Fluent in 3 months language missions: Frequently Asked Questions

As the site grows and I get more comments and more e-mails, I’m starting to see a pattern of the same questions emerging. So I thought I’d simply collect several issues in this post and answer them in FAQ style.

If you have any other questions related to the website or my language projects (keeping in mind that actual learning strategies are covered in depth in the Language Hacking Guide and in various posts – just go through the archives to find out :) ) feel free to ask in the comments below! I’ll edit this post to include any comments that ask questions that many people would be likely to want to know.

Why is this blog called Fluent in 3 months? Are you promising a magic pill and why is 3 the magic number?

The name of the blog causes a lot of confusion for people when they first arrive on my site. I’m not promising any special time line for people studying a language; doing so would be ridiculous because the amount of work people put in is too varied. Most people take years to learn just the basics of a language because they do it so wrong, so of course a claim of “3 months” would sound arrogant to them.

It’s called “Fluent in 3 months” because I move to a new country, usually for about 3 months and I tend to aim to speak the local language fluently. The name of the blog is from my objectives in both travel and language learning. This blog documents my own language learning journeys and shares the ideas that make it all possible.  The title of the blog is an objective not a promise of a magic solution for all.

Three months is not some magic number, it just happens to be the time I like to spend in a country, so whatever I do, I have to reach whatever my target is by approximately this time.

Having said that, people following my advice have indeed started speaking much quicker. The idea of aiming high in a short time is an important part of what I propose people try.

What will your next language be?

Every two or three months I take on a new language mission. I only announce it on the blog as the mission begins, but I do give advance notice of a couple of weeks in the e-mail list. So sign up to the Language Hacking League on the right of the site and you’ll be the first to know! The current mission is always indicated in the top-right of the blog.

I will otherwise never answer the question in comments or e-mails because I like to keep people in suspense ;)

Hi, I’m professor know-it-all and I see that you have learned almost only Indo-European languages. Have you avoided Asian and African languages because a) You are a scared little girl or b) You are lazy and can’t stand the challenge?

Hello Mr. Linguist. There are many reasons to want to learn a language and, unfortunately for academics, impressing you is not why I do it. My language choices depend entirely on wanting to immerse myself in a local culture. I have been travelling for almost eight years and wanted to get to know Europe and the Americas as well as possible first.

I will learn other languages soon as I expand on my travels, but from my one weekend of speaking Thai and two months of speaking Hungarian (neither of which are Indo European languages) I can see that the communicative speak-immediately approach will work just as effectively for me with all languages. The concept of hardest language is B.S., and learning anything just to impress people shows a very weak ego. If you get gratification from ticking language-branches off a list rather than appreciating the use of the actual languages with human beings, so be it, but that’s not me.

I will indeed be taking on Asian languages, but I will also be continuing to learn other European languages. Those missions will likely have a twist to them (like sitting a hard exam etc.) so that it isn’t a straightforward challenge in that case, but calling me “lazy” for taking on what is indeed a challenge of getting through an entirely new means of communication and the mountain of hard work involved, even if a similar language gives me a slight edge, is a very narrow minded way of thinking.

I think you should learn Chinese/Japanese/Swahili/Klingon/Ancient Egyptian/Penguin/binary… as your next language! It has 67 grammatical cases, 47 tones, 7 genders, the world’s most complicated conjugation and you need to perform differential calculus just to have adjectives agree with nouns! That would really prove to the doubters that your method worked!

I don’t take language suggestions. I already have destinations I am interested in travelling to and because I will be surrounded by people who speak that language, I will learn it so I can get to know them better.

I have no interest whatsoever in learning a language because of its grammar. Complicated grammar or tones etc. doesn’t scare me – I see it as totally irrelevant in the decision making process. I am a traveller, not a linguist, so listing grammar points is a horrible way to make a “sales pitch” to me.

However, I have indeed been convinced by people to take on particular languages because they spoke to me about the culture of the destination, especially emphasising how I would personally enjoy living there for 3 months based on the price of living, how friendly the locals are, how much they like to go out and dance, their sense of humour, if a vegetarian could find work-arounds, if I can find a nice flat with Internet easily etc. I also prefer cities over small towns, so the pace of life in particular cities is quite important to me.

