Every day I get several e-mails through the contact me form on my site from other language learners out there, sharing their struggles (that I can certainly relate to) and asking for advice.
Sometimes, I can give the advice in just a couple of sentences, other times I need to refer to a long post that I or another blogger has already written. Sometimes I feel like I need to write a response that would take hours to read to express the level of detail required. However, almost every day I get asked… what is your learning method??
While I definitely think I’ve been transparent about a lot of what I do with languages on this blog, I know that lots of people are curious to hear more. So today I’m announcing two major projects that I’ll be adding to the site, for the purposes of providing more information for those of you interested in trying similar approaches to be fluent in a language quickly. These will be separate to the blog itself, which will continue in the same way as before.
The first is the language hacking league, an e-mail list for those of you genuinely interested in getting more involved in the Fluent-in-3-months project and getting some extra tips:
Language Hacking league e-mail list
For the purposes of being more transparent to those of you curious about the steps taken as I learn a language myself, and while not overwhelming blog readers with too much information, I’ve set up a language hacking league e-mail list that you can join if you want.
The e-mail list will include very brief weekly updates on progress in my current mission and tips for what you should do in a similar situation, as well as answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and some extra language learning tips in compact form that will not published be on the site. It also includes some of the best links on the Internet for language learning.
Since only the most interested of you will be joining, I will also be using this list to ask for your help on occasion, because there are times when I feel like asking for help on something relevant to the project. I know that some readers would be interested in helping me out with, but it would disrupt the flow of the blog if I made a whole post just about a single thing; especially since I know that there are a lot of not-so-active readers out there that do genuinely just want to read some language tips and hear the story of the mission and nothing more. Sometimes I will simply ask for your opinion on something I’m working on; this is a way for me to keep more direct contact with those most interested.
Of course, I will not be using this e-mail list to spam people. You can try it out, and if you don’t like it, you can easily permanently remove your e-mail from the subscription list.
One major thing I’ll be doing in this list for the really curious among you is that it will be where I will first publicly announce my missions. So, in future if you want to find out where I am going next and what I’ll be doing there for 3 months, all you have to do is subscribe and you’ll find out before anyone else! I will send such e-mails a few weeks before I actually travel.
I will, of course, write general mission updates every few weeks or so on the blog that will contain the most interesting parts written in the e-mail list. So as I say, only those genuinely interested in more details, links and extra language hacks should join the e-mail list The second project I’ll be working on over the next months for later release is the language hacking guide. Here’s some information about it:
The language hacking guide – how to become fluent in 3 months
[Update: The language hacking guide is ready!! You can get your copy and read more information about the actual contents here.]
It’s inspiring how many of those e-mails I receive every day have recently said that they’ve actually read through my entire archive of posts (only about 9 months to date, but still, I write a lot each time) in an attempt to get a good idea of my language learning method.
The problem is, my posts are all over the place – basic grammar tips in one post, advanced accent reduction in another, with sprinkles of the positive attitude that makes it all possible. You can definitely see how I think by reading all of my posts, but it’s hardly a good overall guide that you can read systematically.
So I’m going to create that guide. Rather than just write a series of posts on the subject, or even release a tiny e-book, I am planning to create the ultimate language hacking guide. I’m not shy to tell you that I think it’s going to be something that a lot of people will want to get their hands on and something that can genuinely help frustrated learners who still can’t speak.
From now on I won’t be referring to it as my method so much. This approach of trying to become fluent in a language quickly is LANGUAGE HACKING. I’m not the only person who does this, and I’ll be getting advice from other language hackers out there, and interviewing them as part of the guide. Other people’s advice will be as important as my own, since I want the scope of the guide to be as broad as possible.
To be honest, I feel that a guide about crucial aspects of speaking languages quickly is just not out there yet. There are plenty of language learning guides and websites already, but they almost always focus on the content of the language rather than the process involved in actually speaking it when the time comes.
This crucial human aspect is a gap that needs to be filled that I’ve been attempting to do on this blog. My current plan for the guide is to have it contain several separate e-books, some audio interviews and possibly some video [for download], as well as other extras that will be decided later on. This is the current vague outline:
PART 1 SPEAKING: The language hacking mentality
If you invest in a course like Rosetta Stone or use advanced input techniques of listening to CDs and such, these methods work (some well, some really badly) for improving your scope of vocabulary or ability to recognise. But a language is much more than pure content. I am amazed that even the most skilled linguists can’t see this. Even after studying for years (either in an inefficient academic programme or using good pure-input techniques) you would still be missing so much that is required to confidently speak the language.
What if you are generally a shy person and aren’t confident enough to express all that you’ve learned? Won’t the locals feel frustrated at your feeble attempts to speak their language? What about the huge amount that you still don’t know? Exactly when will you be ready to speak? A month? A year? 8 years? What will you do if they answer you back in English? What if you move suddenly to your spouse’s country or for work reasons and don’t have the time to invest months into input-based learning?……
There are so many questions that are never dealt with in most courses and I intend to answer them in detail. Those who read my blog already generally know my answers to some of these questions. You need to start speaking NOW if you want to reach a good level quickly.
