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The smartest decision you will ever make to achieve fluency

| 281 comments | Category: learning languages

smart

Today I’m going to share the most important decision I have ever made in learning languages.

This choice changed me from a hopeless “I’m not talented with languages” person to eventually become the polyglot that I am today. The change happened in one day; November 1st, 2003.

If it wasn’t for that one decision I would have given up with my first foreign language, and all later ones, and all of the wonderful experiences of the last 6 years wouldn’t have been possible. Let me explain…

[Edit: For a much more detailed explanation of how I learn languages quickly, click here to check out the Fluent in 3 Months PREMIUM guide]

Months of work and still not speaking

I had spent almost 6 months in Spain (in Valencia); I loved the people, the fiestas, and life in general there. I wanted to stay longer, and I really wanted to speak Spanish.

I was trying so hard! I was studying every day, I even tried expensive courses for a short time, and I was speaking it every chance I got; in the supermarket, at parties with strangers I met, after giving an English class to a child I tried conversing with the parents, etc.

But I still couldn’t actually speak Spanish.

I was just struggling with repeating the same words and phrases over and over. I didn’t get it! I really wanted it; I was motivated! I was working hard. Surely after 6 months I should have been speaking much better than I already was?

I would go to my English speaking friends, and my Spanish friends with good English, because I could properly express myself with them and let off some steam. I would say how maybe Spanish is just too hard for me. Other foreigners were also having the same problem, and yet a few others were so easily picking up the language with apparently little work. [Sigh] Maybe we’re just not the kind of people who will ever pick up languages quickly…

Then I realized something! In a great Eureka moment, I saw both the problem, and the solution. It’s so obvious and yet people still don’t actually get it…

Stop speaking English!!

This may seem like a pointless statement to make when you live in the country already, but I have seen the same pattern hundreds of times and I am seeing it once again here in Prague.

Expats hang out with other English speaking expats and complain about how hard the local language is, or talk about life in general in English. They chat to their boyfriend/girlfriend/friends in English. All of the local friends they have also talk to them in English. They only actually use the local language when they have to; English is actually the language they socialise and relax in most of the time.

I have met some English speakers who have lived in Prague for up to TEN years, and after just a few weeks I already spoke better Czech than them!! This does NOT make me feel smart; it makes me feel sad and frustrated for them! And I will meet more people like this in other travels who will look at me like I just have some special gene for languages or something. (Let me say again, that I did horrible in languages in school, and when I was 20 years old, the only language that I spoke was English; up until this crucial decision I was the Average Frustrated Learner).

These people that I keep meeting don’t realize that their English speaking social circle is protecting them from ever speaking the local language. They already have enough of the local language to get by, so why would they need more?

MY PLAN: A very difficult and frustrating month in exchange for the best years of my life

So the decision that I actually made that changed everything was to stop using English entirely. Absolutely no English EVER, except for work, since I was a part-time English teacher, and for weekly phonecalls to my parents. Every other second of my life was to be in Spanish.

I couldn’t conjugate any past-tense verbs, my vocabulary was pathetic and my pronunciation was extremely English, but I decided not to care any more. For the moment, I’d use the present tense and wave behind me or emphasise “yesterday” to try to make it clearer, and I’d use the few words I knew to explain around what I wanted to say, and of course I used a lot of hand waving and gestures until someone got what I was trying to say.

I decided that for exactly 30 days, (the entire month of November) I would speak no English. I warned all of my friends of this in advance, and did some final cramming of words and grammar and then the hardest month of my life began.

Frankly, it was horrible.

I couldn’t ask for simple items (always refusing to just say the word in English when the other person would likely know), I couldn’t have a discussion about anything important, so I was as good as a 5 year old for conversations (actually worse), and I couldn’t share my feelings.

It was also frustrating for those who kept insisting that I just say what I wanted to say in English. Most of all, it was exhausting. At the end of the day I’d come home so tired and frustrated. Anyone learning a language in the country knows what this feels like, but imagine not being able to rely on those English-speaking hours for support and to relax! There were many times when I just considered abandoning the plan and be able to express myself properly, but I didn’t give in.

The end of the month came, and you know what? I wasn’t speaking fluently. I still had horrible grammar and a strong accent etc., but eventually over that month something clicked in my mind: I didn’t really need English. It was indeed possible to communicate in the language, even if you don’t speak it well.

Despite the frustration and the need to be able to communicate like a literate adult, I actually felt good about being able to express myself, albeit limited, in Spanish. And even if I hadn’t reached fluency, I was speaking much better than how I was at the beginning of the experiment. I had learned so much because my motivation changed from “I really want to speak Spanish” to “I really need to speak Spanish”! This is an extremely important difference.

By December I had made new friends who didn’t speak any English at all. I decided to continue the experiment a little longer… and it actually turned into a new lifestyle!

Time to make a tough decision!

If you are truly serious about learning a language to fluency as soon as possible, then I recommend you make a similar decision (presuming you are also living in the country). If your English speaking friends understand even a little of the language, then tell them that from now on you are only going to speak to them in it.

If they respond in English, or if a local suggests an English word for what you are trying to say, then that’s fine! But you must only answer them in the language you are learning, or maybe occasionally use the word in English, or a quasi-mixture of English and their language if you must, but don’t actually speak in English.

Stop depending on those English speaking friends and make new ones. In that month I lost a few friends; I realized that some of them were only using me to practise their English, and some of them just simply didn’t have the patience for me and my crazy project. This didn’t help when I actually wanted support and encouragement! But in exchange, I have made some wonderful new friends and have had so many wonderful experiences with people who don’t speak English, ever since then.

When I reveal this to expats I meet in passing, they always give me lots of excuses why it isn’t possible; they have family and friends, they need to relax at the end of the day, it’s too hard etc. I’m not saying it’s an easy decision, but if you are truly serious about speaking the language sooner rather than later, then it’s a decision you may need to make.

If you are new in a country, or about to move there, then decide right now that you will very simply avoid speaking English, even if you have to avoid English speakers themselves. And STICK WITH THE DECISION. Ideally, you can still hang out with the English speakers, but you should all practise the local language instead of speaking English, no matter how weird it seems, or how tempted you are to just use your own common language.

It may seem somewhat antisocial, but not really trying to speak the local language is being even more antisocial with the vast majority of people you could be making friends with. Even if you go to some far away village where nobody speaks English, you may still learn the language slowly if you have just one (likely other foreign) friend that you mostly socialise with in English.

This method continued to this day for me and I now quite dislike speaking English unless it’s necessary (apart from when I’m actually in an English speaking country) and make this very clear to people when they first meet me. This has meant that I rarely socialise with other English speakers; despite all my travels to cities with plenty of expats, I don’t have many American or British or Australian or Irish etc. friends (apart from those I met in Ireland & USA for example). Instead I have a lot of Brazilian, Italian, Argentinian, Spanish, French, Quebecois etc. friends.

This has greatly expanded my cultural horizons and really given me a much better feel for the places that I have lived in. If this includes the price-tag of missing out on having English speaking friends, then so be it. Of course, there are plenty of people who speak fluently in the local language and socialise in English.

You could also adapt a less extreme version of my idea and decide to speak at least 3 hours daily (for example) just in the language in question. There are plenty of ways to reach fluency, and I can already tell that mine are quite disagreeable for some! Like all my posts, this is just a suggestion. :)

Do you think you could make the same decision? Maybe you have a less drastic solution to the problem that I was having in Spain? Has anyone else tried this too? Please do share in the comments! If you’ve been enjoying these posts, but haven’t commented yet, please do say hello to let us know you are out there! :D

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  • Jon Anderson

    Outstanding entry. You are 100% correct.

  • Jon Anderson

    Outstanding entry. You are 100% correct.

  • http://natural-language-acquisition.blogspot.com/ Keith

    I’m here! Just to let you know.

    I’m not so sure that you have identified the smartest decision to achieving fluency, but it makes a great title!
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..don’t believe the lies! =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      It was the smartest decision that I ever made in all of my language studies, and it’s the very reason that so many expats never learn the language well. So I think my wording is more important than just a catchy title :P
      Maybe it’s not THE decision for actually achieving fluency (as I said, after the month I still had plenty of work left to do), but for getting on the path to fluency, a similar choice to not depend on English needs to be made as early as possible.

      • Jack

        Just realised that this is the way I learnt to speak English, by completely relying on English, even by going a step further by conditioning myself to think in English. Also stayed in a predominantly British area when I moved to the UK.

  • http://natural-language-acquisition.blogspot.com/ Keith

    I’m here! Just to let you know.

    I’m not so sure that you have identified the smartest decision to achieving fluency, but it makes a great title!
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..don’t believe the lies! =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      It was the smartest decision that I ever made in all of my language studies, and it’s the very reason that so many expats never learn the language well. So I think my wording is more important than just a catchy title :P
      Maybe it’s not THE decision for actually achieving fluency (as I said, after the month I still had plenty of work left to do), but for getting on the path to fluency, a similar choice to not depend on English needs to be made as early as possible.

  • http://ttt.usono.net/ Scott

    My mom was from The Netherlands. When she was 21, in 1950, she decided to come to America, and she moved (alone) to New York City. While she had taken English in school, she really wasn’t a fluent speaker, but she knew she wanted to stay in the US and that to do so she’d HAVE to learn to speak English as well as she could.

    She did exactly what you described. She avoided the local Dutch community like the plague, and went for total immersion in English.

    I don’t know how long it took her to achieve fluency, but by the time I was old enough to know what was what, her English was utterly flawless (although accented). My dad – a native English-speaking writer who grew up in Los Angeles – always claimed she spoke better English than he did. I do think he was right.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Yep, your mother was right to figure out what “total immersion” really means. :) Simply living in the country is never enough.
      It’s also good to point out that not just English speakers are guilty of this (obviously, I write for an English speaking audience since the blog is in English, but “stop speaking Dutch/Spanish/Japanese” etc . could just as easily be said); I’ve seen lots of exchange students in the Erasmus programme for example who learn very little of the language of their year abroad because they hang out with those from home all year long…

  • http://ttt.usono.net Scott

    My mom was from The Netherlands. When she was 21, in 1950, she decided to come to America, and she moved (alone) to New York City. While she had taken English in school, she really wasn’t a fluent speaker, but she knew she wanted to stay in the US and that to do so she’d HAVE to learn to speak English as well as she could.

    She did exactly what you described. She avoided the local Dutch community like the plague, and went for total immersion in English.

    I don’t know how long it took her to achieve fluency, but by the time I was old enough to know what was what, her English was utterly flawless (although accented). My dad – a native English-speaking writer who grew up in Los Angeles – always claimed she spoke better English than he did. I do think he was right.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Yep, your mother was right to figure out what “total immersion” really means. :) Simply living in the country is never enough.
      It’s also good to point out that not just English speakers are guilty of this (obviously, I write for an English speaking audience since the blog is in English, but “stop speaking Dutch/Spanish/Japanese” etc . could just as easily be said); I’ve seen lots of exchange students in the Erasmus programme for example who learn very little of the language of their year abroad because they hang out with those from home all year long…

  • Jacob

    Hello there! I just found out about your blog through Lernu.net, and this is the first post I have read!

    I love languages as well (Which is a strange interest for a 15 year old, such as myself :D ). I know some Spanish, and I’m learning Esperanto right now. I hope to eventually be fluent in both along with German, and possibly Arabic. I can’t wait to continue reading your blog posts and get some more insight on how to become fluent in different languages. I may message you on Lernu, so watch out :).

    Oh and also, I have used this suggestion before with my Spanish. I didn’t go as extreme (because I live in the middle of America). Basically, any time I saw something/thought something, I tried to translate it into Spanish and say it aloud (I usually got a lot of weird looks from my parents and friends lol). At first it was really difficult, but gradually it got easier and easier. After a few months of this, I went to a website called livemocha.com , and found some native speakers and practiced with them. They said I sounded like I had 5-6 years of Spanish under my belt, when in reality, I had only completed Spanish 2!

    Practice, practice, practice is key. Good luck, and happy language learning.

    Jacob

    PS: Sorry if my comment is lacking coherence, it’s about 1:30AM right now lol.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Thanks for your comment and best of luck with your language studies! Your translation method is very interesting indeed! A great substitute until you have a chance to really speak Spanish :) Don’t forget to use the Internet to try to chat to native speakers (messengers, Skype etc.) since just translating words can only bring you so far ;)

  • Jacob

    Hello there! I just found out about your blog through Lernu.net, and this is the first post I have read!

    I love languages as well (Which is a strange interest for a 15 year old, such as myself :D ). I know some Spanish, and I’m learning Esperanto right now. I hope to eventually be fluent in both along with German, and possibly Arabic. I can’t wait to continue reading your blog posts and get some more insight on how to become fluent in different languages. I may message you on Lernu, so watch out :).

    Oh and also, I have used this suggestion before with my Spanish. I didn’t go as extreme (because I live in the middle of America). Basically, any time I saw something/thought something, I tried to translate it into Spanish and say it aloud (I usually got a lot of weird looks from my parents and friends lol). At first it was really difficult, but gradually it got easier and easier. After a few months of this, I went to a website called livemocha.com , and found some native speakers and practiced with them. They said I sounded like I had 5-6 years of Spanish under my belt, when in reality, I had only completed Spanish 2!

    Practice, practice, practice is key. Good luck, and happy language learning.

    Jacob

    PS: Sorry if my comment is lacking coherence, it’s about 1:30AM right now lol.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Thanks for your comment and best of luck with your language studies! Your translation method is very interesting indeed! A great substitute until you have a chance to really speak Spanish :) Don’t forget to use the Internet to try to chat to native speakers (messengers, Skype etc.) since just translating words can only bring you so far ;)

  • http://www.anthonylauder.com/ SplogSplog

    What a hero! Kato Lomb (the Hungarian Linguist) is famous for saying that people believe that simply by living in a foreign country they will pick up the language, but then they hide from the language by creating a “micro-environment” – a protective bubble filled with their own language that surrounds them all the time. Letting go of that comfort is very very difficult and frustrating – not just for you but for the people around you.

    I have to admit hat even though most of my friends are Czech, I still do go out maybe twice a month with English speakers – and speak English all night. You have made me rethink whether or not this is a good idea.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Yes, I agree – too many people think that simply living in the country and studying lots is enough. I will always emphasise that studying doesn’t matter so much if you aren’t REALLY practising it (just ordering food and asking where the sugar is in the supermarket etc. is not enough). I hope that I’m drilling this message into my readers :P (I know you don’t need it told to you!! ;) )
      If your Czech is already quite good and if it’s ONLY for two nights a month, you don’t really need to apply this extreme suggestion of mine :) I’m suggesting it to people who are socialising way too much in English and who could definitely do with going “cold turkey” and not speak any English for a month to get them over their own mental barrier about not being able to communicate in their learned language.
      Then again, I personally wouldn’t hang out with English speakers on a regular basis. This is my biggest reason for being “talented” with languages. No actual talent is involved, just purely avoiding English at all costs! I quite dislike speaking in English and have given myself mental negative reinforcements whenever anything happens in English (turning off that attitude when I go home). This is my best “secret” to becoming talented with languages. The positive results are obvious, but it means that I haven’t gotten to know many English speakers in recent years… It is an awfully tough choice! But I’m glad I made it :)

  • http://www.anthonylauder.com/ SplogSplog

    What a hero! Kato Lomb (the Hungarian Linguist) is famous for saying that people believe that simply by living in a foreign country they will pick up the language, but then they hide from the language by creating a “micro-environment” – a protective bubble filled with their own language that surrounds them all the time. Letting go of that comfort is very very difficult and frustrating – not just for you but for the people around you.

    I have to admit hat even though most of my friends are Czech, I still do go out maybe twice a month with English speakers – and speak English all night. You have made me rethink whether or not this is a good idea.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Yes, I agree – too many people think that simply living in the country and studying lots is enough. I will always emphasise that studying doesn’t matter so much if you aren’t REALLY practising it (just ordering food and asking where the sugar is in the supermarket etc. is not enough). I hope that I’m drilling this message into my readers :P (I know you don’t need it told to you!! ;) )
      If your Czech is already quite good and if it’s ONLY for two nights a month, you don’t really need to apply this extreme suggestion of mine :) I’m suggesting it to people who are socialising way too much in English and who could definitely do with going “cold turkey” and not speak any English for a month to get them over their own mental barrier about not being able to communicate in their learned language.
      Then again, I personally wouldn’t hang out with English speakers on a regular basis. This is my biggest reason for being “talented” with languages. No actual talent is involved, just purely avoiding English at all costs! I quite dislike speaking in English and have given myself mental negative reinforcements whenever anything happens in English (turning off that attitude when I go home). This is my best “secret” to becoming talented with languages. The positive results are obvious, but it means that I haven’t gotten to know many English speakers in recent years… It is an awfully tough choice! But I’m glad I made it :)

  • Mitch

    That is perhaps the best advice that could ever be given to an adult self-student student. All of the textbooks, grammar drills and discussion groups mean nothing if you don’t regularly put your new found knowledge to the test. People are so fearful to make mistakes in front of others, yet that is is single most important thing to go through in language learning. Thank you for this article. It is such a no-brainer.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      A no-brainer is right! It’s such a simple obvious message, but people NEED to actually stop and really think about it and apply it. I can’t emphasise enough how this choice made the world of difference for me!!

  • Mitch

    That is perhaps the best advice that could ever be given to an adult self-student student. All of the textbooks, grammar drills and discussion groups mean nothing if you don’t regularly put your new found knowledge to the test. People are so fearful to make mistakes in front of others, yet that is is single most important thing to go through in language learning. Thank you for this article. It is such a no-brainer.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      A no-brainer is right! It’s such a simple obvious message, but people NEED to actually stop and really think about it and apply it. I can’t emphasise enough how this choice made the world of difference for me!!

