want to be able to have a conversation with him in his language.” Of course, your reason will be unique to you!
Timely: Give yourself a realistic timeline for attaining this goal. “I’ll complete this goal within two months.” Check in every week or two to see your progress and make amends to any part of your SMART goal so you can stay on track.
3. Use a Course to Guide Your Learning
Language learning programs are comprised of many things: courses, scheduling the time to learn, reading, writing and listening materials and lots of other add-ons. I always think of this as my equipment for successful language learning.
One of the most vital pieces of equipment is a solid course. There are so many excellent language courses out there, with their own benefits and drawbacks—and while lots are great for long-haul language learning, only a few cater to those who want to pick up language skills rapidly.
While you can start a long-term course to maintain your learning in the future, learning a language fast will require finding the right course to get you there. Look for courses that don’t get bogged down in details and are instead intended for rapid language acquisition.
Get conversational quickly with Speed Learning Languages
Speed Learning Languages is, as the name implies, designed for rapid learning.
There are five languages available to download, so the course can be accessed anywhere—even without an internet connection. This portability, coupled with having everything right at hand all the time, makes this an ideal choice!
This course is audio-heavy, with an emphasis on the proper pronunciation of core vocabulary and conversational speaking. Language learners start speaking with the very first lesson, which is an important step for success.
Vocabulary repetition within the audio material builds upon words and phrases previously introduced for an effective foundational approach. Each unit contains review sections as well, so learners can gauge their progress and check on their evolving skills.
4. Go Intensive
Intensive courses are designed for fast learning. They typically offer full-day sessions with lessons back to back. There’s little downtime with these courses; they’re challenging but learners can benefit from this approach faster than with traditional courses.
There are a few online options for intensive language courses, but be aware that you’ll have to keep yourself accountable for actually using them for intensive learning (after all, there’s no teacher breathing down your neck!).
To find local options, check with colleges and universities in your area, which often offer intensive language courses. Some even offer them during summer sessions, which may help you slide language learning into your schedule with minimal fuss.
If you’re unable to find a course nearby and are looking to mimic an intensive course at home, consider your program materials. Intensive courses are challenging, so look for learning resources that’ll stretch your skills. Plan for lots of language time, switching up resources once in a while to eliminate boredom while still pulling a ton of learning opportunities.
Make the language goal your priority and pack as much practice as you possibly can into your program!
Attend intensive classes with Berlitz
Berlitz offers an intensive online program with several options.
Learners have the option to choose either private classes or group online classes: You can study on your own online or enroll in intensive, one-on-one immersion classes.
It’s an excellent resource with a time-tested method for teaching languages that caters to learners who want an intensive course experience—what’s not to love?
When you consider Berlitz, remember that they offer both at-home and abroad study options!
5. Immerse Yourself in the Language
Immersion is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to get up to speed on a language in a short amount of time. Being surrounded by a language and culture 24/7—and required to grab conversational skills in order to get food or navigate in unfamiliar surroundings—brings a new level of motivation to the table.
It isn’t always necessary to leave home to achieve an immersive experience. FluentU, for instance, brings immersion to learners—and it’s also possible to create an immersive atmosphere in your own home using other methods.
Invite your target language into all aspects of your life.
Play music at the gym, in the car and during dinner. Sing along!
Try out some foreign restaurants if you’re in an area where they’re available.
Go to foreign-language movies and events. And don’t simply attend events—speak with anyone you meet who speaks the language you’re studying!
However, if you’re able to do it, grab your passport and go the abroad immersion route for fast-track learning. Studying abroad is an option that should never be discounted!
Learn fast with Intensive Language Course at Sprachcaffe
This program offers the chance for rapid learning at language schools across the globe.
All levels of learner are accommodated and the minimum commitment for studying with them is one week.
Immerse yourself with EF Immersion Schools
These global language study programs welcome adults, high school and college students or professionals who want to learn a language in an immersive setting.
Courses and locations vary. There are two-week programs as well as courses that last several months. Accommodations, pricing and schedules are contingent on location but all offer unique cultural insights and activities along with a truly immersive experience.
6. Have Some Fun!
A good language program is a combination of resources. When you’re learning flat-out, with no time to spare, there’s no limit to the resources you should consider.
And that means you can have some fun with it! You can even learn by playing games in your target language. They don’t need to be expensive or complicated—consider old standbys like “Hangman” or “Scrabble.” Both adapt well to foreign languages!
Make learning catchy with Earworms MBT
Earworms MBT (Musical Brain Trainer) is software that’s available as a download or CD, accompanied by a phrase booklet.
This isn’t an in-depth add-on, but rather focuses on basic skills, like travel and everyday conversations. It’s a great option for a supplementary, fun program to your learning routine.
Wondering why it’s called Earworms? I did, too! These are language lessons set to background music—the “earworm” part. That makes them catchy and easier to remember. Pretty cool!
Turn study time into a game with Duolingo
Duolingo is another add-on resource that’ll give you a little extra language learning, provide a game-like experience and help fill in the odd moments when you’re not busy.
It’s fun, the sessions are uncomplicated and you’ll gain enough from this to plump up your conversational skills. The vocabulary potential alone is worth adding this resource to your program!
So, are you ready to learn a language fast?
As legendary baseball player Roger Clemens once said, “I think anything is possible if you have the mindset and the will and desire to do it.”
Baseball and language learning are similar. To succeed, you need to work hard, play fast and learn well.
It’s absolutely possible to learn a foreign language rapidly if you have the mindset, drive and sufficient resources. It might not always be easy, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
Decide what language you’re going to speed learn, choose your equipment and prepare to make it happen.
But get moving—the finish line is waiting!
Have fun and good luck!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.