If you are only interested in a language for its own sake, for literature, or to watch movies in the language, with no plans of actually going to the country that speaks it, then I actually recommend you embrace the pure-input method suggested in the many courses currently available, whether it is free or paid. However, if you want to speak with actual human beings (no iPods, computer programs, books or movies) then I have quite a few tips for you that even the most expensive courses simply don’t supply.
The first part will discuss the mentality and approach needed to talk to human beings in your target language and to gain the confidence to do so. I’ll be presuming that the reader is an introvert, but with an open mind. This part of the guide will also possibly include interviews with other language hackers with similar, as well as different, approaches to language hacking.
PART 2 LEARNING: Several different hacks to learn the language quickly
Of course, if you have no words, phrases, and at least some basic grasp on grammar, it is really hard to actually speak the language no matter how confident you are. I have mostly focused on discussing the human aspect on this blog, simply because it’s so universally ignored. But a lot of people have said that they’ve combined my advice with efficient input methods and the result works extremely well for them.
So in the second part, I’m going to be focusing on actually learning (rather than speaking) the language. On the blog I’ve already mentioned things like getting more time out of your day, image association techniques for memorizing etc., so I will return to those as well as go into the nitty gritty details of the process that I personally go through when trying to start and improve my level of any language until I’m fluent in it.
Using such techniques you can reach a very good level of the language quickly. The reason people can spend years studying a language and not achieving anything worthwhile is because the approach they use is simply flawed.
But saying what I have been doing is still not enough. My own personal language hacking method is definitely not perfect, and can always be improved. So over the next months, I will be testing out some input and computer-based methods that have been extremely popular among other learners, such as SRS, LiveMocha, new memory techniques, and any other suggestions you can give me that have definitely worked for other people, and I’ll be discussing as many good ones as possible in the guide.
However, I will be testing them in the context of how they improve my actual spoken level of the language of my next 3-month mission. I am not interested in theory – I want results.
If there is a technique that works over years (such as the traditional academic approach, or certain inefficient input based methods) then I am simply not interested in it, as that will not help me in the short-term and would thus not come under my understanding of language hacking.
In this part I will definitely be interviewing people who are experienced in using these other approaches, since their long-term experience and advice will be crucial in making any short-term summary I can give to be worthwhile. I’m hoping that the scope of introducing several different methods would mean that the reader could choose one that they feel would work best for them.
This is an immense undertaking and would take a ridiculously huge amount of time to create. However, being the ambitious lad I am, I’m going to try to have it ready by May, in time for summer and when lots of people will be travelling abroad. Obviously, achieving this target deadline depends on so many things, including how many hours I’m putting into my actual full-time job, the next language mission, and generally having a life! Time will tell if I make the deadline.
After it has been released, I’ll update it with further tips and FAQ based on previous versions. These updates will be free.
I also plan on working with other translators (natives of course) to have the entire guide translated to several languages, after releasing it first in English.
This is a package that you can bet that I’ll be selling rather than giving away for free. Most websites with the kind of traffic and level of subscribers I’m getting here would have countless affiliate links, advertisements on the page, paid promotions etc. Apart from the very rare Amazon link for books, and a silly unobtrusive donate via-Orange-juice button (which in the end is averaging less than 2 actual €3 donations a month!), I’ve done none of that and have focused purely on content from the start. I haven’t sold out my goal to genuinely help people learn and speak languages to make a quick buck, and the concept for creating this guide is just one I’ve had recently. But what I plan to release will be worth paying money for and I’ll be investing a lot of time into it.
I’m not going to be recommending any expensive courses to accompany the product; most resources that I use are completely free. So this will genuinely save people money, especially if they are considering buying some other pure input based course that usually ends up costing hundreds of dollars, or even thousands in the case of academic courses. It will otherwise give them an overview and review of several different free options before they invest their time in them.
The price tag I’ll be putting on it will be US$39 (before other language updates). For the amount of content I plan to include, I think that’s a fair deal. I have little interest in making a million dollars online, but frankly my current frustrating financial situation of oscillating in and out of debt and locking myself in my room to work non-stop for 3 weeks is getting super annoying and has even prematurely ended my first mission on this blog. After May I don’t want to be able to use that excuse for a reason that I didn’t achieve a 3-month mission and I think selling something worthwhile like this could get me out of that pattern.
If you are interested in getting involved and hearing more details about the progress of the guide, you’ll also get information about that in the weekly e-mail list! I’ll be asking people what they want to see in it as I’m writing it, through the e-mail list rather than through this blog. Once again, here’s that form if you are curious to find out more:
This guide will only be for those genuinely interested in having a much more in-depth view of language hacking as I see it, and as those I’ll be interviewing see it. Most readers of the site can very simply ignore the book if they wish, and I consider all readers to be equally important. The site will continue as it has always been A lot of the advice in the guide will be freely available on the blog in one form or another, just a little harder to go through in a logical way. And of course, if you just have a single question to ask me, all you have to do is ask!
I’m curious to hear your thoughts on these two projects in the comments! What would you like to see in a free e-mail list that I simply haven’t discussed on the site? What have I not mentioned in this overall plan that you would love to see in a guide? Is it something you’d like to read and listen to? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Enter your email in the top right of the site to subscribe to the Language Hacking League e-mail list for way more tips sent directly to your inbox!
If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.
This article was written by Benny Lewis
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