I am interested in discovering new cultures, while staying sane with some aspects of socialising and life in general that I can find more universally. So talk about that if you want me to think about learning the language.

Benny, for a language guy you sure make a lot of spelling mistakes. It’s ‘practice’ not ‘practise’!!

I am Irish and in Ireland we use a spelling standard that is similar to British English and not the same as in America. Practice is the noun (Get some practice) and practise is the verb (to practise a language). Because of my Irish English dialect, I may also say that someone “has” a language rather than speaks it and use turns of phrase that look strange to those who are unfamiliar with it.

I do indeed make real mistakes – it’s bound to happen considering how much I write – but please do your research and make sure that you are not correcting perfectly good English that just happens to not be your dialect.

Why do you talk about motivation and meeting people so much, isn’t this a language blog? Where’s the grammar and course recommendations?

This is not a blog “about languages”. There are many of those and they do an excellent job.

This is a blog about my own particular language missions, usually aiming for fluency, usually in 3 months or less (hence the title). In doing so I am happy to give the reasons why I can do it and most of this blog is written to me as if my 21 year old self could read it and see what’s the most important. It’s a blog about speaking languages.

And the most important thing to reach fluency in a language quickly is not lots of studying; it’s having motivation and confidence, and figuring out how to meet people who speak it. I will occasionally write about specific language grammar and vocabulary like I did in Czech, German and Hungarian, but even with the best grammar short-cuts you’ll never speak a language if the rest of your approach is wrong.

Over on the Facebook page, Victor says: Hi! I am aspiring to become a linguist, but it seems you have something against them/us. You don’t seem to be one to generalize, but I have noticed that you quite often use the word “linguist” in a manner I’d consider derogative, so I thought I’d ask you why that is.

I was going to answer him but Randy beat me to it with the best response: I get the sense that Benny sees “linguists” in a similar way to how professional athletes see sports journalists… or the way that filmmakers view film critics. It’s one thing to know all the details and study and have references and facts …and a doctorate thesis… but it’s a completely different thing to actually speak the language.

How do you not mix your languages up?

This is a good question and one I will write a blog post about (Edit: here it is!). Any other questions about my learning strategy have likely been covered in detail in previous posts or the Language Hacking Guide.

Any other questions? Suggestions for a topic you’d like to see me blog about? Ask me in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer! :)



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  • http://www.yearlyglot.com/ Randy the Yearlyglot

    I’m looking forward to your explanation of differential calculus.
    Also, as a fluent speaker of binary, I would just like to add that:

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Haha, you actually DID write something in binary :P Another language suggestion!! Aaargh lol

    • Anonymous


      • http://www.yearlyglot.com/ Randy the Yearlyglot


  • http://twitter.com/Vessy_vk Vesna

    I just wanna say that I love your answer to the person who called you lazy. :)
    And my question: did you ever think about learning Slovenian, or just visiting Slovenia? Cause if you didn’t, you should. :P

    Greetings from Slovenia ;)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      I have not yet considered learning Slovenian. I may some day, but to convince me you’re going to have to do way better than “you should”! ;)

      • http://twitter.com/Vessy_vk Vesna

        Ok :)
        Here we go:
        – Slovenia is a beautiful country, its small, but we have everything you could want (the only thing we don’t have is a desert)
        – people are nice here and a lot of us speak foreign languages, so you could practise here as well :)
        – its not an expensive country (you should come to Maribor though, its cheaper than the capitol Ljubljana)
        – we have a lot of culture and history
        – out of all the slavic languages I think that Slovenian is the nicest
        – you would get internet here ;)

        Just to name a couple of things, but you could find many more reasons to come. :)

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

          You forgot to mention the really cute girls! ;)

          I have met Slovenians and found them to be lots of fun, and it would certainly be an interesting time to live there for a few months! So I’ll definitely think about it ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Yes, that post should be coming soon enough! ;) I also had that habit, but my approach is effective enough to not mix them up any more!

  • Guest


    (That’s in base 64)

  • http://twitter.com/Staeld Stæld

    I’m a 16 year old guy who’s interested in languages. My motivation is to know more about them, how they work and how they relate, and not necessarily the immediate use of the languages – so I guess I differ from you at that point. I studied a little Old Norse grammar and vocabulary because I wanted to see how Norwegian has developed and from whence certain expressions come from – I learnt a lot about my own language that way.

