How to Fail Epically at Self-teaching Any Language

Have you heard the crazy idea that learning a language should be fun?

I’m writing this post because I’m greatly concerned.

This whole “fun learning” business is really an epidemic that’s catching like wildfire among language learners.

Learning is fun?

What a preposterous and nonsensical claim!

No, learning is a serious endeavor and the word “fun” has absolutely no place in it.

My hope is that I’m not too late and you haven’t bought into this “fun” movement.

I’ll give you 6 tips to save yourself from all this nonsense. Please take them to heart and follow my admonitions to the letter. They’re your keys to fun-free language learning–the keys to the salvation of your very soul.

How to Fail at Self-teaching Any Language: 6 Tips for the Modern Bore

1. Only Read Thick, Musty Books Printed Before the 1840s

Ever heard of these things called e-books and apps?

They tempt you by claiming that they’re effective, engaging, cheap, portable—which, in fairness, they really are—but they’re still no match for those printed before the 1840s.

E-books are literally everywhere, and they’re often free!

self teach language

Apps are language learning fun-meisters that make language acquisition as painless and as smooth as possible. One of the most effective ones is Duolingo.

One look at Duolingo’s green owl logo and you know things are gonna be light. Well, surprise, surprise—the site claims exactly that it’s “fun” and “addicting.” That is, gamification is integrated into every lesson and every page and, before you know it, you’re already learning and having fun at the same time.

self teach language

FluentU is another major player in the fun movement.

Imagine, they take real-life videos of, say, two friends having dinner, and they turn it into a language lesson! And not only that, FluentU even goes above and beyond to make things fun by providing cool videos like “Guardians of the Galaxy Clips,” “The Hunger Games” trailers, wildlife documentaries, cartoons and more. There’s something that could tempt any of the most seriously language learners.

Watch out for these landmines. Your safest bet is the fun-free books printed before the 1840s. Don’t worry that they’re super huge, heavy and bad for your back. Chicks dig a crooked spine!

2. Just Say “No” to Videos

In addition to FluentU, other types of video learning methods can breed this brand of educational entertainment.

Whether they’re in the form of movies, telenovelas or a YouTube clip, these videos mean only one thing: engaged learning. So be on the look out. You’ll never know that you’re already both learning and having fun.

We bores need to protect our reputations, you know.

So say “no” to videos. Don’t ever believe the stacks of peered-reviewed and scientific journal and experiments that prove that using technology can make for more effective language acquisition. Don’t be swayed simply because they’re peddled by PhD holders and scientists from the most reputable universities and institutions in the world.

Go for real books printed before the 1840s.

3. Remember: Music Is for Pansies

Can you believe the language courses these days? They actually incorporate music into the lessons!

Just because some scientists studying the human brain says music underlies language acquisition doesn’t mean you should believe it.

Music is really just a distraction. Instead of force feeding the lessons into your head, your mood gets elevated and you feel a little giddy. Your fingers start tapping to the sound. Your head begins bobbing too! And not long after that, your body is swaying to the beat.

So instead of being a totally respectable and stuck up language learner, you become this happy weirdo gyrating his/her body to some music, shouting out catchy song lyrics in your target language.

Well, if you really want to be that lame, go ahead. Learn Spanish with music. Learn French as well. Enjoy at your own risk. In fact, if you want to learn more about music and language acquisition, check out this post.

4. Incubate Inside Your Room

self teach language

Learning is a marathon. It’s supposed to be hard. And it’s meant to be done alone.

Being alone in your room and going through heavy books builds your character. You become stronger, you become self-sufficient. So don’t be a sissy and ask for the help of anyone. You’re a big boy (or girl), so why ask for help?

self teach language

Others who aren’t as strong-willed as you go on sites like: italki, Livemocha, Busuu and The Mixxer.

These are all community sites for language learners. When you get on these sites, you might find someone you can chat with, Skype with or even learn with. Eventually you’ll get friends who will, in turn, encourage you and, God forbid, even make the lessons fun.

self teach language

Who would ever want that?

Learning is best when you’re in the comforts of a room, alone. So go at it by yourself. Don’t look for language learning partners. They’re really only interested in your snacks.

5. Force Yourself to Fluency in 3 Hours

How long does it take to learn a new language?

Some say 3 months, others 6 months.

Others have even put forward the idea that it takes a total of 10,000 hours for a person to be really good at anything. But for me? Three hours. That’s all it really takes to master a language.

(If you’re a little a slow, maybe add another 30 minutes.)

Nothing to it. Don’t believe the studies that highlight the importance of pacing and sequencing in effective learning. Don’t believe what scientists have found: supposedly that cramming doesn’t work.

Oh well, if you really insist on doing the opposite of everything I’m telling you here, this is what you need to do: don’t cram for language acquisition. Immerse yourself in the lessons and get into situations where you can naturally practice what you’ve learned. Don’t be a hero and try to do everything in one sitting.

Pace yourself. Have ample time for breaks during your learning sessions.

Sequence your lessons properly. That means starting with the easiest language tasks and progressing to lessons that are only marginally more difficult than the previous one. Think: challenging but doable. Don’t skip directly to intermediate lessons, thinking you’ll learn the basics along the way. Nope, it doesn’t work that way, Jose. Unless you’ve laid a strong foundation, all your future learnings will be shifting sand.

If you do these, you’ll start having fun…(don’t say you’ve never been warned) and may God have mercy on your linguistic soul.

6. Shun the Help of Intrusive Native Speakers

Ohhhhh, native speakers.

They’re all so stuck up with their sexy Spanish accents and their seductive French pronunciations. They’re all like, “You want to learn my language? Let me help you, mademoiselle.”

They’re all so full of themselves.

self teach language

Run away from the native speakers and avoid sites like at all costs.

God forbid you might meet the natives and they might teach you something more than your textbooks, tainting your learning experience. They might share their culture with you, or tell you funny or interesting events in their nation’s history. They might give you local knowledge that could lead you to the best restaurants and the most interesting sites in their home city.

And the result of all of this?self teach language

Fun, of course!

So avoid sites like You might really begin to appreciate the culture and ultimately fall in love with the language. And it’ll be the end of you.


Speaking of the end, those are the 6 powerful tips to squeeze all the fun out of self-teaching any language. I know they’ll serve you well in the future. So spread the word, tell everybody you know and spare them this “fun” disease that’s spreading all over.

But in the end, the choice is still yours. If, however, in spite of all my admonitions, you still want to have fun (ooooh, that gives me the shivers), then do the exact opposite of what I told you here. It’s your choice. I just did my part, the rest is up to you!

So, what’s it gonna be?

And One More Thing...

If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.

With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:

FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.

Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.

You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You get a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.

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