  • http://www.nerdynomad.com/ Kirsty

    Ah so simple to say but so hard to do. Kudos to you for being able to pull it off… it would take a lot of will power. But the payoff is so amazing. I imagine it can be fun if you’re travelling with a friend and you both make the committment. Yet another tip to file away for when I get back to Central America. Thanks!
    .-= Kirsty´s last blog ..It’s Time to Start Treating This Like a Business =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      The advantage of doing this with non-natives is that you don’t feel intimidated, since the other person is learning too and will have more patience to listen to you when your level is lower. I actually learned most of my Spanish with non-Spaniards from the Erasmus students in Valencia (i.e. Germans, Italians, French etc.) I’ll be talking about learning with non-natives another time :)
      Do give it a try! But remember… stick with it! ;) This post may seem so simple to be pointless to say, but people are rarely committed enough to actually apply it full-time. I’m living proof that it can actually work!

  • http://www.nerdynomad.com Kirsty

    Ah so simple to say but so hard to do. Kudos to you for being able to pull it off… it would take a lot of will power. But the payoff is so amazing. I imagine it can be fun if you’re travelling with a friend and you both make the committment. Yet another tip to file away for when I get back to Central America. Thanks!
    .-= Kirsty´s last blog ..It’s Time to Start Treating This Like a Business =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      The advantage of doing this with non-natives is that you don’t feel intimidated, since the other person is learning too and will have more patience to listen to you when your level is lower. I actually learned most of my Spanish with non-Spaniards from the Erasmus students in Valencia (i.e. Germans, Italians, French etc.) I’ll be talking about learning with non-natives another time :)
      Do give it a try! But remember… stick with it! ;) This post may seem so simple to be pointless to say, but people are rarely committed enough to actually apply it full-time. I’m living proof that it can actually work!

  • cestina

    I’m sure this is absolutely right. It was just chance that I didn’t meet any of my English-speaking Czech friends till I had been “learning” Czech for several years (a few weeks a year over here for the first 3 years and then six months at a time).

    I’m in a village and for the first few years I just followed a Czech friend around, visiting her friends who spoke no English, going to meetings at the priest’s house, surrounded by many elderly women discussing anything and everything, meeting relatives I never knew I had, none of whom spoke English. So I HAD to speak Czech and I shamelessly asked each time I didn’t follow the conversation and then it would be explained to me in other words. Rather as I used to explain the UK Social Security system to people struggling to understand it. Rephrasing it…..)

    I put “learn” Czech in inverted commas because I very deliberately set out to do no formal learning at all…..I once sat down with a grammar book and chucked it away immediately.

    Then I started to socialise with English-speaking Czechs and one year found that my Czech was going backwards. We started to speak much more Czech together and the retreat stopped. Now I’m comfortable switching from one to the other, without thought, in the same way as I speak German and English – sometimes I’m not even sure which language I’m speaking lol.

    • Genevieve

      Hello, Cestina!

      You said that you had been ‘learning’ Czech for several years (a few weeks a year over there for the first three years and then six months at a time).

      Did you mean that you spent 3-4 CONSECUTIVE weeks in the Czech Republic every year for the first three years, and then spent six months there, six months in your home country, six months there, six months in your home country, six months there, six months in your home country and so on … ? Or have I got it wrong?

      Please explain as I would like to give your way a go as it sounds great!

      Best regards,

      Genevieve

  • cestina

    I’m sure this is absolutely right. It was just chance that I didn’t meet any of my English-speaking Czech friends till I had been “learning” Czech for several years (a few weeks a year over here for the first 3 years and then six months at a time).

    I’m in a village and for the first few years I just followed a Czech friend around, visiting her friends who spoke no English, going to meetings at the priest’s house, surrounded by many elderly women discussing anything and everything, meeting relatives I never knew I had, none of whom spoke English. So I HAD to speak Czech and I shamelessly asked each time I didn’t follow the conversation and then it would be explained to me in other words. Rather as I used to explain the UK Social Security system to people struggling to understand it. Rephrasing it…..)

    I put “learn” Czech in inverted commas because I very deliberately set out to do no formal learning at all…..I once sat down with a grammar book and chucked it away immediately.

    Then I started to socialise with English-speaking Czechs and one year found that my Czech was going backwards. We started to speak much more Czech together and the retreat stopped. Now I’m comfortable switching from one to the other, without thought, in the same way as I speak German and English – sometimes I’m not even sure which language I’m speaking lol.

    • Genevieve

      Hello, Cestina!

      You said that you had been ‘learning’ Czech for several years (a few weeks a year over there for the first three years and then six months at a time).

      Did you mean that you spent 3-4 CONSECUTIVE weeks in the Czech Republic every year for the first three years, and then spent six months there, six months in your home country, six months there, six months in your home country, six months there, six months in your home country and so on … ? Or have I got it wrong?

      Please explain as I would like to give your way a go as it sounds great!

      Best regards,

      Genevieve

  • http://otevotnyelv.blog.hu/ balint

    Excellent post again Benny! The funny thing is that you write obvious things – but only a few people REALLY use them. Everybody thinks that “yeah, yeah, this COULD help, but I can do without it”. And when you get there, you can’t.
    That’s why I’m going to adapt this excellent method, although, in smaller scale: from next monday on, I’ll speak Spanish only for one week (until then I have a lot of work, done in English and Hungarian). And if the experiment will be successful, I’m going to apply it to my English (it needs polish as well).
    And true, it is a tough choice – but as your example shows, it’s worth it!

    PS: above mentioned Kato Lomb is my personal heroine :D (she spoke and translated in 15 languages, plus she could get by with a few more). Her nickname was “context (Kato “Kontextus” Lomb), because she emphasised the importance of context during language learning. And this instant immersion is definitely pure context! :)
    A last quote from her: “Gift of tongues is not a state of mind, but pure dedication”
    :D
    .-= balint´s last blog ..Összefoglaló – 28. és 29. hét =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Let us know how your Spanish week experiment goes :) A week is easier to process for most people than my month suggestion of course, but I haven’t lost my momentum since that month (and I think I would have if I had done it for just one week).
      I’ll have to look into this Kato Lomb; sounds like someone who could help me reach my language goals, I like how she thinks! :)

  • http://otevotnyelv.blog.hu balint

    Excellent post again Benny! The funny thing is that you write obvious things – but only a few people REALLY use them. Everybody thinks that “yeah, yeah, this COULD help, but I can do without it”. And when you get there, you can’t.
    That’s why I’m going to adapt this excellent method, although, in smaller scale: from next monday on, I’ll speak Spanish only for one week (until then I have a lot of work, done in English and Hungarian). And if the experiment will be successful, I’m going to apply it to my English (it needs polish as well).
    And true, it is a tough choice – but as your example shows, it’s worth it!

    PS: above mentioned Kato Lomb is my personal heroine :D (she spoke and translated in 15 languages, plus she could get by with a few more). Her nickname was “context (Kato “Kontextus” Lomb), because she emphasised the importance of context during language learning. And this instant immersion is definitely pure context! :)
    A last quote from her: “Gift of tongues is not a state of mind, but pure dedication”
    :D
    .-= balint´s last blog ..Összefoglaló – 28. és 29. hét =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Let us know how your Spanish week experiment goes :) A week is easier to process for most people than my month suggestion of course, but I haven’t lost my momentum since that month (and I think I would have if I had done it for just one week).
      I’ll have to look into this Kato Lomb; sounds like someone who could help me reach my language goals, I like how she thinks! :)

  • Harry

    I grew up in Beijing, China and I’ve lived in China all my life (so far – I’ll be 17 in 2 days). I never had the chance to go abroad, but I do feel that I speak English far better than my fellow classmates.

    I remember knowing only broken pieces of words and phrases when I was in the third grade. I didn’t actually know what English is anyway, so I just learned it like I studied math. Then I discovered that there are people out there who actually grow up speaking solely English.

    I started improving in the 7th grade, when I started going to another school. This school offered classes taught by American teachers, and I _had to_ understand English in order to understand the teachers and pass the tests. The school also required American teachers to do “office hours” – a 2-hour period during which their only job is to talk with students. I was among the students who were smart enough to take advantage of this rule.

    I spent 4 hours every week talking to them. School life. Hobbies. Simple stuff like that. Since they speak little Chinese, I have no choice but to describe what I want to say in English, with all kinds of universal language like gestures and gestures. And gestures. Then I started to have a “feeling” for this language. One day I found myself talking about English grammar. Then politics. Then philosophy.

    I have to be thankful for the opportunity I got. I don’t claim to speak perfect English, but it was then that I realized that learning a language is all about using it. I have now become a language aficionado and I don’t fear making mistakes. The more mistakes you make the more you learn, that is my principle. You can never make too many mistakes in learning a language.

    I’ve been learning German, Spanish, French and Esperanto for a while and I’ve learned all those on my own, without taking any school electives or other classes. Remember that I’ve never been abroad, and neither have most of my classmates. But even in languages other than English, I’ve already felt that my classmates – those who are learning a second foreign language with elective course teachers – are far behind me. Why? I learn with all kinds of podcasts and audio courses. I’m gaining sentences while they only learn words. Plus I look out for opportunities to use the languages I learn – for example, I’m posting a comment in English right now. Most of my classmates don’t do that. They’d rather pay for extra classes than do it for free.

    -

    By the way, if you’re looking for someone to practice your Chinese (Mandarin) with, especially if you speak a language other than English (eg. German, Spanish, Geek or C++), don’t hesitate to email me. We can do the bilingual conversation Benny suggested in one of his earlier posts. My email address: harrywhenry at gmail.com .

    • Harry

      I waited to see what happens after that 5-minute countdown, and (not very) surprisingly found that the “edit” button disappeared. Of what avail is this design?

      Oh and, Benny, you should really pick up some Chinese phrases. Why? Because I said so. [emoticon]

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

        Thanks for sharing your story with us! Your English is of course excellent for never having been abroad! Hats off :)
        The edit option is there for people who realize after sending a comment that there is a mistake. I do this all the time myself and wish more blogs did it. I can change the 5 minute limit, but then people may abuse it if any discussion began.
        I won’t be learning Chinese for the moment, but you’ll see whenever I do :)

  • Harry

    I grew up in Beijing, China and I’ve lived in China all my life (so far – I’ll be 17 in 2 days). I never had the chance to go abroad, but I do feel that I speak English far better than my fellow classmates.

    I remember knowing only broken pieces of words and phrases when I was in the third grade. I didn’t actually know what English is anyway, so I just learned it like I studied math. Then I discovered that there are people out there who actually grow up speaking solely English.

    I started improving in the 7th grade, when I started going to another school. This school offered classes taught by American teachers, and I _had to_ understand English in order to understand the teachers and pass the tests. The school also required American teachers to do “office hours” – a 2-hour period during which their only job is to talk with students. I was among the students who were smart enough to take advantage of this rule.

    I spent 4 hours every week talking to them. School life. Hobbies. Simple stuff like that. Since they speak little Chinese, I have no choice but to describe what I want to say in English, with all kinds of universal language like gestures and gestures. And gestures. Then I started to have a “feeling” for this language. One day I found myself talking about English grammar. Then politics. Then philosophy.

    I have to be thankful for the opportunity I got. I don’t claim to speak perfect English, but it was then that I realized that learning a language is all about using it. I have now become a language aficionado and I don’t fear making mistakes. The more mistakes you make the more you learn, that is my principle. You can never make too many mistakes in learning a language.

    I’ve been learning German, Spanish, French and Esperanto for a while and I’ve learned all those on my own, without taking any school electives or other classes. Remember that I’ve never been abroad, and neither have most of my classmates. But even in languages other than English, I’ve already felt that my classmates – those who are learning a second foreign language with elective course teachers – are far behind me. Why? I learn with all kinds of podcasts and audio courses. I’m gaining sentences while they only learn words. Plus I look out for opportunities to use the languages I learn – for example, I’m posting a comment in English right now. Most of my classmates don’t do that. They’d rather pay for extra classes than do it for free.

    -

    By the way, if you’re looking for someone to practice your Chinese (Mandarin) with, especially if you speak a language other than English (eg. German, Spanish, Geek or C++), don’t hesitate to email me. We can do the bilingual conversation Benny suggested in one of his earlier posts. My email address: harrywhenry at gmail.com .

    • Harry

      I waited to see what happens after that 5-minute countdown, and (not very) surprisingly found that the “edit” button disappeared. Of what avail is this design?

      Oh and, Benny, you should really pick up some Chinese phrases. Why? Because I said so. [emoticon]

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

        Thanks for sharing your story with us! Your English is of course excellent for never having been abroad! Hats off :)
        The edit option is there for people who realize after sending a comment that there is a mistake. I do this all the time myself and wish more blogs did it. I can change the 5 minute limit, but then people may abuse it if any discussion began.
        I won’t be learning Chinese for the moment, but you’ll see whenever I do :)

  • Michael

    At which level should I be at the language to try your method… I mean like… how far fluent and how many words?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      How long is a piece of string?
      These kinds of questions have no answer and depend on so many factors. The best answer I can give is that you should try it as soon as possible. “How many words” is a ridiculous thing to aim for based on my learning methods (how would you count them anyway??); I know people who have gone backpacking through Asian countries with just a few words, never relying on English and yet were able to explain themselves pretty well. If you keep waiting until you are “ready”, you will never be ready!! ;)
      Do an intensive study period of a few days, no matter what level you are at, knowing that after it you will have to abandon English entirely and go for it. Don’t worry about “how far fluent” you are, that’s the point ;) You aren’t supposed to already speak fluently for this experiment, it’s supposed to change your mindset and show you that communication is possible no matter what your level :)

  • Michael

    At which level should I be at the language to try your method… I mean like… how far fluent and how many words?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      How long is a piece of string?
      These kinds of questions have no answer and depend on so many factors. The best answer I can give is that you should try it as soon as possible. “How many words” is a ridiculous thing to aim for based on my learning methods (how would you count them anyway??); I know people who have gone backpacking through Asian countries with just a few words, never relying on English and yet were able to explain themselves pretty well. If you keep waiting until you are “ready”, you will never be ready!! ;)
      Do an intensive study period of a few days, no matter what level you are at, knowing that after it you will have to abandon English entirely and go for it. Don’t worry about “how far fluent” you are, that’s the point ;) You aren’t supposed to already speak fluently for this experiment, it’s supposed to change your mindset and show you that communication is possible no matter what your level :)

  • Genevieve

    Hello, Benny!

    How are you? I hope that all is very well with you indeed!

    I have never commented before, nevertheless, I have been very much enjoying your weblog since your very first post, which I found whilst browsing another Czech-learning weblog. I am especially grateful for this particular post, considering the fact that you have just helped me to discover why it is that, two years after completing a GCE ‘A’ Level in French and Spanish, I can literally no longer speak a WORD of French or Spanish today! I left Secondary School with GCSE’s in Spanish [A] and French [B] after constantly being PUBLICALLY told by my French teacher that I would “barely scrape a pass” in French. (My Spanish teacher was brilliant and very encouraging!) It was during Sixth-Form College that I personally decided that I had natural aptitude for languages because I managed to attain C-grades in ‘A’ level French and Spanish with NO independent study and just a 10% attendance rate! (I am neither proud of this fact nor am I encouraging truancy. In fact, there is NO DOUBT in my mind that I would have attained better grades in college if I had actually attended lessons – STAY IN SCHOOL, KIDS!) Thus, simply studying a language for eight years (French) and five years (Spanish), as I did, does NOT amount to fluency in those languages!

    I have applied to study at a university in Prague for three months (end of Feb-beginning of Jun – lectures in English) through the Erasmus scheme, and I to intend to leave the Czech Republic in June fluent in Czech! However, I would do this by constantly communicating with native speakers as opposed to non-native speakers as you suggested, as I am a stickler for formal language as opposed to colloquial language, nevertheless, this is simply an opinion of mine. I deliberately applied to study in a non-English-speaking country not only because I am an avid lover of languages, but also because I believe that fluency in at least one other language would complement the degree subjects which I am currently studying: International Relations and Politics. However, I feel that my passion for languages has been diminishing as I have not been able to afford language lessons since completing my ‘A’ levels two years ago. Furthermore, I do not have enough self-confidence to self-teach myself a language as I have been formally educated in language ALL MY LIFE!

    Benny, could you and anybody else reading this please advise me as regards to ALL the issues I have brought up in this VERY long comment (SORRY! ;-).

    Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!

    P.S. What is the Czech equivalent to the Spanish DALE/DELE qualifications? (Just for written confirmation of my linguistic ability if I ever needed for a job interview or something).

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Interesting comment…
      I can’t really give you advice to “ALL” the issues, since your comment is more anecdotal rather than specifically requesting help.
      So your aim will be pretty much the same as mine! Fluency in 3 months… basically all the worthwhile advice I can give will be added as posts and I’ll summarise what worked best for this experiment at the end, around mid September (still not sure if I’ll actually reach fluency this time in just 3 months! Time will tell!!) Unlike me, you’ll have a headstart, so you can get all the grammar and vocabulary learning out of the way right now and use your entire experience living in Prague to actually speak and practise what you’ve learned, as well as learning the harder things you can’t from home. Achieving fluency in 3 months is no easy feat!! I am merely testing to see if I can do it based on all of my other language studies up to now. It would be possible for someone who doesn’t speak another foreign language already, but much harder. Try to learn Esperanto (as I mentioned in another post and will talk about again) first to see what it’s like speaking another language without worrying about grammar issues.
      It doesn’t make sense that you “don’t have the confidence” to teach yourself at home because you were “formally educated”. Self-teaching and formal education are completely different and your motivation will be completely different. Give it a try!! Don’t leave all of your work for your time in Prague!! You’ll wish you had done something before arriving, once you’re here, trust me!!
      I have yet to find a Czech equivalent to the DALF/DELE examinations because it is not officially part of the ALTE language certificates list so there would be an independent Czech organisation that would provide such qualification, and long-term study may be involved to receive it (unlike other CELI exams). I hope you continue to enjoy my posts!! All the best :)

      • http://www.anthonylauder.com/ SplogSplog

        There is an official proficiency examination for Czech proficiency – based on the European Framework with levels ranging from A1 to C2. Here is some information about it: http://check-your-czech.com/index.php?hl=en_US

        To be honest, I am not sure there is much value in taking it – except at the very lowest level (A1) which is requirement for permanent residency for non-EU citizens.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

          Thanks as always for your help Anthony :)
          The reason that someone would want to take the exams that I’m familiar with (DELF/DALF in French, DELE in Spanish and CELI in Italian) are for your CV as officially recognised proof that you speak the language (without needing to attend any course; you pay the very small exam fee, show up on the day and do the test and get the results about 2 months later. Simple as that), and these certifications are actually required by universities in their countries for foreigners who wish to study there full time. (I can study in France and Spain now if I decided, whereas usually foreigners can’t do much more than exchange years like Erasmus for example). I imagine it is similar for the Czech one, although digging a little would be required to confirm that!