    However, I do totally agree with you in that the only way to really learn a language is to use it. Like I said, I’m 16. But I already speak Norwegian, English, Esperanto and German (with some flaws, but still understandable). I’ve also been practising a little Swedish without any studying of any part of the language at all. I’ve had German at school for three and a half years, but my fluency in Esperanto (which I started on this year) by far exceeds my fluency in German. I think this is partially because Esperanto is just simpler and more logical, but it is also clearly because I use Esperanto daily, whereas I only use German a few days a week, and only for some minutes each time.

    As I have discovered with my parallel German and Esperanto studies, mixing languages is a real and annoying problem. I will be looking forward to seeing your post about that. Maybe I’ll learn something and get it sorted better out – but I think I’ve already found what’ll be your main tip: use them all and keep them active, and you won’t mix them as easily.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Good insight! That will of course be an important part of that post ;)
      Thanks for sharing your story!

  • QK

    Incredible that those are frequently asked questions.
    I find them quite uninteresting to be honest.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Try reading them every single day in an e-mail or comment. Then they will go beyond uninteresting and start to get annoying :P That’s why I wrote this post. When people ask me the questions again and again in future, I just want to link to this page…

  • http://corcaighist.blogspot.com Anonymous

    I still don’t get what your beef with linguists is. It’s the same with all these language blogs, Kaufmann also comes to mind. The job of a linguist IS TO STUDY languages(s). That is what they do. They don’t get paid to learn languages. They get paid to study them, write about them, publish about them. Language learners who like to pick fights left right and centre with linguists over their job and what it entails is something I really do not understand. All the stuff that you do not like about languages, morphology, syntax, linguistic classification, areal features, typology are the things that matter to linguists because they get paid to be interested in those things. So really, I do not get why languages learners are always hating on linguists. It’s our job, our profession. So yah, the analogy of “sports stars are to sports jouralists what language learners are to linguists” is in your own words, complete BS. The analogy simply does not make sense.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      1. Linguists argue with me, not realizing that I’m not playing their arguing game. I’m not here to debate anything. Debating is a linguists’ and academics’ game, and I don’t want to play. I’m just sharing what works really well for me and others can take it or leave it. I’ll defend my view when necessary, but when I see the discussion is going nowhere I’ll simply stop caring. When linguists argue with me in endless circles, then I have “beef” with them.

      2. I never pick fights. I write in this blog and the fights come to me in comments. I have unconventional ideas that don’t fit with the academic approach, which I write about to HELP people. Suggesting that I am doing this out of aggression towards linguists is not only silly, but it’s arrogant. I don’t care what linguists think about language hacking (the same way I don’t care what a physicist thinks about my haircut), so writing posts specifically to them is the last thing on my mind. I write to language learners, and sometimes my advice conflicts with academic advice, so I suppose I should expect retorts – but I certainly don’t go to linguists’ blogs or e-mail them and tell them how wrong they are. Please reconsider how you feel I’m “picking fights” and look at your own comment and realise how ironic that is!

      3. I never said I didn’t like morphology, syntax etc. – I don’t remember saying that at all. Because of my technical background there are aspects of linguistics I find fascinating, and I actually enjoy studying grammar occasionally. However, this does not help me speak better as well as confidence, socialising and all the other things I discuss in detail on the blog have done.

      4. The analogy works perfectly. Sports journalists get paid “to be interested” in sports, and this leads to nitpicking athletes who exhaustively work out for years for a single event, and the critics do so from the comfort of their armchairs. Occasionally there is an ex-athlete, in which case what they have to say does count more, the same way a linguist who is also a polyglot (but from trying to learn as an adult) can also see things from the other guys’ perspective rather than just from theory.

      Normal critics’ views are interesting to read, but frustrating from the athlete’s perspective, since all the theory in the world doesn’t work so well when you are on the field.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Nicely phrased ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    I wasn’t expecting so many comments about coding languages from just one word put in jokingly :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    hahahaha, what the hell is a linguistic crush? You have a crush on the flags I have on the site? :P
    You’ll hear about my travels for sure! If I can make it before you tie the knot, all the better :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Of course I’ll modify my approach, that’s the whole point. Adapt to each language. However I wouldn’t stop speaking just because a language is different. Hopefully people will see that as I take on non-European languages when I do ;)

    My question for you: why are you spending so much “countless hours” on Chinese learning forums?? More time with natives would be way more useful. I could have spent time on forums when learning Hungarians cases etc., but I just started using them mistakenly and worked my way through them.

