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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If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.
This article was written by Benny Lewis
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- Is it possible to become fluent in a language in 3 months? (Very similar post)
- Summary of first month of mission & top 100 language blogs nomination (Very similar post)
- Summary of month 2: on the final dash to see if I make it to fluency! (Very similar post)
- Hitting a brick wall in your language progress (Very similar post)
- My next mission: Become Brazilian in 3 months! (Very similar post)
- You have to start somewhere! My first few days learning Japanese [+video of day 3, reading Kana] (RANDOM - Very similar post)