  • Genevieve

    Hello, Benny!

    How are you? I hope that all is very well with you indeed!

    I have never commented before, nevertheless, I have been very much enjoying your weblog since your very first post, which I found whilst browsing another Czech-learning weblog. I am especially grateful for this particular post, considering the fact that you have just helped me to discover why it is that, two years after completing a GCE ‘A’ Level in French and Spanish, I can literally no longer speak a WORD of French or Spanish today! I left Secondary School with GCSE’s in Spanish [A] and French [B] after constantly being PUBLICALLY told by my French teacher that I would “barely scrape a pass” in French. (My Spanish teacher was brilliant and very encouraging!) It was during Sixth-Form College that I personally decided that I had natural aptitude for languages because I managed to attain C-grades in ‘A’ level French and Spanish with NO independent study and just a 10% attendance rate! (I am neither proud of this fact nor am I encouraging truancy. In fact, there is NO DOUBT in my mind that I would have attained better grades in college if I had actually attended lessons – STAY IN SCHOOL, KIDS!) Thus, simply studying a language for eight years (French) and five years (Spanish), as I did, does NOT amount to fluency in those languages!

    I have applied to study at a university in Prague for three months (end of Feb-beginning of Jun – lectures in English) through the Erasmus scheme, and I to intend to leave the Czech Republic in June fluent in Czech! However, I would do this by constantly communicating with native speakers as opposed to non-native speakers as you suggested, as I am a stickler for formal language as opposed to colloquial language, nevertheless, this is simply an opinion of mine. I deliberately applied to study in a non-English-speaking country not only because I am an avid lover of languages, but also because I believe that fluency in at least one other language would complement the degree subjects which I am currently studying: International Relations and Politics. However, I feel that my passion for languages has been diminishing as I have not been able to afford language lessons since completing my ‘A’ levels two years ago. Furthermore, I do not have enough self-confidence to self-teach myself a language as I have been formally educated in language ALL MY LIFE!

    Benny, could you and anybody else reading this please advise me as regards to ALL the issues I have brought up in this VERY long comment (SORRY! ;-).

    Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!

    P.S. What is the Czech equivalent to the Spanish DALE/DELE qualifications? (Just for written confirmation of my linguistic ability if I ever needed for a job interview or something).

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Interesting comment…
      I can’t really give you advice to “ALL” the issues, since your comment is more anecdotal rather than specifically requesting help.
      So your aim will be pretty much the same as mine! Fluency in 3 months… basically all the worthwhile advice I can give will be added as posts and I’ll summarise what worked best for this experiment at the end, around mid September (still not sure if I’ll actually reach fluency this time in just 3 months! Time will tell!!) Unlike me, you’ll have a headstart, so you can get all the grammar and vocabulary learning out of the way right now and use your entire experience living in Prague to actually speak and practise what you’ve learned, as well as learning the harder things you can’t from home. Achieving fluency in 3 months is no easy feat!! I am merely testing to see if I can do it based on all of my other language studies up to now. It would be possible for someone who doesn’t speak another foreign language already, but much harder. Try to learn Esperanto (as I mentioned in another post and will talk about again) first to see what it’s like speaking another language without worrying about grammar issues.
      It doesn’t make sense that you “don’t have the confidence” to teach yourself at home because you were “formally educated”. Self-teaching and formal education are completely different and your motivation will be completely different. Give it a try!! Don’t leave all of your work for your time in Prague!! You’ll wish you had done something before arriving, once you’re here, trust me!!
      I have yet to find a Czech equivalent to the DALF/DELE examinations because it is not officially part of the ALTE language certificates list so there would be an independent Czech organisation that would provide such qualification, and long-term study may be involved to receive it (unlike other CELI exams). I hope you continue to enjoy my posts!! All the best :)

      • http://www.anthonylauder.com/ SplogSplog

        There is an official proficiency examination for Czech proficiency – based on the European Framework with levels ranging from A1 to C2. Here is some information about it: http://check-your-czech.com/index.php?hl=en_US

        To be honest, I am not sure there is much value in taking it – except at the very lowest level (A1) which is requirement for permanent residency for non-EU citizens.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

          Thanks as always for your help Anthony :)
          The reason that someone would want to take the exams that I’m familiar with (DELF/DALF in French, DELE in Spanish and CELI in Italian) are for your CV as officially recognised proof that you speak the language (without needing to attend any course; you pay the very small exam fee, show up on the day and do the test and get the results about 2 months later. Simple as that), and these certifications are actually required by universities in their countries for foreigners who wish to study there full time. (I can study in France and Spain now if I decided, whereas usually foreigners can’t do much more than exchange years like Erasmus for example). I imagine it is similar for the Czech one, although digging a little would be required to confirm that!

  • Shola

    Benny, except from immersion, which other techniques do you use to learn a new language?
    Like if you can’t go and stay in that country. I’d like to learn and speak conversational italian within 3 months [i speak some but i'm a beginner]

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      A very good question! I will have several posts going into great detail about how to learn and perfect languages and speak daily with natives even if you are not in the country of the language :) Here in Prague I have greatly improved my French and Italian and I learned most of my Brazilian Portuguese in Paris for example. If you can wait a little bit (I’d prefer not to give it all away in the comments!), you’ll see those posts within a couple of weeks ;) Looking forward to reading your thoughts on them!!
      For the moment I can suggest that you look for a tandem exchange (as I have mentioned in other posts). Go to the local university and leave an advertisement for free English lessons in exchange for Italian ones (depending on where you live this may be hard or easy if there are lots of exchange students).
      Otherwise much more innovative tips coming soon!! ;)

  • Shola

    Benny, except from immersion, which other techniques do you use to learn a new language?
    Like if you can’t go and stay in that country. I’d like to learn and speak conversational italian within 3 months [i speak some but i'm a beginner]

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      A very good question! I will have several posts going into great detail about how to learn and perfect languages and speak daily with natives even if you are not in the country of the language :) Here in Prague I have greatly improved my French and Italian and I learned most of my Brazilian Portuguese in Paris for example. If you can wait a little bit (I’d prefer not to give it all away in the comments!), you’ll see those posts within a couple of weeks ;) Looking forward to reading your thoughts on them!!
      For the moment I can suggest that you look for a tandem exchange (as I have mentioned in other posts). Go to the local university and leave an advertisement for free English lessons in exchange for Italian ones (depending on where you live this may be hard or easy if there are lots of exchange students).
      Otherwise much more innovative tips coming soon!! ;)

  • Genevieve

    Hello, Benny and SplogSplog!

    How are you both? I hope that the two of you are very well indeed!

    Firstly, I would like to thank you both for your replies. Benny, you were right about the fact that my comment was more anecdotal than specific. That was a lot to ask from you and anybody else. Sorry! ;-) SplogSplog, thank you very much for the information about the Czech proficiency examinations. I know that it is probably not of much value, but I thought it might be useful for a job interview etc. I have also briefly scanned your weblog; however, I am looking forward to reading it in detail.

    Benny, just to clarify, the reason why “I do not have enough self-confidence to self-teach myself” is because I have always been taught, and thus convinced, that formal education and the consequent paper qualifications is the best and only way to be proficient in ANY subject, and that any other way is simply not respectable! Please help me to break this ‘educational snobbery’ that has been drilled into my head. (Issue 1) Also, as previously mentioned, my passion for languages has very slowly been fading due to a CONSTANT lack of money (and an unwillingness to self-education because of the reasons above) for the past two years, although, I still very much love languages and very much MISS them. Please advise. (Issue 2) I would also appreaciate anybody else replying this comment or my previous comment. Thank you very much.

    Best regards.

  • Genevieve

    Hello, Benny and SplogSplog!

    How are you both? I hope that the two of you are very well indeed!

    Firstly, I would like to thank you both for your replies. Benny, you were right about the fact that my comment was more anecdotal than specific. That was a lot to ask from you and anybody else. Sorry! ;-) SplogSplog, thank you very much for the information about the Czech proficiency examinations. I know that it is probably not of much value, but I thought it might be useful for a job interview etc. I have also briefly scanned your weblog; however, I am looking forward to reading it in detail.

    Benny, just to clarify, the reason why “I do not have enough self-confidence to self-teach myself” is because I have always been taught, and thus convinced, that formal education and the consequent paper qualifications is the best and only way to be proficient in ANY subject, and that any other way is simply not respectable! Please help me to break this ‘educational snobbery’ that has been drilled into my head. (Issue 1) Also, as previously mentioned, my passion for languages has very slowly been fading due to a CONSTANT lack of money (and an unwillingness to self-education because of the reasons above) for the past two years, although, I still very much love languages and very much MISS them. Please advise. (Issue 2) I would also appreaciate anybody else replying this comment or my previous comment. Thank you very much.

    Best regards.

  • http://otevotnyelv.blog.hu/ balint

    Sorry, but do you REALLY want to learn a language? Or just keep finding excuses? Go ahed and LEARN, don’t juggle and make excuses!
    .-= balint´s last blog ..Féléves összefoglaló =-.

  • http://otevotnyelv.blog.hu balint

    Sorry, but do you REALLY want to learn a language? Or just keep finding excuses? Go ahed and LEARN, don’t juggle and make excuses!
    .-= balint´s last blog ..Féléves összefoglaló =-.

  • Matt

    Hey, great blog!

    I totally agree with this post. Currently, I’m in Tokyo, but as expected I spend most of my time with other American students. I’d love to make the transition to finding people to speak only Japanese with, but most of them speak little to no Japanese.

    So I was wondering, how does one go about making friends in a foreign country? Do you have any suggestions as to how I can go about making friends who are natives? I know I may sound really dumb right now, but I’ve been here for 3 weeks now (I’ll be here 2 more months) and would love to find friends to speak only Japanese with, but I just don’t know how to do it. Hoping you have some insight.

    Thanks! Again, great blog!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Welcome to the comments Matt and thanks for the compliment :)
      Yes, it is a very tricky question indeed; sadly most of my advice would only be relevant to European and South American cultures. I don’t know how the Japanese socialise, so I’m not sure how you would go about meeting them.
      Nevertheless there is always a way :) Don’t think of it as “how can I make friends”, but more “how can I spend more time with natives”, and the making friends part will come naturally. In my next post (likely tomorrow), I’ll be discussing how we should try to combine our hobbies with our language learning. For example, I still haven’t made many local friends in Prague, so I will expose myself to as many situations as I possibly can with them – I like to dance, so I will look for a nice dance course (for locals, not tourists, and just in Czech). If you try to go to such meetings that have nothing to do with languages, where locals naturally go, you will get the chance to make new friends :) You can also do something fun that you would do anyway (chess club? Wine critics? etc.) If your Japanese isn’t good enough yet, it may be very hard to get something useful out of the course/group itself, but it’s a great way to just be with natives that have common interests and hopefully your natural charms will start friendships ;)
      Otherwise, try to look for a tandem with a local that wants to improve their English, with an ad in the local university or online etc. You’ll maybe make a new friend and they might introduce you to some of their non-English speaking friends :)
      When you are with English speaking friends with no Japanese, still SPEAK JAPANESE with them! Say something in Japanese first, and then repeat it in English. They may not understand, but it is forcing you to try to maintain your side of the conversation in the language you want to learn.
      What I usually do is avoid the English speaking community entirely and this forces me to socialise with locals. It’s been harder than I thought in Prague because I love speaking other languages and all the tourists and backpackers here let me practise my French, Portuguese, Spanish etc., which is almost as bad as socialising with English speakers in terms of learning Czech (but extremely important in maintaining my other languages). Nevertheless, in August I’m buckling down and diving deep into the Czech mission, and I’ll share any insights I find on the blog as always :)
      Hopefully something I say soon will give you a helping hand!! Let us know of your progress and thoughts in future comments :)

  • Matt

    Hey, great blog!

    I totally agree with this post. Currently, I’m in Tokyo, but as expected I spend most of my time with other American students. I’d love to make the transition to finding people to speak only Japanese with, but most of them speak little to no Japanese.

    So I was wondering, how does one go about making friends in a foreign country? Do you have any suggestions as to how I can go about making friends who are natives? I know I may sound really dumb right now, but I’ve been here for 3 weeks now (I’ll be here 2 more months) and would love to find friends to speak only Japanese with, but I just don’t know how to do it. Hoping you have some insight.

    Thanks! Again, great blog!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Welcome to the comments Matt and thanks for the compliment :)
      Yes, it is a very tricky question indeed; sadly most of my advice would only be relevant to European and South American cultures. I don’t know how the Japanese socialise, so I’m not sure how you would go about meeting them.
      Nevertheless there is always a way :) Don’t think of it as “how can I make friends”, but more “how can I spend more time with natives”, and the making friends part will come naturally. In my next post (likely tomorrow), I’ll be discussing how we should try to combine our hobbies with our language learning. For example, I still haven’t made many local friends in Prague, so I will expose myself to as many situations as I possibly can with them – I like to dance, so I will look for a nice dance course (for locals, not tourists, and just in Czech). If you try to go to such meetings that have nothing to do with languages, where locals naturally go, you will get the chance to make new friends :) You can also do something fun that you would do anyway (chess club? Wine critics? etc.) If your Japanese isn’t good enough yet, it may be very hard to get something useful out of the course/group itself, but it’s a great way to just be with natives that have common interests and hopefully your natural charms will start friendships ;)
      Otherwise, try to look for a tandem with a local that wants to improve their English, with an ad in the local university or online etc. You’ll maybe make a new friend and they might introduce you to some of their non-English speaking friends :)
      When you are with English speaking friends with no Japanese, still SPEAK JAPANESE with them! Say something in Japanese first, and then repeat it in English. They may not understand, but it is forcing you to try to maintain your side of the conversation in the language you want to learn.
      What I usually do is avoid the English speaking community entirely and this forces me to socialise with locals. It’s been harder than I thought in Prague because I love speaking other languages and all the tourists and backpackers here let me practise my French, Portuguese, Spanish etc., which is almost as bad as socialising with English speakers in terms of learning Czech (but extremely important in maintaining my other languages). Nevertheless, in August I’m buckling down and diving deep into the Czech mission, and I’ll share any insights I find on the blog as always :)
      Hopefully something I say soon will give you a helping hand!! Let us know of your progress and thoughts in future comments :)

  • Genevieve

    Balint, thank you VERY much for the wake-up call! I really need that! Out of interest, what language is your weblog written in? Benny, thank YOU very much for suggesting that I try to learn Esperanto, but what did you mean by “…It would be possible for someone who doesn’t speak another foreign language already, but much harder…” in your first reply to me? I did not quite understand. Also, do you find it difficult to immerse yourself in Czech in a developed, multicultural, English-speaking capital city like Prague as opposed to a village in the Czech Republic? And finally, could you suggest whom I could communicate with to, or an effective way in which I could, learn formal Czech as opposed to the colloquial Czech that I would learn from the exchange students as you suggested? (I do NOT know why I am so obsessed with formal language). Thank you very much for ALL your patience with my never-ending questions.

    Best regards.

    P.S. I loved your comments, Scott and Cestina! They were both very inspiring indeed!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      By that comment, I mean that I am claiming that it is possible for anyone to learn a language in 3 months… but that it may be easier for me now considering that I’ve learned other languages and know the right methods to go about it. I still don’t even know if I will make it to fluency this time, so for your very first attempt it’s great to have a very high goal (as do I), but it’s important to be realistic too ;)
      Nevertheless, I’m sharing all of these learning methods I’m talking about on this blog, so before you go you’ll have a huge advantage compared to me when I started learning my first languages.

      You should definitely go to a village or smaller city if you are absolutely 100% serious about fluency. Frankly, I’m not. I want to party this summer, I want to improve my non-Czech foreign languages and I don’t mind the touristy scene and lots of beautiful buildings, and a more international mindset that is used to the likes of me (vegetarian options in restaurants etc.). I chose Prague because I like all of the distractions, and want to see if I can reach fluency despite them. :) Also note that I am already very used to avoiding English speakers from years of practise :P . This is a lot harder than it sounds, so you shouldn’t presume that you just will, because it can be a lonely world if you aren’t able to make friends in a strange country! This is why forcing it to happen by going somewhere with less or no expats is ideal. Rather than natural talent, this ability to avoid English at all costs is the greatest skill I’ve picked up in the last years in terms of learning a language. Sharing that with everyone was the point of this post after all.
      As regards formal language; you are being way too demanding!! If you just request that an exchange student teaches you the formal language then as long as they have good familiarity with their own language they will. I don’t see the point of this though. I rarely hear English speakers actually say “do not” instead of “don’t” for example. Not knowing the second would make it much harder to understand people. If you want absolutely formal learning, there are plenty of schools all over the country that would be willing to teach it to you, but for a price…
      If you have any more comments that aren’t related to this topic feel free to contact me directly or ask in future posts.

    • http://otevotnyelv.blog.hu/ balint

      No problem ;) The blog is written in my native language: Hungarian :D
      .-= balint´s last blog ..Féléves összefoglaló =-.