    Please note that many people have been applying my suggestions to Chinese, even if I haven’t made it there yet, and they confirm that my basic approach of confidence and speaking regularly works universally – even if each language needs particular tricks unique to it.

    I can’t imagine I would have much to say about mastering Chinese writing quickly, and I won’t be aiming for that. I won’t be applying for jobs in China, but I will very likely be writing in chat programs. In that case mistakes are very much accepted and an “OK” writing will be fine for me.

    Keep in mind that aiming to “master” anything will always make it seem impossible. I never do that. I aim to do the best I possibly can, and by definition that is always achievable.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    1. At the moment all missions I am thinking about for 2010 are starting new languages from scratch. This may change, but even so most of them would be languages I have never tried to communicate in before.
    2. Yes.
    3. & 4. Spanish & Portuguese
    I am sure you’ll enjoy the Guide :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    I agree. My job would be much harder if it wasn’t for the work of linguists who produce some of the books that I do indeed study, and their logical layout of how a foreign language works.

    I actually think the vast majority of linguists commenting on my blog are saying something positive. What does boil my blood is the few who are into that pure analytics aspect who come here and tell me how wrong I am. There have been single commenters who do nothing but constantly disagree with me and it wears down my patience. They would do well to get their heads out of their asses and and least look more broadly within other fields of linguistics even if they aren’t going to listen to a “mere layman” like myself.

    The ones I like to recommend first are psychology and sociology. Hopefully somewhere in there it says how constantly disagreeing with others is a bad way to get your point across :P

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure he never knew that (sarcasm) and I’m sure that Randy does speak fluent binary.

  • http://www.yearlyglot.com/ Randy the Yearlyglot

    Actually, there are 10 types of people in the world — those who understand ternary, those who don’t, and those who mistake it for binary.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    I don’t get depressed and I hate how western culture overuses this term. Depression is a serious condition and if I’m feeling blue some day I would never claim to be “depressed”.
    My mood is as stable as everyone else’s. You can’t escape real world problems just by travelling, so I have my good days and my bad days like everyone ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    I’m not religious so that plays no factor in my decision.
    I find Spaniards and Italians and Brazilians to be very different. But then again I do like the similarities I see, and this is why I will gladly discover more Latin cultures I haven’t seen before. Jumping to extreme differences can obviously be enjoyable, but I like any culture, regardless of how it compares to those I know already.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Mucha suerte – la fluidez es posible si hablas todos los días :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Having children or getting married: Very unlikely before I’m 35-40 at the youngest.
    Settling down in one city: Yes, as soon as I get tired of travelling ;) I’ve definitely got a few more years left in me presuming nothing major happens to change my life direction.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Thanks Paula :)

  • http://twitter.com/ichigoichielove Lisa W

    Hi Benny!
    Just wanted to say that I’ve been following youg blog on an off for a few months and find it very interesting. It’s a great motivator seeing someone setting a goal and *doing* it, regardless of the goal being similar to mine (learning languages, travelling). ^^ So thanks for that! Even as a bilingual from birth (well, ok, perhaps not *that* early ;P) I sometimes get frustrated when learning my new target language(s), and you ‘reminders’ of how to learn naturally really help. The stuff I remember is usually what I’ve learned socially or via my interests, not from a textbook. It’s easy to forget when you’re surrounded by people ‘being good’ and studying from books all day. So thanks again!!! ^^

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Thank you Lisa!! :) I love getting positive comments like that! Glad to see I’m helping :D

  • http://twitter.com/ichigoichielove Lisa W

    Hi Benny!
    Just wanted to say that I’ve been following youg blog on an off for a few months and find it very interesting. It’s a great motivator seeing someone setting a goal and *doing* it, regardless of the goal being similar to mine (learning languages, travelling). ^^ So thanks for that! Even as a bilingual from birth (well, ok, perhaps not *that* early ;P) I sometimes get frustrated when learning my new target language(s), and you ‘reminders’ of how to learn naturally really help. The stuff I remember is usually what I’ve learned socially or via my interests, not from a textbook. It’s easy to forget when you’re surrounded by people ‘being good’ and studying from books all day. So thanks again!!! ^^

