Language Hacking Links: Resolution, Total Annihilation and Level up edition

Today I’ve written a guest post on Lifehacker entitled “How to successfully learn a new language this year“, to give some suggestions for those who aren’t sure where to go with their learn-a-language New Year’s resolution. This is the second time in a month I’ve posted on that site, the last one being a post where I answered tonnes of general language learning questions in comments in December.

Anyone from Lifehacker, don’t forget to subscribe to the Fi3M RSS feed, and follow along on Facebook, twitter and Google+, and sign up to the email list on the right of this site, as I share many other language learning links, and general encouragement for new learners in each of these. Also, don’t forget to check out my TEDx talk!

I’d like to follow this up with some cool links to inspire you to get started, not on a resolution (let’s face it, most resolutions are simply not strong enough or specific commitments, which is one of the things I brought up in that guest post), but on your language mission.

Missions and challenges around the Internet

A mission mindset is what keeps me going: Having a very specific target in a very specific timeline, being public about it and making that mission your absolute priority.

In fact, the next post on the blog will be a success story from an Fi3M reader and newbie language learner who applied this mentality to his own life and succeeded in his own three month language mission. He found inspiration and a language partner on the Fluent in 3 months forum.

But there are of course other communities out there with some cool “mission” mentalities. Both the How to learn any language forum and Reddit have groups of people taking part in what is called the Total Annihilation Challenge (TAC). Read this thread on HTLAL to see how many people are taking it up, or see this subreddit specifically about it. In both cases there are separate threads/subreddits specifically about TACs for particular languages that you can join along with.

Make sure to look around the rest of HTLAL and check out the Language Learning subreddit for some cool links and thoughts from other language learners.

Don’t need to travel – get daily practice on Skype, and listen to premium podcasts for free

Keep in mind that you do not need to go to the country to successfully learn your language. I have just spend 3 months in Brazil learning Arabic, where all my spoken practice (bar one in-person meeting and applying for my extended tourist visa at the Egyptian embassy) was entirely through Skype. The resource I used almost exclusively for these spoken sessions was italki, where you can find both free exchanges and affordable one-on-one lessons.

Italki are offering their own challenge to language learners, just this month. If you sign up for 10 lessons this month they will give you free access to one of Englishpod, Ruspod, Spanishpod, Frenchpod, Italianpod and Arabic Anywhere – each of which are very popular premium-access language learning podcasts. (In a similar style to Chinesepod, which I used myself and found very helpful). After signing up for a profile, click “Learn more” on the homepage after “win free lessons”.

See the immense variation of languages you can speak in person in the states!

Next, my friend Moses McCormick who I met in Columbus, Ohio, and who I levelled up with, in a mall in Columbus in a dozen languages, is going to spend this year showing people just what I said above; that you don’t need to travel abroad to get language practice.

He will go around the states to many different cities, demonstrating how many in person conversations he and his two friends can have in dozens of languages with many cultures. He has set up a Kickstarter page to discuss his immense project. Check it out for some inspiration, and make sure to contribute if you can, and you could even be a part of his documentary about languages in America.

I’ll of course be meeting up with him in the summer and joining along in the documentary, for part 2 of our level up adventures!

Other links and top ten posts of Fluent in 3 months over the last year

As well as the above links related to getting into a “mission” mentality with your language, rather than a resolution one, I included several other links and suggestions in my lifehacker guest post. It ended up being too long, and had to be edited down, so here are a few links that I wanted to include in that:

Language courses, and have a native say it for you. My first round of Language Hacking Links from three years ago is one of the sites most popular posts and includes lots of essentials worth checking out. This includes Rhinospike and Forvo to listen to how individual words should be pronounced, or to enter entire sentences to have native speakers read them back to you!

Learning with texts – a free feature on this site that (after logging on) lets you import texts you find online in your target language, and read it with instant clickable dictionary access to every worth and a tracker so you know which words you already know. Also lets you download your list of important words into Anki format.

In the longer version of my LH guest post, I also recommended people check out Duolingo for an intro to their target language. Here’s an interview I did (in Spanish) with the site’s founder, and a detailed review of Duolingo.

While all these links and tools may be a huge help to language learners, it’s important to realize that it’s not about what apps you have installed, or what courses you have bought, so I’d like to share some words of encouragement from this blog, by selecting my top ten Fluent in 3 months posts (out of 82 total) of 2012.

The right mentality and attitude is often the best tool by far that you could possibly have in learning another language, so I really hope you will read and consider these seriously:

If you missed any of these posts, please do check them out!

Thanks for reading, welcome to all the newcomers from Lifehacker, and best of luck with your language missions in 2013! I look forward to reading your comments on any of this below!



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  • Jorn van Schaïk

    Hey Benny, glad to see you are giving the TAC an airing on your website. As I took part in last year’s TAC and achieved some pretty good results, I’m happy to see the publicity.

    Also, about levelling up – sometimes it happens unintentionally. I was out doing my job last Saturday, and some extraordinarily lost Russians drove up to me and asked me the way. They spoke Dutch, but I noticed the Russian between them; and proceeded to give them directions in Russian (I can speak a bit). I’ve had a similar experience randomly talking to a French art student in the Hague who wanted to do an interview for a project (I spoke French). So sometimes you don’t even need to look out for opportunities; they can come to you!

  • Alicia T. Glenn

    great blog post benny, do you have any advice for people struggling to find a language partner? I’ve tried verbling and posting in your forum but none seem to be working out, verbling never connects me to someone :/ I’ve made a bit of headway on italki, but not much and I’m itching to start practicing speaking with natives…any suggestions?

    • Benny Lewis

      You didn’t specify what language you want to speak, which makes it harder to give any useful advice. Find forums that are originally in that language, especially if related to language learning, and tell them you can help them with their English.

  • steve ward

    Thanks benny, i really like this post although there are some problems i have found in my language system. It seems that i dont understand the basic level for instance if im playing a game called language.

    In that game you start off at the hub, now at this hub Benny all the quest givers for whatever reason give you a level 50 quest in the game language. Now that would be bad but when you get your guide book it all messed up it like it not even a noob area.

    When i think about that i feel there should be 5 ways to play the game they are:

    Sight: this is the most common way of teaching something to someone, although personal i have a hard time trying to learn something just by visual means.


    (Talking to a native speaker)


    Hearing: Second most common way of teaching something to someone, being able to hear the same thing you read.

    (Audio Lessons)

    (reinforcement: a song that goes with it)

    (Singing in that language)

    (Talking to a native speaker)

    Touch: the one thing i can think of is Brill for blind people, but i know which i will get to it in a moment a way to bring out more with touch. (although with that said there are people who are more textile than most)


    Taste: No idea most likely use it to reinforce memory?


    Smell: Now i saved this for last because most people dont realize how import of a tool this can be. Now smell can be used to reinforce, aromatherapy would be a good use of that tie certain part of the language to say the smell of a rose?

    (reinforcement: aromatherapy)

    Now instead of the lvl 50 quest the quest morph into what you need, so if sight is lvl 50 content to you what about hearing and sight? So level 1 would look something like this?

    Level 1:

    Your guide book: is tune to HOW you learn, not to what you learn first

    So for me i can see

    sight: Talking to a native in Japanese

    hearing: record my audio session then let a native in Japanese listen to it and correct me

    enforcement technique: aromatherapy of different plants during different parts?

    Level 2:

    Singing: in Japanese?

    Well that my thoughts on the matter what do you think benny everyone?