  • Genevieve

    Balint, thank you VERY much for the wake-up call! I really need that! Out of interest, what language is your weblog written in? Benny, thank YOU very much for suggesting that I try to learn Esperanto, but what did you mean by “…It would be possible for someone who doesn’t speak another foreign language already, but much harder…” in your first reply to me? I did not quite understand. Also, do you find it difficult to immerse yourself in Czech in a developed, multicultural, English-speaking capital city like Prague as opposed to a village in the Czech Republic? And finally, could you suggest whom I could communicate with to, or an effective way in which I could, learn formal Czech as opposed to the colloquial Czech that I would learn from the exchange students as you suggested? (I do NOT know why I am so obsessed with formal language). Thank you very much for ALL your patience with my never-ending questions.

    Best regards.

    P.S. I loved your comments, Scott and Cestina! They were both very inspiring indeed!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      By that comment, I mean that I am claiming that it is possible for anyone to learn a language in 3 months… but that it may be easier for me now considering that I’ve learned other languages and know the right methods to go about it. I still don’t even know if I will make it to fluency this time, so for your very first attempt it’s great to have a very high goal (as do I), but it’s important to be realistic too ;)
      Nevertheless, I’m sharing all of these learning methods I’m talking about on this blog, so before you go you’ll have a huge advantage compared to me when I started learning my first languages.

      You should definitely go to a village or smaller city if you are absolutely 100% serious about fluency. Frankly, I’m not. I want to party this summer, I want to improve my non-Czech foreign languages and I don’t mind the touristy scene and lots of beautiful buildings, and a more international mindset that is used to the likes of me (vegetarian options in restaurants etc.). I chose Prague because I like all of the distractions, and want to see if I can reach fluency despite them. :) Also note that I am already very used to avoiding English speakers from years of practise :P . This is a lot harder than it sounds, so you shouldn’t presume that you just will, because it can be a lonely world if you aren’t able to make friends in a strange country! This is why forcing it to happen by going somewhere with less or no expats is ideal. Rather than natural talent, this ability to avoid English at all costs is the greatest skill I’ve picked up in the last years in terms of learning a language. Sharing that with everyone was the point of this post after all.
      As regards formal language; you are being way too demanding!! If you just request that an exchange student teaches you the formal language then as long as they have good familiarity with their own language they will. I don’t see the point of this though. I rarely hear English speakers actually say “do not” instead of “don’t” for example. Not knowing the second would make it much harder to understand people. If you want absolutely formal learning, there are plenty of schools all over the country that would be willing to teach it to you, but for a price…
      If you have any more comments that aren’t related to this topic feel free to contact me directly or ask in future posts.

    • http://otevotnyelv.blog.hu balint

      No problem ;) The blog is written in my native language: Hungarian :D
      .-= balint´s last blog ..Féléves összefoglaló =-.

  • cestina

    Genevieve – Balint has made a very acute point. All you really need to do to make a change in the way you approach language learning (or actually anything else in life :-) ) is to DECIDE that you want to do it……once the decision is truly made, everything else falls into place. The problem is, we are often ambivalent with our decisions.

    Good luck!

    • Genevieve

      Thank you VERY much for your advice, Cestina! Much appreciated!

  • cestina

    Genevieve – Balint has made a very acute point. All you really need to do to make a change in the way you approach language learning (or actually anything else in life :-) ) is to DECIDE that you want to do it……once the decision is truly made, everything else falls into place. The problem is, we are often ambivalent with our decisions.

    Good luck!

    • Genevieve

      Thank you VERY much for your advice, Cestina! Much appreciated!

  • Alyson

    This is a really suprinsing post to me, simply because I thought that this is what everyone did. I followed the same regimine when I went to Germany and was shocked when, by the end, I was referred to as “the girl who could speak German.” So, yes, this method really does work! I would also recommend reading in your foreign language before bed. I retain a lot more vocabulary that way.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Clearly it’s not what everyone did if you were referred to as “THE girl who spoke German” ;) I’m sure you would have seen lots of lazy expats just speaking in English :)
      I’m glad to see others have proven that this works!!

  • Alyson

    This is a really suprinsing post to me, simply because I thought that this is what everyone did. I followed the same regimine when I went to Germany and was shocked when, by the end, I was referred to as “the girl who could speak German.” So, yes, this method really does work! I would also recommend reading in your foreign language before bed. I retain a lot more vocabulary that way.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Clearly it’s not what everyone did if you were referred to as “THE girl who spoke German” ;) I’m sure you would have seen lots of lazy expats just speaking in English :)
      I’m glad to see others have proven that this works!!

  • Cynthia

    Hi Benny – we met ages ago in SF at a CS meetup and Jess reminded me of your site since I’ve been trying to become fluent in Spanish. I will second your motion about not speaking English from firsthand experience!! I immersed myself in Spanish in Argentina so much so that my best friend and I immediately primarily spoke spanish – with my having listened to 6 hours of lessons before coming over.

    I have fond memories of making Argentine waiters laugh while my friends would speak in Spanish and make up ways to communicate with each other knowing full well that you wouldn’t normally say it the way you ended up – I’d ask to borrow something that cuts when I forgot the word for knife and other tricks to get communicate. I was amazed at how quickly I learned! After 4 weeks of only speaking in Spanish, I traveled for 3 months and ended up with primarily English speakers… my spanish quickly deteriorated – I love the people I met but I wish I had stuck to the spanish only route.

    At a conference recently – some Brazilians who hardly spoke spanish were amazed at how quickly I was picking up Portuguese (in just one weekend I was able to have minor communication with them in their language) but this was from always attempting to speak in Portuguese first with them.

    I have been trying to find ways to improve my level of communication while NOT immersed in the language I want to learn – I have so many friends who speak spanish that I think I will try your devote 3 hours/day to speaking only spanish and see how it works. Thanks for the idea! Any other ideas for those of us not immersed?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Thanks for sharing your story with us Cynthia :)
      I have quite a lot of ideas about improving your level while not immersed in the country and I will be discussing them all on this site in the coming weeks/months ;) Stay tuned!

  • Cynthia

    Hi Benny – we met ages ago in SF at a CS meetup and Jess reminded me of your site since I’ve been trying to become fluent in Spanish. I will second your motion about not speaking English from firsthand experience!! I immersed myself in Spanish in Argentina so much so that my best friend and I immediately primarily spoke spanish – with my having listened to 6 hours of lessons before coming over.

    I have fond memories of making Argentine waiters laugh while my friends would speak in Spanish and make up ways to communicate with each other knowing full well that you wouldn’t normally say it the way you ended up – I’d ask to borrow something that cuts when I forgot the word for knife and other tricks to get communicate. I was amazed at how quickly I learned! After 4 weeks of only speaking in Spanish, I traveled for 3 months and ended up with primarily English speakers… my spanish quickly deteriorated – I love the people I met but I wish I had stuck to the spanish only route.

    At a conference recently – some Brazilians who hardly spoke spanish were amazed at how quickly I was picking up Portuguese (in just one weekend I was able to have minor communication with them in their language) but this was from always attempting to speak in Portuguese first with them.

    I have been trying to find ways to improve my level of communication while NOT immersed in the language I want to learn – I have so many friends who speak spanish that I think I will try your devote 3 hours/day to speaking only spanish and see how it works. Thanks for the idea! Any other ideas for those of us not immersed?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Thanks for sharing your story with us Cynthia :)
      I have quite a lot of ideas about improving your level while not immersed in the country and I will be discussing them all on this site in the coming weeks/months ;) Stay tuned!

  • http://ciaoamalfi.blogspot.com/ Laura at Ciao Amalfi

    Ciao Benny! You are an inspiration! I have been thinking of doing just this starting in September, and Cherrye at My Bella Vita (http://my-bellavita.com/2009/08/07/learning-italian-full-immersion/) just directed me here to your website. I live in Italy now and have been frustrated with how slow my language learning has been (I can understand well, but speak very poorly). My boyfriend speaks perfect English, which means it has been all too easy to not force myself to speak Italian. But I know it is what I need to do, because I want so much to speak Italian. So I have decided September is my month! Thanks for the inspiration!
    .-= Laura at Ciao Amalfi´s last blog ..Summer Snapshot: Amalfi through the Lemon Groves =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Study hard this month and tell EVERYONE about your plan :) They will be helpful as long as you are clear about your goals and you drill the idea into them. I came up with my plan on the spur of the moment, so why wait until September? Ease yourself in and decide that for this month you will speak at least one hour a day, or something similar, in Italian.
      And take it very seriously – it will be a very hard month I can guarantee you (that’s why you should try to cushion the blow and start already as I suggested). My level of Spanish was very very bad when I started my month, but I still made it through to the other side!
      Best of luck and let us know how your Italian-only month goes :)

      • http://ciaoamalfi.blogspot.com/ Laura at Ciao Amalfi

        Ciao Benny! Thanks for the suggestions! I have already started to let people know of my plans, and I have already been better at thinking before I speak and saying as much as I possibly can in Italian. Sometimes it is only half a sentence… and the rest comes out in English. But I figure half is better than nothing! :-) Yes, I agree… why wait? Just more excuses?? I have a very difficult month personally and with work, so I decided to start with the ease myself in approach. But I know my type A personality tends to lean toward all or nothing, so I think the more drastic approach will actually work really well for me. So now I am alerting everyone, speaking as much as I can, and reviewing my flashcards and verb conjugations. September 1st it is! :-) Thanks for the encouragement! I will likely be writing about it on my blog during the month, and I will certainly link back to your inspiring website! Grazie mille!
        .-= Laura at Ciao Amalfi´s last blog ..Out & About: Night Bells and Moon over Ravello =-.

  • http://ciaoamalfi.blogspot.com/ Laura at Ciao Amalfi

    Ciao Benny! You are an inspiration! I have been thinking of doing just this starting in September, and Cherrye at My Bella Vita (http://my-bellavita.com/2009/08/07/learning-italian-full-immersion/) just directed me here to your website. I live in Italy now and have been frustrated with how slow my language learning has been (I can understand well, but speak very poorly). My boyfriend speaks perfect English, which means it has been all too easy to not force myself to speak Italian. But I know it is what I need to do, because I want so much to speak Italian. So I have decided September is my month! Thanks for the inspiration!
    .-= Laura at Ciao Amalfi´s last blog ..Summer Snapshot: Amalfi through the Lemon Groves =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Study hard this month and tell EVERYONE about your plan :) They will be helpful as long as you are clear about your goals and you drill the idea into them. I came up with my plan on the spur of the moment, so why wait until September? Ease yourself in and decide that for this month you will speak at least one hour a day, or something similar, in Italian.
      And take it very seriously – it will be a very hard month I can guarantee you (that’s why you should try to cushion the blow and start already as I suggested). My level of Spanish was very very bad when I started my month, but I still made it through to the other side!
      Best of luck and let us know how your Italian-only month goes :)

      • http://ciaoamalfi.blogspot.com/ Laura at Ciao Amalfi

        Ciao Benny! Thanks for the suggestions! I have already started to let people know of my plans, and I have already been better at thinking before I speak and saying as much as I possibly can in Italian. Sometimes it is only half a sentence… and the rest comes out in English. But I figure half is better than nothing! :-) Yes, I agree… why wait? Just more excuses?? I have a very difficult month personally and with work, so I decided to start with the ease myself in approach. But I know my type A personality tends to lean toward all or nothing, so I think the more drastic approach will actually work really well for me. So now I am alerting everyone, speaking as much as I can, and reviewing my flashcards and verb conjugations. September 1st it is! :-) Thanks for the encouragement! I will likely be writing about it on my blog during the month, and I will certainly link back to your inspiring website! Grazie mille!
        .-= Laura at Ciao Amalfi´s last blog ..Out & About: Night Bells and Moon over Ravello =-.

  • David

    Benny, while doing these experiments, do you also stop listening to all English language songs? That would probably the hardest thing to give up for me…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      In most countries that I’ve lived in that’s almost impossible; 60s-90s and modern songs in English are very popular in many places. There are usually purist radio stations that avoid playing English tunes, but I have never intentionally avoided English music; I expose myself to as much of the local music as possible however.
      The point of this article isn’t to say avoid hearing or seeing anything in English; it’s about YOU not speaking in English. English can crop up everywhere, I don’t cover my ears when it happens :P If you were carrying out a similar month experiment you would be wise to SING in the foreign language too, if you are so into music :)
      I’ll write an article just about how music has helped me learn languages some time later ;)

      • Josh

        Hi Benny:

        Does this also apply to not reading on the internet in English, and only in Spanish? Thanks for the help!

        Josh

  • David

    Benny, while doing these experiments, do you also stop listening to all English language songs? That would probably the hardest thing to give up for me…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      In most countries that I’ve lived in that’s almost impossible; 60s-90s and modern songs in English are very popular in many places. There are usually purist radio stations that avoid playing English tunes, but I have never intentionally avoided English music; I expose myself to as much of the local music as possible however.
      The point of this article isn’t to say avoid hearing or seeing anything in English; it’s about YOU not speaking in English. English can crop up everywhere, I don’t cover my ears when it happens :P If you were carrying out a similar month experiment you would be wise to SING in the foreign language too, if you are so into music :)
      I’ll write an article just about how music has helped me learn languages some time later ;)

  • Alex

    Really interesting topic, man, thanks!
    going to follow your idea (现在我学习汉语,哈哈)

  • Alex

    Really interesting topic, man, thanks!
    going to follow your idea (现在我学习汉语,哈哈)

  • http://en.babelcafe.org/ Ricardo

    Este es un consejo muy bueno. Lo siento que nadie más no ha escrito en español (o en otro idioma excepto inglés), e yo no escrito bien en español, todavía.
    .-= Sitio de Ricardo ..Main Page =-.

  • http://en.babelcafe.org Ricardo

    Este es un consejo muy bueno. Lo siento que nadie más no ha escrito en español (o en otro idioma excepto inglés), e yo no escrito bien en español, todavía.
    .-= Sitio de Ricardo ..Main Page =-.

  • Elthyra

    When I was 10, I didn’t speak a word or English, apart from “hello’ and the usual stuff learnt in primary school. And then my family moved to the United States, despite having a hard time with the language, I went to an American school, had to speak English with everyone else, and the only other French speaker in the school was my sister, who is a few years older than I am and thus wasn’t in the same grade. The first few months were definitely horrible for me – I didn’t know anyone and was too shy to actually make friends, I couldn’t understand what people were saying, I missed my country, etc but in less than six months I was nearly fluent, and the second year I spent there was amazing. Now that I moved back to France, I can’t even imagine what my life would be without English – it has brought me so much (especially good grades in english class in middle school)

    • Elthyra

      The point of the above post, besides randomly talking about my life on the Internet being that learning another language that way can be tough for a few months, but if an asocial French fifth-grader can do it, so can everyone.

  • Elthyra

    When I was 10, I didn’t speak a word or English, apart from “hello’ and the usual stuff learnt in primary school. And then my family moved to the United States, despite having a hard time with the language, I went to an American school, had to speak English with everyone else, and the only other French speaker in the school was my sister, who is a few years older than I am and thus wasn’t in the same grade. The first few months were definitely horrible for me – I didn’t know anyone and was too shy to actually make friends, I couldn’t understand what people were saying, I missed my country, etc but in less than six months I was nearly fluent, and the second year I spent there was amazing. Now that I moved back to France, I can’t even imagine what my life would be without English – it has brought me so much (especially good grades in english class in middle school)

    • Elthyra

      The point of the above post, besides randomly talking about my life on the Internet being that learning another language that way can be tough for a few months, but if an asocial French fifth-grader can do it, so can everyone.

  • Chris O'Donovan

    This is great advice!! I'm going to Prague in Feb for 5 months as an erasmus student and I'm going try your method. I'm from Co.Cork an also really really want to learn languages….I'll have to change that into a NEED!! Thanks!!

  • Daniel

    现在我学习英文,哈哈

  • davidoslo

    Using a language actively is absolutely the key to mastering it. When I first moved to Norway (after having studied Norwegian for 2 years in my native Scotland) I was lucky enough to find a very good, very patient, Norwegian friend who I lived with and who was willing to speak to me in Norwegian a lot of the time – even though his English was excellent.

    When you're starting to get fairly fluent it's really important to ask your friends to correct you. A lot of people won't do this because they'll instinctively feel it's rude and might not be appreciated. Make it clear that you appreciate being corrected!

  • angie

    oh my stars, benny! i just discovered your blog through “stumble upon” and i absolutely love it! since finding it this morning, i've learned several new words in my target language that i might not have retained had i not employed your methods (particularly the elaborate stories, i.e. gare-garfield). i am fluent in english, spanish and french, proficient in italian and portuguese, i've studied swahili, biblical hebrew and koine greek, and i'm now learning wolof (my husband and i are theology professors in senegal, west africa). my parents are from south america (although i was born in the US), so i guess you could call me angie the colombian polyglot! :)

    i appreciate not only your incredible insights into language learning, but your winsome, kind way of expressing yourself (i've noticed that when responding to some comments that are a bit snarky, that you're very gracious). i'm working on the orientation manual for our agency and will be using your blog as a resource. i think it'll be a great help to new arrivals. i look forward to browsing your site for more helpful tips. all the best to you, benny!

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

    Definitely good advice there! I was worried Brazilians wouldn't correct me when I was trying to emulate their accent, but when they saw how serious and passionate I was about it they were super helpful and realised that they were indeed helping me rather than being rude.
    If you make it clear to people they are happy to help :)

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

    Hope you are successful! I had a totally active life in Prague despite very rarely hanging out with English speakers, you can do it too! It WILL be hard, but definitely doable.
    Even better that it's with Erasmus; it's easier to speak a local language with other foreigners also learning it ;)
    Best of luck!!