  • g.polskov

    hahaha, pas pire l’entrevue à TQS!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      On m’a fait l’entrevue en arrivant à Montréal. J’ai rien compris du joual du reporter :P

  • Neil

    I just came across your blog, so I apologize in advance if I’m asking something you’ve already answered — how do you travel so much? I saw that you’ve got an engineering background, and you mentioned working at a hostel in Rome. I guess I’m just wondering what kinds of jobs you do, how you find them, etc. I guess by this point you can probably get gigs as an interpreter:)

  • Neil

    I just came across your blog, so I apologize in advance if I’m asking something you’ve already answered — how do you travel so much? I saw that you’ve got an engineering background, and you mentioned working at a hostel in Rome. I guess I’m just wondering what kinds of jobs you do, how you find them, etc. I guess by this point you can probably get gigs as an interpreter:)

  • Neil

    I just came across your blog, so I apologize in advance if I’m asking something you’ve already answered — how do you travel so much? I saw that you’ve got an engineering background, and you mentioned working at a hostel in Rome. I guess I’m just wondering what kinds of jobs you do, how you find them, etc. I guess by this point you can probably get gigs as an interpreter:)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Try to understand words in their answers and extrapolate what they mean from that – don’t try to understand the whole sentence. Context will translate the gaps for you ;)

  • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Brian-Barker/1004522862 Brian Barker

    I don’t know if you or colleagues are interested but there’s to be an Esperanto stand at the London Language Show at the end of October.
    If you know of any Esperanto beginners there’s a taster course on Saturday afternoon as well.
    Tickets to the show are free, but you need to book using this link http://www.thelanguageshow.co.uk/page.cfm/link=7
    Amike salutas    Brian

  • http://www.lizwrightnow.com/ Liz

    In Benny.  Nice post. I am still trying to perfect my French…I’ve only been studying for um….like 15 years :( ha ha. Kind of hard if you don’t use it all the time. And then trying to add new languages on top of that just makes it that much more confusing. But you inspire me :) I love it, I think it’s a beautiful language, but definitely want to learn more. Do you find it’s easier to perfect one language before learning the next?

  • Rafael González Robles

    hey,does anybody know which level of english is normally required to work in UK or US as a foreigner?

  • anna

    Hi Benny. Really impressed with your post and would love some advice. I have irish to Leaving Cert standard (a few years ago) but would love to refresh and build on what I know. Can you recommend a cd? Want audio rather than books. Thank you. Anna

  • Mick O’leary

    Do you have Brazilian Portuguese on your site, in lwt text etc? I can’t find it.

  • Sharlie4

    Benny, what is your opinion on trying to learn more than one language at a time? I am intermedite in Spanish,advanced beginner in Morocaan arabic and want to start Hebrew (I will need it for business from Sept 2014++) So should I put the Spanish and Arabic on hold?

  • ztraveler

    Hey Benny,

    Just wanted to say that your language blog is amazing, it has motivated me to take action in my language learning, thanks! I’m interested in learning an additional language and wanted to ask you if its practical learning more than one language at a time, simultaneously, such as Korea and Arabic or Urdu and French? If so what steps should I take to start? I already know English, Dari and Spanish and want to add on two other to my language list because like yourself I love travel.

    Best Wishes,


    • Joseph Lemien

      I’m not sure about Benny’s own experience with this, but I’ve read about this a lot online. Most people say that it is possible to learn two languages at once, but really really difficult. Part of the reason is that you might get the two languages a bit mixed up, but a big reason is the fact that it takes many hours to learn a language. Especially if you have school or work or some other commitment in your life, it is hard to commit those hours to two different languages.

      I’d say get one to an intermediate level first. Once you are able to comfortably have a conversation then you are a lot less likely to get confused by a new language.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Best of luck with your Esperanto! Hopefully that post will help ;)

  • Goŝka from Poland

    I speak English and Esperanto well, but I still do io kiel tia, kiam mi parolas.. (sth. like that, when I’m speaking ;) ) so I also look forward to the post about it, Benny!