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

    Thanks for your comment Angie! I actually tried talking down some commenters and it was a waste of time; some people have to be right so they'll argue with you forever. I found that even in a negative comment if you pick out the one “positive” thing they said and thank them for it, it extinguishes any need for a pointless argument ;)
    Glad stumbleupon sent you my way, it's been very kind to me lately!!
    Have a nice look around my other articles and I'd be happy if you linked to it to help others!! :)

  • Kanjiknight

    I'm pretty sure that falling back to English for convenience is the biggest stumbling block to advance my Japanese skills at the moment. I'm curious to try to survive without it from now. Thank you for the encouraging article. By the way, for an enjoyable and motivating story of another polyglot, I'd like to suggest Lomb Kato's “Polyglot: How I Learn Languages” book, freely available online.

    Cheers from Japan!

  • http://learnspanishfastcourse.com/ Jay

    I actually had a very similar experience in Spain (Sevilla). I studied there for a year. The first 4 months i was hanging out mostly with americans (even though english isn't my native language). The second semester i was spending a lot more with spanish and other international students (french/italian, …). My spanish skyrocketed, after i was very dissapointed in myself after the first semester.
    I noticed actually that Irish/English/and especially Americans tend to speak the most in their mother tongue and advance the slowest.

  • http://sine-qua-non.tumblr.com/ sine_qua_non

    Hi Benny,

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I'm finding it very interesting and informative so far. I can definitely see how the technique you've described in this entry would be very helpful for achieving fluency. I myself know only English and some Spanish. Most of the Spanish I truly learned I learned not from classes but from two students from Ecuador being placed in a couple high school classes with me. They did not speak much English at the time, particularly one of them who spoke only a few words. I have no idea why she was placed in regular classes, but I attempted to translate for them as they usually didn't understand what was going on. It placed me in a situation where I had to speak Spanish rather than it being a choice.

    But now I'm in a different situation. I have always wanted to learn more languages so I could travel with more ease and speak to/know/understand more people. Recently I decided to try to begin going into Spanish again. I've sadly lost a lot of it, and I was far from fluent to begin with. At this point in time though, I live in the USA, and due to finances I do not get the opportunity to travel (yet!) though I hope to in the future. In the here and now, all of my family and friends that I speak to daily speak languages other than English. Nor would most occupations in this area allow for you to speak no English during the work day, and I've lost contact with many of the non-English speakers I've known in the past due to people moving, etc. So what would be the best way to proceed for someone who really wants to learn other languages (starting with Spanish in my case) but doesn't really have the ability due to circumstances to simply not speak any English for 30 days or so at a time? Should I feel doomed?

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

    Ja, genau! Das ist wirklich ein kluger Eintrag! Ich kenne Polen, die seit 20 Jahren in Deutschland wohnen und immer noch kein Deutsch sprechen… Unglaublich, aber wahr. Interessanter Blog, by the way. Hab schon auf RSS gedrückt ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/Mneiae Caroline L

    I love Valencia, even though I was perpetually sleep deprived because of the constant fiesta in Centro. Where did you live?

  • Alena Segura

    This is very interesting and helpful. However, what if you are trying to learn a language in America and don't have the opportunity to move to a foreign country to immerse yourself in the language? I am learning Spanish. My vocabulary is extensive and I am decent in grammar, past tense etc…..My accent has never been the problem, I actually pronounce very well. But, and I have a weird hang up. My husband is Mexican and I freak out at the idea of speaking to him in Spanish! It terrifies me. It's like I'm taking a test from back in school and I freak out and doubt myself and question whether or not I will say it right and can't make myself do it. I am intimidated because he is fluent in English and Spanish. I don't have a problem speaking it to my kid, because we are both learning together.
    People have also told me that I need to learn to “think” in Spanish all the time…..any suggestions???

  • sebastianpanakal

    Nice and practical suggestion. I am going to try it. Thanks.

  • Andy

    I think really commting yourself to a language is a very important part. Sadly, just stopping speaking one language is not always an option if you're not living in a country with your target language for example. English is also not my second language. I started picking it up from the age of eleven by reading english websites. I also had English in school for roughly 5 years. Schoolwork helped with my grammar and unfamilliar works, but thanks to my interest and path to english, I was always ahead of the material taught in class and did not need to learn grammar by heart, like other classmates. I'm a native german speaker from Switzerland. If you want to conversate just go on and talk about something you care about: andreas (dot) wildi (by) gmail (3 letter abbrevation for commerce).

  • http://www.MyBeautifulAdventures.com/ GlobalButterfly

    It's such a simple idea, but it profoundly helps!!!

  • Simone

    Hi,
    I moved with my husband and 2 children to Australia.
    At first I studied English and now I'm doing an ocupational Certificate.
    We know a lot of Germans in Australia and then we speak German and at home too.
    After reading your story I have decided with my husband to speak more English at home. This would be good for our children too.
    Thanks
    Simone

  • http://languagebubble.com/ Andee

    Benny, all true… I feel the same sadness for those in Korea that live in English… Ex-pats are the same everywhere – useless ;)

    Enjoyed finding your blog through HTLAL anyway and will keep a lookout for your updates

  • David

    I found your article interesting, which of course leads to questions or need for advice. When in a country, a Spanish speaking country for example, it is easy for me to go 100% Spanish. This is fine and good but not so easy when in the U.S. I have tried over and over to “just speak Spanish” but find that no matter what, due to my charming gringo looks (insert smile here) when I try to speak Spanish I get a response back in English with one of those “Why are you speaking Spanish” looks. How do you overcome this?

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

    Blasco Ibañez :) Close by all the Erasmus parties – I too was fiesta-ed out after a year there :P

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

    You live in America and you say there are no opportunities to speak Spanish?? I lived in San Francisco for one month and I spoke more Spanish than English while there.
    This post will give you some suggestions for what to try!

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

    That's a great idea!! Bringing language learning into the home – I hope it's working out :)

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

    Thanks for the comment Andee! Expats never fail to disappoint me in their laziness to learn languages!! Luckily, there are exceptions and I'm trying to make more of them through readership in this blog :)
    See you here or in the forum ;)

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

    I wrote two posts that should answer your question. How to practise a language when not in it's native country and how to convince natives to speak to you. Best of luck :)

  • Guest

    “I have met some English speakers who have lived in Prague for up to TEN years, and after just a few weeks I already speak better Czech than them!! This does NOT make me feel smart; it makes me feel sad and frustrated for them!”

    I know what you mean. Without giving away enough information to identify myself or my friend…I once went to visit a friend who lives in a foreign country. A country which does not use the Latin alphabet. I feel that I'm pretty good at picking up languages, at least at the tourist level, and input-only methods do work pretty well for me. So before this trip, I listened to an instructional CD for maybe 3 hours/week, for 4 months. My friend had lived there for 2 or 3 years, and I was shocked to find that I could speak the language better than her. I don't mean to insult my friend at all – she's happy and content, and that's what matters. But, I am intending to move overseas myself in a few years, and I hope that when I do, I will take full advantage of the abundant opportunities to become fluent in the local language.
    Thanks for writing this blog. This is only my second day reading it, but I've spent all afternoon here, and am really enjoying it.

  • http://amhoanna.blogspot.com 暗生番

    Totalmente de acuerdo, hombre. Aquí en Taiwán donde estoy quedando, hay muchas personas mandarín-hablantes que dicen, “Sí, quisiera aprender holo-hokkien-taiwanés / inglés / japonés, es que no he podido.” En verdad solo necesitan dejarles de hablar y usar mandarín en todas las situaciones, no más… Especialmente con holo-hokkien-taiwanés, un idioma hablado con fluidez por 70-80% de la población, la verdad es que (1) no les hace falta tanto a los mandarín-hablantes, y (2) a los mandarín-hablantes parece casi imposible aprender el holo, porque andan por cualquier lugar hablando el mandarín solamente.

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

    Then why not do it? :) To frustrate people a little less you can reply in French, THEN English ;) I’ve played the part of bipolar bilingual before :P

  • http://twitter.com/cmsadler cmsadler

    Me encanta este idea. Lamento que tenía una oportunidad cuando vivía en alemania por 3 meses, y no pude hablar en aleman. Estaba por mi trabajo, y todos me hablaron ingles, y no traté de hablar mas en aleman menos pocas frases. Y ahora, intento mejorar mi español, y vivo en Texas, EEUU. En mi vida profesional, todo es ingles desafortunadamente. Cuando estoy trabajando o dondequiera, trato de hablar en mi mente solo en español.

    Voy a hablar más en español cuando estoy en casa. A mi hijo (que tiene dos años) no le gusta, pero me gustaría que él sepa unas frases también.

  • Jerimiah

    Definitely the fastest way to achieve fluency. I had a similar experience doing a year-long program in Beijing. By the end of the program, I was indistinguishable from a Beijinger on the phone (obviously they can tell you’re a foreigner if you speak with someone in person), and it was great. I think you might downplay how alienating this can be though. Not speaking English to native speakers, especially if their Mandarin isn’t that great, can put them off quite a bit. Also, three months might be enough to get fluent with full-time study and only speaking your target language (it was for me, at least), but I’d never thought it would be enough time for people who are working, or can’t dedicate a lot of time to study. Overall though, I definitely agree that this is the best way to learn language, and after the alienation, you’ll find yourself more understanding of the different culture, thought processes, and logic that each language has. Languages aren’t as hard as a lot of people make them out to be if you stop using a foreign language to analyze another language.

    Oh yeah, please contact me if you want to discuss methods for learning language or are ever interested in learning Mandarin (I can’t do Cantonese so well yet). I’m more than willing to not talk with you in English!

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

      Thanks – glad to see others with similar experiences :)

  • http://culturequirk.blogspot.com/ Delphine

    This is such a simple yet brilliant method. It does seem extremely difficult, but good for you for creating such an experience for yourself. I think I’m at the point in my Japanese study that I wouldn’t be completely frustrated if I were forced to only speak the Japanese so I sort of wish I could try this out despite how tiring it seems, but the problem is that I don’t live in Japan (and there are veeeery few Japanese people where I live…) But immersion is definitely the best method out there. Awesome post!

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

      I tried before I was ready and I’m very glad I did.
      Note that I learned Portuguese while living in France. All I see in your comment is that there are definitely Japanese speakers where you live and you aren’t speaking enough with them!! Very few or not – you just need to be friendly with one.
      Best of luck!

  • Jayashri

    Any suggestions for those who have no chance of physical conversation/meeting such people in person? I am a Singaporean studying Czech, and there is NO CHANCE whatsoever of me going to Prague anytime soon. My online Czech friends help me a lot, but I’m also supposed to be helping them with English. This exchange cannot occur without both languages.
    What do you suggest?But I agree with this; just a few hours each day of forcing myself to use as many Czech sentences as possible when online with these friends and over just three days I feel a tremendous improvement in both familiarity (and automatic-ness) of grammar and vocabulary extent. However, I have been writing all the new words and corrections down, and use an online dictionary to facilitate the convo.

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

      I’ve already answered this concern in previous comments you’ve written. Please see my posts from Oct-Dec 2010 to see many suggestions to practice languages in a different country.

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

    Yes, I find that many people – not just native English speakers – have the English-bubble problem.
    I’d avoid English speakers if I were you. I’m sure you want to improve your level, but seriously – go to Ireland, Australia etc. for that. You can do so much more right now with your Chinese!

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

    Living in Spain was also my first time living abroad. I had been to visit the states, but that was it. So I disagree with your word of caution. Not having more travel experience isn’t the issue.

    It was really hard for me too in that month, but sticking to it paid off. If you didn’t have any friends for the first month then it wasn’t quite the same as what I propose – you can’t make intensive progress in a month if you barely speak it!

    I’m sorry your first month was so hard. This is quite surprising to me as Brazilians of all people will be the most helpful and social in the world with you. This post isn’t just about avoiding English, it’s about speaking as much as you can. Avoiding English but spending all day alone is worse and in that case it IS better to simply hang out with expats.

    Anyway, you got through it in the end and tried it when you were more confident so I’m glad to hear you are willing to try again – but don’t give up so easily and be much more social with Brazilians when in Portuguese mode! They really will be happy to help!! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712142362 Wesley Tweek Martin

    I’m a 17-year old high school student in Iowa in the midwestern United States, which is staunchly monolingual, so implementing this method on a daily basis as far as communication would be impossible. However, I’ve found that an extension of this method works really well for processing information in other languages. I’ve decided to avoid English-language websites (excepting things like Facebook and my email), and I also sometimes do my homework in French and Spanish in addition to English. When face-to-face communication isn’t possible in another language, it helps hugely to still process as much information as you can in the other language, and in the end it will be a huge step forward for you.

    • http://sushibird.com Sushibird

      I switched everything on the computer to Japanese. My FB is in Japanese, my gmail is in Japanese, the operating system on my iPhone and my Mac is in Japanese. It is easy to switch languages on a lot of websites these days :)

  • Tamsin

    This is soooooooo helpful. I’ve been living in Bulgaria and working as an English teacher for almost four years now and still speak Bulgarian pretty poorly and mostly only when I have to. BUT I feel sooo inspired having just read this… Let the experiment/new lifestyle commence!!!! I’ll post back in a month to say how it’s gone………… Благодаря! (Thank you…) Tamsin :)

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

      Looking forward to your update :)

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

    It really is worth the investment :) You EARN the right to speak quickly by going through the struggle ;)

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

    Don’t let her switch. If you stay in French she’ll get the idea. If you switch to English with her, you’re just reinforcing the idea to let her keep doing it.

  • Bryan Schiele

    I just found this blog recently and now wish I had had this as a resource a couple years ago for my abroad semester in Paris, while I was trying to learn French! You are exactly right – the days I was forced to speak nothing but French, usually not by choice,  were the days my French made the biggest strides. I am now fluent in spoken French, while still constantly learning and discovering new words and intricacies with the language. It is the only foreign language I know, but your posts have me inspired to expand on my language-learning! 

    The thing that helped me the most in achieving fluency was having a French girlfriend who spoke little-to-no English. I noticed that those that I’ve met who had foreign significant others generally made the most progress in the target language. I’m not saying that people should just force a relationship with someone just to learn the language, that’s not exactly an ideal thing to do, but it is just an observation I’ve made.

    Looking forward to catching up on everything I’ve missed since this project was started, keep up the great work!

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

      Yes, being in a relationship with someone will always improve your chances. At the very least having lots of friends is almost as good.

      Enjoy reading through the archives ;)

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

      Yes, being in a relationship with someone will always improve your chances. At the very least having lots of friends is almost as good.

      Enjoy reading through the archives ;)

  • http://twitter.com/mharpernichols MorganHarperNichols

    I’m trying to remember how on earth I ran across your blog (I think I Googled “polygot”) but wow, am I glad I did. Ever since I was a kid I have always been intrigued by other cultures, and namely their languages. I studied English in my undergrad and took a linguistic class from a man that spoke several languages as yourself…I learned so much in that class and since then (that was a year ago), I’ve been on a mission to be able to communicate in more ways than English…working on Spanish now. Thanks for the encouraging post.

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

      Thanks for sharing your story! Great to see new people on the blog :)

  • http://twitter.com/mharpernichols MorganHarperNichols

    I’m trying to remember how on earth I ran across your blog (I think I Googled “polygot”) but wow, am I glad I did. Ever since I was a kid I have always been intrigued by other cultures, and namely their languages. I studied English in my undergrad and took a linguistic class from a man that spoke several languages as yourself…I learned so much in that class and since then (that was a year ago), I’ve been on a mission to be able to communicate in more ways than English…working on Spanish now. Thanks for the encouraging post.

  • http://twitter.com/mharpernichols MorganHarperNichols

    I’m trying to remember how on earth I ran across your blog (I think I Googled “polygot”) but wow, am I glad I did. Ever since I was a kid I have always been intrigued by other cultures, and namely their languages. I studied English in my undergrad and took a linguistic class from a man that spoke several languages as yourself…I learned so much in that class and since then (that was a year ago), I’ve been on a mission to be able to communicate in more ways than English…working on Spanish now. Thanks for the encouraging post.

  • http://twitter.com/mharpernichols MorganHarperNichols

    I’m trying to remember how on earth I ran across your blog (I think I Googled “polygot”) but wow, am I glad I did. Ever since I was a kid I have always been intrigued by other cultures, and namely their languages. I studied English in my undergrad and took a linguistic class from a man that spoke several languages as yourself…I learned so much in that class and since then (that was a year ago), I’ve been on a mission to be able to communicate in more ways than English…working on Spanish now. Thanks for the encouraging post.

  • http://twitter.com/mharpernichols MorganHarperNichols

    I’m trying to remember how on earth I ran across your blog (I think I Googled “polygot”) but wow, am I glad I did. Ever since I was a kid I have always been intrigued by other cultures, and namely their languages. I studied English in my undergrad and took a linguistic class from a man that spoke several languages as yourself…I learned so much in that class and since then (that was a year ago), I’ve been on a mission to be able to communicate in more ways than English…working on Spanish now. Thanks for the encouraging post.

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

    Who’s Dave?
    Please search my site for “any language anywhere” and you’ll see lots of tips about learning without travelling.

  • Timf F

    hey benny, im 17 and form australia, just wanted to say hav loved readin your posts, these concepts are really interesting. im keen as to go overseas, and get out in the world and id love to be able to speak the languages of where im visiting. i really hope that i can find the level of commitment to do wat uve done but im not sure if id hav that kind of time to spend in one place and to commit to one language…also how do you fund your trips if you go so often?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Please read my about page, I’ve written about the jobs I’ve had in my travels there.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Please read my about page, I’ve written about the jobs I’ve had in my travels there.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Please read my about page, I’ve written about the jobs I’ve had in my travels there.

  • Timf F

    hey benny, im 17 and form australia, just wanted to say hav loved readin your posts, these concepts are really interesting. im keen as to go overseas, and get out in the world and id love to be able to speak the languages of where im visiting. i really hope that i can find the level of commitment to do wat uve done but im not sure if id hav that kind of time to spend in one place and to commit to one language…also how do you fund your trips if you go so often?

  • Timf F

    hey benny, im 17 and form australia, just wanted to say hav loved readin your posts, these concepts are really interesting. im keen as to go overseas, and get out in the world and id love to be able to speak the languages of where im visiting. i really hope that i can find the level of commitment to do wat uve done but im not sure if id hav that kind of time to spend in one place and to commit to one language…also how do you fund your trips if you go so often?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Of course it’s possible! Please read the comments on this page: http://fi3m.com/adult-learner-research/ and you’ll get lots of encouragement ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    At the half way point I started thinking in Spanish. After I got over the thought that I couldn’t speak Spanish at all, and started really speaking it, thinking in the language became natural :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    At the half way point I started thinking in Spanish. After I got over the thought that I couldn’t speak Spanish at all, and started really speaking it, thinking in the language became natural :)

  • J L Wright

    This is an amazing blog! Thanks so much for it! I have been living in Jordan for two years and am very disappointed by the progress I’ve made learning Arabic. My Companion is a native, but speaks fluent English. Therefore, we primarily speak English in the house. Two or three times a week I go to his old neighborhood to “immerse” myself in Arabic and actually learn quite a lot; just not enough because I don’t get enough chances to practice my new vocabulary. Just last week one of my friends down there said to me, “You should stop speaking English in the house!” Now, three days later I find your blog giving essentially the same advice. Now, because I am a teacher of English as a Second Language, I won’t be able to stop speaking English 100% of the time, but my Companion has agreed to stop speaking to me in English from our getting up time until he leaves for work in the afternoon. When my students leave in the evening, I will now speak only Arabic and I’m also going to give up television, because we mostly get English speaking channels and the Arabic ones speak only Fus7a (Formal, Quranic Arabic) which is completely different to the language spoken in the streets. I plan to be far more fluent by the end of 2011 and then sail on to complete fluency in 2012! Thanks again for the confirmatory advice!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    English is a commercial language – when someone insists on speaking it with you and you are in THEIR country, it may be a lazy attempt on their part to avoid paying for lessons or moving across the world as you would have done, for the sole purpose of improving their employabilty. When I’m in the foreign country, *I* am the one who made all the major changes to my life, not them.

    Sometimes they may genuinely be interested in getting to know you, but hindering someone’s progress in a language when they are in the country and urgently need to speak it is SELFISH. If I meet a non-native-English speaker in the US or Ireland who wants to practice English with me since they are still learning then I’ll indulge them.

    I have seen many many people use English speakers who have moved to their country, for no purpose other than to improve their skills in English, and yes it is clearly using that person and very different to someone trying to learn a local language.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    English is a commercial language – when someone insists on speaking it with you and you are in THEIR country, it may be a lazy attempt on their part to avoid paying for lessons or moving across the world as you would have done, for the sole purpose of improving their employabilty. When I’m in the foreign country, *I* am the one who made all the major changes to my life, not them.

    Sometimes they may genuinely be interested in getting to know you, but hindering someone’s progress in a language when they are in the country and urgently need to speak it is SELFISH. If I meet a non-native-English speaker in the US or Ireland who wants to practice English with me since they are still learning then I’ll indulge them.

    I have seen many many people use English speakers who have moved to their country, for no purpose other than to improve their skills in English, and yes it is clearly using that person and very different to someone trying to learn a local language.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    English is a commercial language – when someone insists on speaking it with you and you are in THEIR country, it may be a lazy attempt on their part to avoid paying for lessons or moving across the world as you would have done, for the sole purpose of improving their employabilty. When I’m in the foreign country, *I* am the one who made all the major changes to my life, not them.

    Sometimes they may genuinely be interested in getting to know you, but hindering someone’s progress in a language when they are in the country and urgently need to speak it is SELFISH. If I meet a non-native-English speaker in the US or Ireland who wants to practice English with me since they are still learning then I’ll indulge them.

    I have seen many many people use English speakers who have moved to their country, for no purpose other than to improve their skills in English, and yes it is clearly using that person and very different to someone trying to learn a local language.

  • Anonymous

    I’m in Madrid, and I’m going to try it :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Best of luck! It’s a tough struggle, but SO worth it if you are willing to put in the work of being 100% committed :)

  • http://twitter.com/MiProfedeingles Mark

    Great. Totally what I’ve been thinking for the past few years – and especially this past week with a “repeat offender” irritating dental receptionist (*such* bad etiquette to switch without asking the other person, especially as her English isn’t the same level as my Spanish”). Your web site is EXCELLENT and I’ll be visiting regularly to read it more fully over the coming winter months. Thanks!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    What an excellent quote! Just shared it on twitter :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    De nada!! Mucha suerte con tu alemán, ya que tienes la “píldora mágica” ;) ;)

  • Anonymous

    Olá, Benny. Acabo de encontrar este maravilhoso post enquanto procurava a seguinte frase no Google: “what does it feel to be in a foreign country where nobody speaks your language ?”. Bom… Já que eu comecei comentando em português, vamos lá. Nunca estive no exterior para aprender novos idiomas mas tenho uma grande paixão pelo assunto, tanto é que já estou me preparando para tal desde o início desse ano. Acho que vou ficar por um tempo na casa da minha prima que vive em Genebra e começar pelo Francês. Por mais óbvio que isso possa parecer ainda tem gente que não entende que pra aprender uma língua nova é preciso, em parte, desligar-se de suas raízes e imergir completamente no meio em que se fala a língua que você quer aprender. Meu inglês vai bem, obrigado, meu espanhol também “dá pro gasto”, mas pra todo aspirante a poliglota que se preze uma língua a mais é sempre bom, né? Já adicionei seu blog aos meus favoritos (bookmarks). Muito obrigado pela iniciativa e depois eu comento mais! Até logo! Ahhh, ví seu vídeo falando em vários idiomas, seu português está ótimo, eu adorei o sotaque.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Pode deixar!
      Boa sorte em Genebra! :)

      • Anonymous

        A propósito, você já esteve na parte francesa da Suiça? É que uma vez um francês me contou que o sotaque deles é bem lento quando comparado ao francês falado na França. Uma outra dúvida que eu tenho é sobre o francês falado em Quebec: várias pessoas já me disseram que o francês dele é meio estranho. O que isso quer dizer em termos práticos? De antemão, já agradeço pela força. Já virei seu fã em menos de 24h HAHAHAHA! Ahhhh… E enquanto vc estiver em Cuzco, cuidado com as folhas de coca que eles gostam de mascar, elas te deixam igual ao Incrível Hulk! É brincadeira!!! Grande abraço. o/

  • http://TokyoJim.com Jim Gottlieb

    We all learn from our mistakes.  When I studied abroad in Japan in university I made the mistake of mostly hanging out with the other American students.  Yes, I did speak Japanese with my host family, but I never gained the fluency of those who spent most of their time with locals.

    Decades later, I decided it was time to get off my butt and do the study abroad in China that I’d long wanted to.  And this time I knew what not to do.  Don’t pay a university for an expensive class where you only get to talk a few times an hour, and don’t socialize with other English speakers.

    I found a small language school in a city with relatively few foreigners, and took two hours a day of (cheap) private lessons taught by teachers from the local university.  And I hung out only with Chinese.  The combination of these self-imposed conditions, plus again living with a host family, means I made so much more progress in my three and half months in China than I did in one year in Japan.

    I know it’s more comfortable to hang out with others who speak your language.  But if you really want to learn, do what Benny says and forego this comfort to force yourself to speak your new language with native speakers for a good portion of the day every day.  Just ordering your daily Big Mac in the local tongue won’t do it!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I lived in Amsterdam this year and learned Dutch fine, and spoke pretty much no English. Please read these posts:

    http://www.fluentin3months.com/north-europe-myth/

    http://www.fluentin3months.com/amsterdam/

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Your question is rather simple, presuming that being in a country will magically have you speak with no effort on your part – please search my site for a post about how travelling does NOT help you learn a language.

    And otherwise, actually do work and then you will improve…

  • hogg.jenny

    Wow very interesting topic really i am truly inspire from this .I appreciate your great effort to discuss this useful topic and share your great thoughts here with us . 
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  • Silent_exposure

    Been volunteering in Japan the last four months and I can attest that this is true. Unlike most people I did not have the option of speaking English to anybody (weekly skype calls to family were it) as I am deep in the Japanese mountains in a town nobody has heard of. But being forced to only speak this language has helped me pick it up so much more and Japanese is not an easy language for English speakers. Great article!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    First read this post about your “impossible” comment: http://www.fluentin3months.com/achieve-the-impossible/
    Then read this post about learning a language as a couple:
    http://www.fluentin3months.com/couples/
    Then realize that it’s easier than you think- but you have to leg go of excuses. I’ve had jobs that require me to speak English at work all day – as have many very successful language learners. You are not the only one in your situation. This final post will remind you of that: http://www.fluentin3months.com/destiny/

  • Kimnkev

    I thought that story was fantastic I actually use some of those tips. I have been learning myself about ten years now and need help. But I don’t know anyone who can help with listening. But I mean talking face t face about everyday things. I’m do frustrated. Can u help me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ndbeardsley Nikki D Beardsley

    You are such an inspiration! I’m currently living in Italy on my Erasmus year and can relate to so much of what you say. Thank you so much!

  • Patrick Costello

    Hello Benny,

    Just discovered your site today and am blown away by it. I have just returned from 3 weeks in Cambodia and Vietnam and back to my “normal life”. 

    I feel really restless but at age 50 with a partner there is no way I could do what you are doing. Reading your blog makes me feel so sad at all the missed opportunities I have had in life.

    Enough self indulgence1 I want to know how you deal with practicalities for example currency and banking, accommodation, health and vaccinations while travelling. You seem to be some sort of superman and reading your experiences is exhausting. any tips?

    Patrick

  • Chopsaurus

    Hey Benny!

    Wow, I just started reading your articles and they are wonderful!  After my husband and I read your post about speaking nothing but the foreign language, we decided to try it.  Now, we only speak mandarin chinese at home and we can not only function, but maintain a great marriage and have a lot of fun without ever speaking English!  Coolest thing ever… like you said, it was like a light bulb came on…. want to be fluent… then speak the language…. of course!  Since neither of us are native Chinese speakers, I sometimes worry if we’re totally messing up, but at least we’re using the language, even if chunks are wrong.  I find it easier to fix the mistakes later, than to never make mistakes at all :) Anyway, thank you so much for the work you put into your blog and we look forward to reading more!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Great job!! Fantastic to see two non-natives give this a try. That will give you some essential flow in the language that will genuinely help you when speaking to natives!

  • Bill Summer

    Bonjour, Benny. Je me appelle Bill Été de Columbie Brittanique à Canada. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/christelle.briand.3 Christelle Briand

      Bonjour! Mon copain, d’origine allemande et qui vivait justement à Vancouver avant de me rencontrer, vient vivre avec moi à Québec (la ville). Il veut travailler ici et apprendre le français, mais il se frustre des complications de la langue! (nous ne prononçons pas les mots de façon à suivre la graphie, la grammaire est complexe, etc.) J’aimerais énormément qu’il ait une approche positive! Je ne sais pas comment le réconcilier avec le français en général — il semble déterminé à apprendre, même à contre-coeur, mais bon. Ce n’est pas ce qu’il y a de mieux.

      Comment fais-tu? Qu’est-ce qui t’intéresse le plus dans le français? Et as-tu trouvé un emploi facilement?

      Merci de peut-être satisfaire ma curiosité haha!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aristotelis-Koskinas/1282087287 Aristotelis Koskinas

    You’re right of course about total immersion, but for us unfortunate souls who have to learn our foreign language in our home country out of a book and some discs, this really is not an option.
    My substitute is fake immersion, consisting of magazines, movies and monologues.
    The latter I find rather useful. I think it’s great practice and I can do it practically everywhere. I make up dialogues in my head (or even aloud when no one is around) playing out different imaginary situations and trying to supply both questions and answers. Of course you get no input and you keep repeating your own mistakes, but at least you get to find out what words you should look up or what structures need brushing up. Plus, you sometimes get an inspiration which you later find is correct.

  • http://profiles.google.com/fredcolbourne Frederick Colbourne

    This is bang on! I worked in a Central American country for 9 months. Carried Hugo’s Spanish dictionary in my back pocket and Hugo’s Spanish in 3 Months in my hand. Everywhere I went I tried to strike up conversations with local people.

    Between conversations I studied grammar. 

    How do you start a conversation? Simple. You take a sentence you are learning and read it out loud to someone in Spanish. They will say it back, correcting your pronunciation. It’s human nature. Then they will ask you where you are from etc. Bingo you are having a conversation. 

    Lot’s of people will try out their English with you, but unless they are more or less fluent in English they will give up and speak Spanish just because speaking English is hard work for them. You just have to be patient and work harder than the new friends you meet.

    I can say that I was speaking more or less fluently after 3 months.

  • AnnaJazzy

    Great strategy! Though not an easy one! But this one only works! Thanks for your wonderful and extremely useful posts!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=575791583 Stephen Coleman

    Great inspiration! I’ve been living in Taiwan for the past 4.5 years, but my Chinese sucks, precisely for the reasons you’ve mentioned.

    My goal is to do the one-month no-English challenge, so to prepare I did it for one day, yesterday. It was my day off, and I already had plans to hang out with my friends (Taiwanese and foreigners), see a stage show, have dinner afterwards, etc.

    I’m proud to say that I DID IT–no English the entire day! It was horrible and incredibly frustrating!! Under the pressure of not falling back on English, I couldn’t remember the most basic words, and ended up pantomiming most of my communication, or just staying silent. It was a real eye-opener for me.

    That one day made me realize that the no-English policy is exactly what I need to improve. I’m not going to jump into a full month right away, though. Next time will be a few days or a week.

    Thanks again, Benny, for sharing your language learning journey!

  • Kara

    Hi =) I actually came here by accident and I must say I really like your posts. Right now I’m during finding my own way to learn German very fast as I am from Poland and I want to live in Germany for a while. It doesn’t come easily so I was looking for many solutions, even cracking my dictonaries for hours ! (with no big results of course). I found your advice really helpful so please keep your fingers crossed for me :) and good luck on your next language ! :)

  • ofenerci

    Of course, your method is the best way to learn a foreign language. But the problem is to find a friend who can bear with my rudimentary german. This problem is very common in the county like Germany where most of people are goot at speaking English. People can easily be bored with my conversation, as a result I am back to spaking english again.

    But your advice of mixing two languages works sometimes. As we go and forth back between German and English, our conversation doesn’t lead dead end.

    Ozhan

  • OsakaWebbie

    When my husband and I moved to Japan, we were pretty much immersed (no other foreigners or bilingual Japanese around us) except for our marriage. We realized the principle you pointed out here, so although we weren’t brave enough to go cold turkey on deep marriage communication for too long at a stretch, we did try a couple “rules” to make ourselves use Japanese with each other, which I will share here in case it helps someone else:

    * English Fast Day: Choose a day of the week (for us it was Thursday) when no English would be used. If you can’t say it in Japanese, you have to wait until Friday.

    * No-English Zone: No English could be spoken in the room that served as our bedroom and livingroom (think tiny Japanese apartment with a futon). If you can’t say it in Japanese, you have to get up and go beyond a doorway to say it.

    We probably could have done more (like you suggest), and we didn’t even keep these rules as long as we intended to when we started them, but even making the effort helped us gain some additional momentum.

  • Bill

    Both your strong desire and infinite frustrations resonate with me! I’m what I call “restaurant/bar” fluent in a couple of languages, but to exchange more than pleasantries and passing orders to the waiter, I’m helpless. You’ve motivated me! Thanks! This week I’ll take the (personal) pledge to muddle through in German, no matter what. I’m sick and tired of studying to no avail.

  • Mary Armstrong

    Interesting post…I enjoyed reading it.

    I struggled with French for many years. I wanted to speak but hated the grammar
    and the lessons were soooooo boring. A couple of years ago I decided that I
    would just take the plunge and begin speaking to a few native French speakers
    despite my limited ability. It was pathetic but some people were encouraging
    and most would tell me to speak in English. I think the little encouragement
    was all I needed from a native. I understood 50% of what was said and picked
    out words that I knew and tried to answer. Now I have no qualms about speaking
    with a lot of errors and listening to them speak on other topics without the
    vocabulary. Unfortunately, I still translate in my head. I feel that I can go
    back to the grammar now and improve my use of the tenses.

    I began learning Spanish on my own a couple of weeks ago and is using a totally
    different approach. I’m not touching the grammar right away but learning
    phrases that I can use in a conversation immediately. I tried it out on a few
    Mexicans and they were happy to hear me speak. One guy said that it was pretty
    good and started to speak to me in Spanish. I was able to understand one word
    in five sentences spoken; but it was a great feeling. I don’t have the same
    level of translating the words back to English in my head.

    How did you remind yourself not to resort to speaking in English if you were
    struggling and you knew the native speaker spoke English too? Sometimes it gets really frustrating especially when the French person prefer to communicate in English because it’s a lot faster and I eventually switch back to English. I find it really tough to
    stick to my decision then to not break back into my comfort language.

  • disqus_Pm9Sbbm7RE

    I’m with Jacob’s comments below. I am mid-50s and cannot just up and go to live in Spain but I love learning the language although I accept I will never be fluent because of my location. I try to translate most things I do throughout the day ie. Voy a hacer un cafe! I also talk to my dog in Spanish!!!! And to improve vocabulary I read the instruction page of manuals or website in Spanish even if I don’t understand it all. Afterwards I read it in English to see how much of it I have picked up. Reading/comprehension is the easy bit….as you point out speaking is difficult, it’s not only the perfectionism issue but the spontaneity of piecing the words together. I will keep trying y gracias por tu advice :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/markus.gotz.18 Markus Götz

    nice story i like to do the same :D I’m a german and i read this because i will learn spain and being better in english. How u learned the first few words? like yes, no, one beer please… ? I know some peru girls so i will learn it from them. have you a nother good idea ?

  • Nimrod B.

    I have said the same of the spanish speakers in the USA. They speak English only when they have to but speak Spanish throughout all their normal daily life activities. They can live in the USA for decades and still not be fluent (or maybe they just don’t want to?)

  • Akasha

    I wonder … what do you do when you are in a mixed group of native English speakers who haven’t learned any of the local language and don’t appear to make any effort to do so and local speakers. I put my foot down and said I would only speak in the local language at all times because I’m tired of people trying to use me for free English practice. Now all of the gringos around me are bent out of shape and trying to lay the guilt on me because they don’t speak the local language. But, seriously, I worked in radio journalism for 7 years in the U.S. and had any and all accent drilled out of me. As a result, if I say even a word or phrase in English in front of non-native speakers, they flock to me like bees to honey because they say they can understand me so much better than others who come from different regions of the U.S. or England with strong accents. It’s really a big mistake for me to EVER speak English when in a foreign country.

    Generally, I avoid the Americans when I’m overseas because I don’t like living in an expat bubble, but currently I am renting a room in a house for financial reasons. There’s a mix of foreigners and Americans, but the Americans here seem to think I owe them attention and that I have to speak to them in English, although I already explained that I don’t speak English when out of the country. The other thing is, if I make the mistake of speaking in English, these Americans (who don’t want to learn other languages) try to latch onto me either to have someone to talk to or to translate everything for them.

    So, Benny, I’d be very interested in hearing what you would do in this situation. I understand that this is an old post, but I’d love to hear from you or anyone else who happens to drift upon this article.

    Thank you!

    • http://www.facebook.com/brian.fradet Brian D Fradet

      Ah, who’s life are you living? Simply avoid these people and if you find yourself with them for whatever reason, simply speak to them only in the foreign language. Then, later when you’re home, look yourself in the mirror and grin from ear to ear with the knowledge that you stood up for yourself. Hope this helps. Brian

      • Akasha

        I agree! Thanks for the support. It is a bit challenging when they
        live in the same house, but I am adamant about speaking only the foreign
        language :-)

  • http://twitter.com/ce2pbrandals Cecep Cahya Purnama

    Its frustrating actually!! I tried to learn Spanish and Italian at the same time I know sounds too much but I have to as I’m working in a resort in Bali and most of the guests are coming from Spain Italy and France !! I realized my English still in basic level though.
    I need some advice please help me how to speak Spanish amd Italian asap :(

  • Guest

    hello

    my name is hassan

    actually your post enters directly into my heart — I’ve been already looking for advice like this .

    I am planing to go to Ireland next year for 2 months …..honestly i want to get the English fluency

    but i do not know how can i get it it as soon as possible>>.

    so your advice is that ((((( leaving the us of your original language and try to speak the language you want learn )))))))

    but i wonder if there are another tips to follow to achieve the fluency.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hasenfa Hassan Elfakhiri

    hello

    my name is hassan

    actually your post entered directly into my heart — I’ve been looking for advice like this for ages .

    I am planing to go to Ireland next year for 2 months …..honestly i want to get the English fluency

    but i do not know how can i get it it as soon as possible>>.

    so your advice is that ((((( leaving the us of your original language and try to speak the language you want learn )))))))

    but i wonder if there are another tips to follow to achieve the fluency.

  • http://www.facebook.com/healthtips55 Kannan Rajan

    Spoken English Video
    Training And Self Learning DVD’s
    For sale. 2 DVD’s Just Rs 200/= Only. Contact us: T.Kannan.Cell: 09976570800

  • calmac30

    100% agree with this article, so true and rings so many bells. I have been living in Italy for nearly 2 months now and I am still finding the langauge hard. However i have improved drasticly since moving here, I can have a basic conversation with people now which is great. But the problem is I live with 3 other English people and we ALWAYS communicate in English. This is definatley a problem as it DOES halt the learning process. Whilst out the other night we met some girls that had been livin here from anything to 1-5 years, i was surprised that my Italian was better than the majority of theirs. Straight away i identified the problem, they are English, they live with English people, they socialse in English, even with their Italian friends who i insisted in only speaking Italian too, and yes it is nice to get compliments on how after such little time you can speak not bad italian, also they are full time English teachers. I felt a bit annoyed that their Italian levels were so low. But thier whole Italian existence is being lived in English and not Italian. So I 100% relate to this article, I belive the only way to quickly pick up a language is to only speak in that lanaguage, however I have made this suggestion to my flatmates but they simply don’t want to do it so I am a bit stuck and don’t know what to do. Sorry for writing this in Elnglish and not Italian, I felt this situation would be easier described in English!

  • GooeyGomer

    This is a great idea in theory, but I’m glad you pointed out that it is a lot easier said than done. As an American, when I decided to give living abroad a go, I picked the Canary Islands because most Americans have no idea where they are, so I figured I’d be less likely to fall into the trap of being in a foreign country but only hanging out with other Americans.

    While it was true that Americans were hard to come by (I was the only American in the village where I lived), Europeans of every flavor were in abundance. So, there I was with French, German, Canarian, Czech, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch and Portuguese friends and yeah, our lingua franca was English.

    Later I moved to Barcelona to be with my boyfriend who was from there, and I figured finally, I’d be able to truly pick up on Spanish. I even made it a point to not seek out other English speakers. Problem was, my boyfriend was fluent in English, and even when I asked him to not speak to me in English, he complained how “weird” it felt speaking to me in Spanish. When I was with his family and some of his friends, they always wanted to practice their English with me, and refusing to accommodate them just seemed a little rude to me.

    So, I absolutely think that only speaking in the target language makes a difference, however I would add, better to start doing it as soon as you hit the country you’re in than to wait until later on when you find yourself struggling with the language. That way, the people you deal with don’t have communication with you in English imprinted on their brain (apparently that’s a thing). Admittedly, I could have been less of a pushover about letting people speak to me in English. And I also agree that to some extent, I was used just for English practice by some people, but there’s something to be said for human interaction with natives of any culture in that even if you aren’t picking up their language, you’re picking up their thoughts and customs.

  • Pernilla K Hammar

    Did you never had any problems when you HAD to communicate well, for your own security or well-being? For me it is quite frustrating to communicate when everybody replies in the language I understand, like french och english. I don’t improve my grammar in Arabic at all. How did you improve yours in different languages?

  • johny

    You have the correct approach , direct immersion into the language , well done !

  • Ryan Brooks

    I really like this concept. Personally I don’t have the resources to go abroad for a few months right now, I know that I will do it eventually, but how can I use this concept to help my fluency here? I’m half Dominican, and I feel like a disgrace to my race for not being fluent in spanish. When my friends start to speak spanish I totally zone out. I am a Spanish minor in college and have been studying the language for YEARS and I can barely hold a regular conversation… What are some practical steps that I can take to use your concepts here at home. And what are some tactics I can use to help force myself to actually do it?

    • “M”

      Hola (que lo que :-)) –

      Vi que tenía una página en FB. Creo que tenemos un problema similar. También he visto que tenemos muchas cosas en común (como nuestra ciudad de NYC :-)).

      Yo también soy una música que toca el piano – aunque tengo la sensación de que no soy “profiicente” como tú – y hasta nos disfrutan “Leverage” en la telelvision.

      Estoy tratando de conseguir mi espalda fluidez español. Yo tenía un amigo que era Dominicano, también, que dijo que me ayudaría, pero entonces … así, para hacer un cuento largo, no he sabido nada de él a veces. Tal vez tú y yo podríamos ayudarnos unos a otros con nuestro dominio de la idioma.

      ¿Qué piensas …?

  • Maggie

    Wow, I just found your blog today and I’m so appreciative for it! I’m 20 years old and I feel that reading this article maybe it is possible for me to learn languages like I want to! I dabbled for so long that I kept getting frustrated, unable to learn what I wanted to learn. Now I’m getting serious for the first time, I’m in Turkey right now with almost no Turkish and in a week I’ve managed to learn enough to be polite. I don’t know if I can totally cut out English, because my classes are half in English and half in Turkish, but I can certainly make an effort to speak only in Turkish to my housemates.

    I’m so grateful towards you for posting this! It’s simple, and it’s what we all know we have to do, but no one has ever told me that I could compromise. It’s always been either total and complete immersion with absolutely no English or the opposite, to hear that finding the right mixture is still a good path is so heartening! Thank you, and maybe when I’m done with my trip I’ll post back and tell you how well your plan has helped me!

  • akshay

    Hey I am here from India.. n I will try from my best… excellent decision… appreciating..

  • Mustapha Barsa

    Olaa That such? Sorry but not understand your language I only speak Spanish, if can write me so to talk

  • Mustapha Barsa

    انتي جميلة جدا

  • Ted

    Alright quick question, would it be wise to still read in english? Say for example, bringing an english-to-foreign language dictionary around with you to converse with the locals? Also, would the cold turkey involve not reading novels/ internet articles/social media in the evenings in english? Thoughts?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Avoid as much as you can. I don’t go cold turkey 100% any more, but I also don’t keep up with TV series or read newspapers in English when on an intensive mission. I do read emails, and some occasional news articles, but keep in mind that I do it for 3 months intensively, so it’s not so bad since I can get back to English material again after that if I like.

  • Tiffany

    You are definitely right on this one! This summer I went to Quebec to learn French in a complete immersion program for 5 weeks, and we weren’t allowed to speak a word of English! If we wee caught speaking it, we would be given “avertissements” and if the number gets up to three, well, we’re out! (and we had to pay to go home too, so as you can see it was quite an incentive! )

  • Candeniz Sekerci

    You’ve made my day sir. I’m 16. My local language is Turkish. I spent 3 years of my life being educated in an American school. When I first started school there, I didn’t know anything in English. I had a hard time learning English and communicating with others. But after a few months I could speak well and even made some friends. This happened when I was in third grade. And I didn’t have many problems speaking in the next 2 years. I could speak English better than Turkish. I also learned some Spanish. But evantually I returned to Turkey where noone spoke English. It’s been 6 years since I returned and realized I couldn’t speak English properly. I can’t speak it fluently. But I can listen and understand without any problems. We have English lessons at school but they’re too easy for me. So I did something similiar to you what you did I decided to stop thinking in Turkish and start thinking in English. By doing so I realized how bad I got at speaking English. But now I’m doing my best to remember what I forgot by reading books, watching movies and tv shows all in English of course. It’s good to see people giving advices and showing ways to learn a new language. Too bad I forgot a lot of stuff but it gets better.

  • Joiya

    There’s so many languages I want to learn, but I have no one to speak them to and no reason to learn them, and I live in America…. :(

  • Danielle Johns

    This is the exact same way I learned spanish, the only difference is that I never made the choice, it was forced on me! However, I do not think I would have been able to learn otherwise as I had been studing for 6 years and could still not say anything worthwhile and without a lot of stress. Now I am fluent but after a few months I was able to communicate well a with very little or no stress

  • Una Ni Mhanichin

    Quand j’avais 16 ans j’ai passe 6 semaines en Paris sans aucune mot d’anglais, sauf pour appeller mes parents une fois chaque semaine. It was my first time away from home and I could just about introduce myself in French when I arrived – it was one of the most difficult things I ever did in my entire life. It worked though, the day before I left I had a chat with my host about a complex philosophical talk show on the radio – a very, very proud moment and important memory.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Good job Una!

  • Sharon

    Thanx for the blog!! I live in Australia and my only language with any fluency is English. My hubby is Cambodian and i have decided to learn the language properly so that i can speak it fluently. I’ve known how to speak enough to get by on for a long time but now i really want to be able to converse properly!!! I go to a tutor once a week and practice throughout the week but i share the same frustration as you did in the beginning!!!! i feel like no matter how much i learn, i still can’t speak or understand enough and most people i know don’t want to speak in Khmer or can’t. I will try your method each day like suggested with my hubby and just in my own thoughts if i can and see how i go!

  • Mame Du Bois

    When I first read your ‘suggestion’, I thought “Well, duh!” Then I realised that many people probably wouldn’t realise the importance of this and it needed to be said. I knew someone who lived 25 years in India and only spoke the most basic Hindi. She didnt need to rely on Hindi. My expat Aussie friends in Greece know of many similar stories. Your post is quite academically sound, btw. I’m a linguistics major currently studying bilingualism and ‘need’ has a huge influence on L2 acquisition. I find keeping a diary in the target language helps, immensely. Emotion also impacts greatly on L2 acquisition – through meaningful relationships with people in the target language. This is probably why parental bond is so important in L1 acquisition. Great post.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Glad to read that linguists agree with me! I started to see the allusion to need and emotion being influences and would be happier to see them get more media attention than talent in language learning.

  • Billie

    I agree with you completely, your blog entry made me laugh so much since I’ve had many similar experiences. I’m an Irish expat who’s been living, working and studying in France for the last three years now. The first year I spent teaching English, I had EFL friends, bilingual French friends, etc… and then the second year I moved to another part of France and life got a whole lot harder since I’d spent so much time using English as my main language. Then last year I said “No more! I’m going to speak French 24/7″, and the transformation in my life since has just been incredible. It’s been so enriching to be a part of a culture in ways that are just not possible without the language, that moment when you realise that you’ve integrated into another culture is just amazing, the struggle is well worth the reward!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      It definitely is! Thanks for showing people I’m not alone in this story!

  • ruchi bhadauria

    Hello Benny,
    Like you were trying to learn spanish and avoiding english I am trying to learn fluent english . I am a hindi speaker from India. Although i did my schooling from a renowned english medium school in my city i cannot speak fluently although good at grammer. Now my 6 yr old son is in school and i want him to speak english fluently. Please give me some tips.

  • Chandra prakash

    Hi Benny,
    please tell me the process how can improve my english speaking without the help of any body, because i don’t have friends. i want to improve my english myself.
    Thanks

  • Billy Pearson

    Tengo 20 años soy africano americano de Nueva Jersey y vivo en Puerto Rico ahora. Yo sé que Puerto Rico no esté el lugar ideal para aprender español a causa de la influencia de inglés aquí. Sin embargo, escogí PR pq estoy en la Guardia Nacional De EEUU y pagan para mi matrícula (a UPR) y tenía muchas ganas a aprender español antes de alcanzo 21 años.

    Esta un reto aquí pq mucho de la gente, principalmente los jóvenes y estudiantes, hablan inglés. Y cuando oyen un gringo intenta a hablar español, cambian a inglés. Y no quiero estar grosero, pero en mi mente estoy como que, ” estoy pagando estar aquí, eses personas necesitan que habla a mi en español completamente “!

    Tu publicación me daba mucho esperanza y motivación aprender español con lleno velocidad. Yo he estado aquí para solamente un mes y una semana (desde aug. 2013) ahora y me voy a vivir aquí probablemente para un año o más.

    Mi pregunta es así: ahora es Septiembre pero quiero hablar con fluidez por diciembre como un caribeño. Piensas que eso nivel es alcanzable en 3.5 meses ?

    Gracias por sus palabras y publicaciones en tu blog. Me voy a empezar ahora hablando en español solamente.

  • Kyle

    I hope to become fluent in Spanish, so I would like to spend a year in South America. However, I would have to work, as I am young and have almost no money. I have looked into working as an English teacher, which seems to be the best option for Americans looking for work. Your article has me reevaluating this idea. Would working as an English teacher Monday-Friday 8-3:30 make it too difficult to progress? Thanks

  • Jackson Rosembach

    You are a brave man! It is very hard and stressful to do what you did! Eu queria ter a sua coragem!

  • IndyInAsiaPacific

    This post heading is perfect. That is EXACTLY how I became fluent in Mandarin Chinese, the first additional language I learned on my journey to being a Polyglot.

  • Shruti Chaudhary

    I really want to brave this and currently have the benefit of actually living in France. However I live in a house where there are only English speakers and I was wondering, does anybody know how I can socialise with local people? I’m a 21year old female and I speak French to a high level but still need a lot if practice!

  • Jennifer Mullen Ingerson

    I had to refuse to speak English when I was 18, an exchange student in Brazil and determined to learn Portuguese. I missed, as you so aptly expressed it, being able to communicate as a literate adult, but it was so worth it! Once, though, I went to a movie (in English) with some Brazilian friends, and it moved me so much I wanted to discuss it afterwards as we walked home. I tried to express my feelings in Portuguese and became so frustrated that I burst into tears in the middle of a busy city square. It was that desperate need to communicate that turbo-charged my language-learning.

  • Tamorie

    I love this idea. My situation was really similar. I was in China recently and for the first month I lamented over why my Chinese wasn’t improving, until it finally hit me that I wasn’t actually speaking Chinese outside of class. I made a conscious decision that day to hang out more with my roommate and her friends, because they only used Chinese to communicate with each other. It was hard at first, but I felt the change almost instantly and by my third month I was already conversational fluent in Chinese even though I was only in Foundation B, the second lowest class (I’d studied for a semester in the States beforehand).

    My Chinese got so good so fast, that one of the first questions Chinese people would ask me is how many years I’d lived in China. Most didn’t believe me when I replied with x number of months, because I could speak so fluently. By my second semester I’d advanced all the way to Intermediate A. I had a teacher even tell me that I had a natural gift for speaking Chinese, which took me back. I didn’t, still don’t. The only difference between me and the other foreigners studying Chinese is that I actually made the conscious decision to speak the language everyday. I grew apart from the friends I’d made in the first month, because, until the very end, they only spoke English with each other, but I gained so many other friends from all other the world, by speaking with them in Chinese (It was the language that linked us all together).

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience in Spain. It’s such a simple conclusion to make to speak the language of your host country, yet I met so many expats in China who had been there for years and excused their inability to speak Mandarin by sticking with “the language is too hard” mentality. Though, I understand the frustration of trying to learn a second language when everyone around you wants to practice speaking YOUR mother tongue. I, definitely, haven’t finished learning other languages myself and when I do I’m sticking with the same technique. Good luck on the rest of your language learning journey!!

  • http://www.abemedia.co.uk Adam Bouqdib

    Oh my god you are so right! I only just came across your site by mistake (I was looking up information on learning new programming languages quickly) but I have lived in Morocco 5 months now and my French is still a little shaky and my Arabic is basically non-existent!
    No more English or German for a month!

  • Raeesa Patel

    This is so excellent. I’m at the hand gesture and waving around stage. Definitely going to try this!

  • Jenbon

    I love your site! Have you ever tried to learn two languages at once?

  • Vicky

    Thanks for this! I love it. It’s so true that being around other English people makes it difficult to learn, and it took me a few months of living in Germany to realise I had to stop spending all my time with my English speaking friends and start making new ones. It’s easier said than done, and I found my half way point being finding a tandem partner, where we would speak half English half German.

    I saw a lot of people who came to the city I was in and spoke exclusively English to other English speaking people around us. There was plenty of people who did! They would live together, eat together, socialise together and even travel together. It meant that a lot of places we went to they didn’t even realise we spoke German, so the waitresses would also address us in English, and new friends would come into the group who were German natives but would end up speaking English.

  • Chris

    Well Benny, here I am in Taiwan, entering week three of no English. I came here to re-read your article for the ?th time for a bit of encouragement, as an American girl at the hostel I am living in just found out I am Australian and can’t get over the fact and I won’t speak the glorious language that is English, and has taken it upon herself to tell everyone else living here what a horrible person I am. 加油!

  • Ben

    Thanks! I agree, I’m living in Chile, from the States, and have taken 3 weeks of spanish “immersion” which I feel was priceless as far as making me aware of the vast majority of the grammar, of which I’v actually learned some English grammar as well. But I heading down farther south to work, and after this posting, I am making the decision to stop all together my english language while abroad!
    Thanks for the inspiration, much needed!

  • Ben

    Hopefully this posting revitalizes an old blog! Good info!

  • Lucas Monteiro

    ” If you’ve been enjoying these posts, but haven’t commented yet, please do say hello to let us know you are out there! ”

    Hello! I’m here enjoying your posts -> from Brazil! =)

  • Prasad Wadkar

    your great and your technic is great im learning english and i have started to think in english if you will promice yourself to use the language which you gonna learn for a while by that way you can i learn more because you will automatically start thinking in that language and the words and sentesec will automatically appear in you mind because there is no choice i think thats a great way to learn a language. But for me the problems is that i dont have anybody who will speak with me in english and i cant go abroad. i think that i can learn better and improve early but because of that i cant so what should i do please guide me sir THANKS

  • Parissa Kalaee

    Hey Benny, I am here :) I am Parissa, and I am from Iran, I think you haven’t tried to speak some Persian yet, but it would be so fun for you, specially for the great difference between alphabet :)

  • Mad Han Edwall

    Hey Benny!
    I’m currently in Sweden for a month and this is a great idea.
    My Papa always answers my Swedish questions in English and even though I only speak Swedish at about L1, I always respond “Nej, pratar Svenska!” (No, speak Swedish!)

    I am definitely going to do this as best as I can now, you’re a champion.

    THANKS BENNY!

  • Samir

    Ok, so how can I practice my spanish non-stop if I am living in the US around mostly english speakers?

  • Samatha

    Dr. Lee, I can’t thank you enough for all that you have done for me. About a year ago I my partner split up, we had both made BIG mistakes in our relationship. He ended up moving away from me to pursue a new life. I knew in my heart that he would be the only one to make me happy. I was relieved when I found your site and what you had to offer. I requested 3 days casting of the reunite us love spell and within that period of time, Greg’s company had relocated him back to our hometown where I still lived. We immediately reconnected and move in with each other. Thanks to you Dr. Lee of Ancientfathersandmothers@gmail.com

  • Annette Rose Giesbrecht

    Sounds okay, but what if you are not going to that other country? I have friends who are Dutch but they only speak Dutch when they do not want me to hear what they are talking about and a daughter-in-law who is French and she only speaks French to my grandson. Maybe help for us who cannot travel to these far off places.

  • Sade

    So what do you do if your in school/work and required to speak?

  • ruffgruff

    I’ve been living in Quito for the last year. I’m actually learning spanish, but I’m not learning it as fast as I’d like to. Your post set off an alarm in my head. I’ve been doing the same thing you were doing. Even my teachers talk to me in english. What a drag. I’m going to try your method!

  • erintiransom

    “I realized that some of them were only using me to practise their English”.

    I think you are becoming a tad intolerant there. Think about it, you go to places and refuse to speak English, because YOU want to learn another language, that is, YOU are using other people for your own ends.

    That is OK, human relationships normally are based on mutual self-interest, but I don’t think it’s right for you to judge people who were doing the exact same thing you are doing -although you are doing it extendedly, as a way of life.

    Let’s say you came to Barcelona and we met, by chance. If I spoke English to you, you would speak Spanish to me, and say that, because we are “in Spain”, we should speak Spanish. Really??? Well, I would tell you that we are actually in Catalonia, one of the next new states in Europe, and we should speak Catalan…

    Politics apart, I think you are being selfish. It’s totally OK to speak the native(s) tongue(s) wherever you go, it’s actually a very good thing to do -provided you don’t despise the “minor” language because you want to learn the “major” one; that doesn’t just happen in Catalonia, but we are more vocal about it. But refusing to speak English is a little radical, it’s a little self-centered, it’s putting your rights first. Many people don’t have the opportunity to travel like you do, and have to learn English through foreign visitors.

    I myself learnt English socializing in American circles in Barcelona, and I don’t consider I took advantage of my friends. Most of them live elsewhere, nowadays, and we are still good friends. I also helped them with their Spanish, and some I helped with their Catalan. Some didn’t learn much Spanish, but we had a great time, for many of us those years are probably some of the best in our lives.

    I agree you need to be radical if you really want to learn a language, but that doesn’t include insulting or dismissing other people as selfish. Look at yourself, first.

  • Kate Tritschler

    I love this and am going to try to speak Czech as much as I can, and
    speak English as little as I can, when I move there in 2 months.
    However, I’m moving to the Czech Republic to teach English to business
    professionals. So, since it will be my job to speak only in English
    during class, I won’t be able to get away from it! I’m concerned this
    will be a huge setback to learning Czech. Do you have any suggestions
    to help me really move forward with the language while I’m there so that
    this does not become a setback in my language learning?

  • Rylann Jennings

    I currently am studying in France and you are absolutely true! All my friends (nearly all from non english speaking places) speak in English all the time. I am going to take a stand today and not speak english.

  • Chandler Lindauer

    I live in the USA but I’m wanting to learn Arabic. I wonder if this would work for me? I have to speak English at work 5 days a week for 9 hours each day. Would that hinder this method too much?

  • William

    I tried to do something similar of what you did… here I explain:
    I don’t leave in the coutry of the language I want to learn (Korean), whoever, I only talked in Korean to my parents (haha, even if they don’t understand… I told them I will translate what I say in Cantonese (my native language). I experienced this for one week and it was very tiring. However, by the end of the week, I was a lot better with the grammar and some phrase would come naturally to my mouth even without thinking.

    The only con of my method is that I don’t really interact with native speakers, so I’m learning Korean with the improper accent…

    However, if one day I go to another country, I will definitely try your method! Even if I’m staying for one week or two, I believe it can make me a lot fluent!

  • Mateo

    Hello Benny,
    I was wondering.. I love the idea of this, only speaking English, but I am currently in university, and spend most of my day in English. At the store I speak English. Most of my friends speak English. Everything is English except for the odd study break or conversation in Spanish (my target language).
    Do you have any suggestions. I have been learning for a year, but have been at a “roadblock” for the past few months. How do I become fluent in my conditions?

  • http://www.mixcloud.com/rockersdisco/ Jesse Wright

    I can totally relate to not having English speaking friends, I find it a little bit boring actually and, oddly, I find English speakers (very generally) harder to relate to on the whole. I just wish I had the courage to quit speaking English with German and Spanish people!! It would make for a pretty lonely half a year.

  • Ellinor Wah

    Really inspiring.
    I have been studying Korean for the past five years through self-studies (in Sweden). I have reached a quite good level of fluency just by stop caring for having be “100% correct” in my grammar and vocabulary use, and just start talking and chatting with korean friends, attending korean church and so on. – Using what I already know.

    And what you are saying is totally right and totally sad. I have many korean friends in Sweden, that have lived here for many years, but still have barely no Swedish friends and speak very little Swedish. Many of them might not even speak much english just because they have mostly hung around in Korean communities (although with a wish to adapt more to Sweden). – Which has been good for me as I could get immersed into Korean right here in Sweden, on the other side of the globe, but I still hurt to see my friends’ hurt over the fact that they haven’t learnt or been able to adapting as much as they would have liked.

    As for me, I am heading to Korea for the first time for a month in June, and this article really inspired me to actually go all the way with my plan to only using Korean while I’m there – strictly prohibiting English. Time to start warning everyone! :D
    THANK YOU!

  • http://www.kuvapina.fi Ossi Ojutkangas

    Thanks for great post. It sums up perfectly what I’ve been thinking myself. I’m living at the moment in Spain for my second time, studying two years for master degree in University of Vigo. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t forced myself to speak Spanish during the Erasmus years when I was here for the first time. Here, like in the most countries, it’s impossible to study a degree without knowing Spanish. And after all, I don’t see much point to study in any other than with the local language. It’s hard of course – sometimes very hard – and the reward for all the trouble will come so much later in the future that it may feel totally pointless way to reduce your ability to learn. But, that being said, you will eventually open up a window to another culture that you would never really understand without sufficient skill of it’s language. That is something that is difficult to buy when you live in your home country. Yes, you can always study on a school, have a language course or study on your own by using all the neat things Internet offers. But in the end, you have all the time easy access out from the language. The native language itself is a huuuge bubble and the language you learn can never really compete with that. Hence, you learn much more and much faster by living in a another country IF don’t try to escape the language all the time into your own personal bubble.

    This being said, I want to point out a one minor thing that found problematic here on discussion of this post. For me it’s confusing to see discussion about languages, because different people from different countries mean different things when they say “fluent”. And I didn’t really get what sort of level of Spanish IS fluent. I do know, that in Spain, you should never say “I can speak a little” like I used to say when I was an exchange student years ago. I’m from Finland and for a Finn, I was (and still am in many ways) very modest, thinking that “I cannot say that I speak Spanish because I make lots of mistakes all the time and I must ask people to repeat so often”. Now I known, that my skill is very good when you use the terms of Spain. However, many people still mistake thinking that Portuguese people talk very good English. I must disagree on that a bit over my own experiences. They do speak it well, but often their inability shows when topics become a bit more complicated. So, I think they know enough English to seem that they are good at it, avoiding the blaming Spaniards get, but that in other hand, may result to problems if Portuguese think they haven’t much to improve. That’s not true. Spaniards at least know they should be better.

    When determining who is fluent and who’s not, that also depends on what kind of vocabulary each people have and what kind of things are among their interests. I’m fluent in many ways, but I’m not very capable to carry conversation about Spanish politics because I’m not very familiar with it. On the other hand, I can talk quite a bit about philosophy, culture and arts, because they’re among my interests and I study contemporary art. What I’m trying to say, that it would be good if people describe a bit what they mean when they talk about “fluent” skill. Perhaps I’m just a stupid Finn, but often I don’t understand what people mean with it. Once my friend met a buss full of American teens in their 20′s who were in Spain in order to study Spanish. They thought they skill is “almost fluent”, but my Finnish friend didn’t agree with that when he heard them talking.

    But the worst is arrogance, that can be easily separated from stupidity or ignorance. I will never understand why so many British exchange students cannot learn even “hello” or “thanks” in Spanish. Not even several months they stay here. Perhaps they can afford to have that sort of attitude because English is their mother tongue. I cannot, because I’m Finnish.

  • david schwarz

    I’m an American planning to move to the Philippines to be with my fiancée. Today I’ve gotten her an internet connection so that we can talk every day on the phone. I will practice this idea with her as she is the only one I will be talking to on the phone. Of course, my coworkers deserve the respect of my English skills, and my family as well, but the majority of my time will be spent talking to my Filipina lover ;). I will tell her that we will only use Filipino until I get good at it.

    • http://fluentin3months.com/ Brandon Rivington

      Perfect! It’ll be a little tough at first but you’ll be very happy with the progress you’ll make. Happy learning!

      –Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

  • Pingback: Why You’re Not Fluent Yet…And What To Do About It | lingholic

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  • Shampa Thakur

    Linguistically there are two techniques for improving your lexical strength (vocabulary) :

    Active learning and Passive learning

    1. Passive learning: New words are acquired subconsciously, while doing some daily life stuff, like reading a newspaper.

    Vocabulary is an abstract skill due to reasons like reading habits, family background, schooling, culture etc. The conventional methods are very generic and are made of masses. They do not allow personalized learning to an individual’s current vocabulary.

    2. Active learning: Active learning methodology has become a preferred way to change the traditional teacher oriented classroom into the newer student oriented approach to learning. In active learning, acquisition of new words is done with conscious and great efforts.

    Usually active vocabulary building is quite rigorous and boring due to its monotonous nature.

    Now introducing myself, I am co-founder of Improve Your Vocabulary – VocabMonk

    Vocabmonk uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to track individual’s learning/quiz data and mashed up that data to recommend personalized quizzes to students, based on their current vocabulary size.

    The tool uses game mechanics to make learning real fun and also provides competitive learning through challenges in your social circle.
    There so special push towards, not just learning words but grasping it with application.

    Various levels to be achieved as you progress in learning and the distinctive feature is that you can invite your mentor to look up your activities on the website.

    Happy learning!

    • http://fluentin3months.com/ Brandon Rivington

      To be honest, I don’t really think you have the ideas of “active” and “passive” correct. You can be listening to a conversation, watching TV, or listening to music and still be learning passively. Active learning, on the other hand, doesn’t only include “great efforts” like flashcards. Simply using new words in conversation is active learning. The reason why active learning is preferred is because it’s proven to stay in your long-term memory a lot longer than passive learning.

  • Bekka Shadoan

    Stumbled onto your fabulous blog while searching for ways to become an ESL teacher. I just returned from Valladolid, Spain where I studied language courses at the university there for 3 weeks. You are absolutely right about grammar, as I found it very hard to understand the grammatical rules then try to apply them when speaking with natives. It only caused me to feel unsure about what I was trying to say, and whether or not it was in the proper format or sentence structure. I felt I learned more from my host family than I did in the classroom, because they were warm, inviting, social people who loved to chat and loved to help! I can fully understand spanish now, and am average at speaking, but the key was to just dive in and speak, while absolutely giving up English.

    How can I become an ESL teacher in South America? Any guidance?

  • Jonathan

    Ciao! Come sta Lei? Sono Jonathan ed io ho dodici anni. Quest’anno è il mio primo anno che ho iniziato studiare la lingua d’italiano, e la amo! Italiano è difficile, ma mi piace lo studiare perché imparerò più presto. Io so che il mio italiano non è perfetto, ma voglio esserò fluento. Il tuo (blog) ha aiutato mi pensare delle opportunità che può essere aperto con un poco studio e lavoro. Mille grazie per mi aiutando. ( Per favore rispondere a questo commento, se tu puoi ) [Se hai correzioni, dirmi per favore] Grazie! :)

  • Katie

    Your concept is brilliant… i think unless i was in the country i wouldn’t stick at a few hours a day but that would be due to environment around me more than anything…. One question… did you make yourself think in the language as well where possible? or is it always english thoughts but with faster translation time? … I really would like to learn a new language but i defo would have to immerse myself in it to get fluent….

    • http://fluentin3months.com/ Brandon Rivington

      Ultimately, as you learn a language, you’ll find yourself thinking in the language naturally. Your goal in this department is to think in ideas or pictures rather than letters and words. Check out this guest post we had on here a little while back that talk about this exact topic :)

      I agree that to really get fluent, you have to be immersed in the language. However, with the internet as it is, this can be done without leaving the country! We actually have a Premium site that gives you all the resources you’d need to achieve Virtual Immersion from home. Check it out here. Happy learning!

      –Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

  • Jenna H

    Ok I agree with this but how did you learn conjugations and also what if you are not living in the country. I am living In estados unidos but I want to learn Spanish because I fell in love with someone from Ecuador but we hardly speak the others language. It is not possible for me to live there rigt now but that is the goal one day. What do you suggest?

  • http://forumabogados.es Javier

    Im wondering travel to London to get English lessons one to one for two weeks. Im wishing to recover the fluency English 20 years ago. I’m have enough level for my work as a Lawyer in Spain, but I feel lost the basic English conversation for having with friends and clients in time lunch or dinnering time.

  • ray lopez

    Hi i’m new to this blog and even though i’m mexican-irish i don’t speak fluently but i see that the diligence you have really paid off well so i commend you on that it gives me the same kind of dilligence b’cuz i really want to speak fluently as well,thank you for the encouragment & great advice

  • C.

    Do you have any advice for someone who is not living in a Spanish speaking country but wants to become fluent?

  • irene david

    i am actually struggling right now on how to speak the language of the country where i am right now which is Nederlands language, though i am not a native english speaker because i am an asian, i could express myself with my little knowledge in English, the problem is almost everyone here can speak english language, so when im trying to speak Nederlands i could easily switch to english to express what im trying to say..the problem is, it dont help me at all. im at the language school right now, over a year but all my grammar and every sentence i say is always wrong, and nobody understand what im trying to say, sometimes its scared me to spoke the wrong grammar, and it scared me that somebody learned faster than me, sometimes i feel like im dumb, and lost self confidence, so i ended up not talking at all. i think i should adopt this strategy of no english speaking for me…and can speak the language though not fluently but with confidence!

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