How to Learn a Language in 2023 – Ultimate Guide with 40+ Language Hacks
Have you decided it’s time to get serious about learning a new language in 2023?
That’s amazing! Learning a language is a journey of improvement and growth that opens you many doors.
However, it’s also a commitment that requires dedication and a plan, (and I certainly know something about that)…
I’m truly excited for you and your new language adventure, and I want to help you out. In this post, I’ve gathered the best advice we’ve shared on the Fluent in 3 Months website on how to learn a new language through our method of language hacking.
We’re one of the most popular language learning websites in the world, and that’s because our language hacking methods work. When you put them into practice, they’re really powerful.
Whether you’re just starting out or you want to change up your learning strategy, this guide will be your go-to.
Table of contents
- Build a Language Learning Mindset
- Become a “Language Hacker”
- Speak From Day One
- Learn the DIY Method
- Immerse Yourself at Home
- When You’re Stuck, Switch Things Up
- When “You Don’t Have Time” for Language Learning, Use Time Hacks to Make Time
- Take 1-1 Language Lessons – And Do Your Prep Beforehand
- Work on Building Language Islands
- Make the Most of Your Time with the Pomodoro Technique
- Apply the Pareto Principle to Minimize Effort and Maximize Results
- Create a Language Immersion Retreat
- Apply These Language Hacks to Speak from Day One
- Find An Online Language Tutor
- Get Connected with Tutors on Preply
- Search for Tutors on italki
- Seek Out a Language Exchange Partner
- Get Speaking on Your Own Terms – From Day One
- Stop Being Shy
- Work on Your Pronunciation From the Start
- Practice Rolling Your “R” Until You Succeed
- Start Conversations without it Feeling Awkward
- Record Yourself to Clean Up Your Speech
- Get Lots of Listening Practice
- Practice Reading and Writing in Your New Language
- Build a Bigger Vocabulary
- Get Organised About Vocabulary Learning
- Boost Your Memory With Memory Palaces and Other Mnemonics
- Learn the Best Mnemonics With the Magnetic Memory Method
- Remember the Stressed Syllable and You’ll Remember the Word
- Maximise Your Vocab Memory With SRS
- Use Anki’s Great Flashcard System for Long-Lasting Vocabulary Memory
- Get Your Vocabulary From Frequency Lists
- Make Google Images Your Best Friend
- Level Up Your Grammar Skills
- More Tips to Get You Learning Faster
- The Right Time to Start Learning a New Language Is Now!
Let’s get started!
Build a Language Learning Mindset
The most common reason people drop language learning is mental blocks.
That’s why the first thing you need to do, as a language hacker, is work on your mindset.
Here’s how to do just that.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
“By getting comfortable, I stopped trying new things. I stopped looking at the material from different angles. And when I get comfortable, I can only get so far.
“Only by stepping outside your comfort zone can you have a breakthrough and see the results you’re anticipating.” — Shannon Kennedy
From: Language Learners! Why Your Comfort Zone = the Danger Zone
Welcome Mistakes, Don’t Be Scared of Them
“The more mistakes you make the faster you will improve and the less they will bother you. The best cure to feeling uncomfortable about making mistakes is to make more mistakes.” — Benny Lewis
From: Mistakes are the ONLY Way to Learn a Language
Ignore the Fear of Being Rejected or Getting Embarrassed
“That embarrassed feeling is you focusing on the negative of the experience.
“Instead, focus on the positive. How did you move forward after that particular rejection?” — Shannon Kennedy
From: How to Get Over the Fear of Rejection
Embrace a Child’s Mindset When It Comes to Learning
“I’d like to share the exact techniques that children learn languages — and as you’ll see adults can use these techniques too, though sometimes in a different way to children. After reading this article, I think you’ll be ready to agree that the idea that ‘children are better language learners’ is just an excuse adult learners make to avoid language learning.” — Georgia Boote
From: How Children Learn Languages – and What You Can Learn from Them
Don’t Focus on Excuses That Would Kill Your Motivation
“Coming face-to-face with a roadblock will destroy your motivation unless you know how to get around it. That’s why I call these roadblocks ‘motivation killers’.” — Shannon Kennedy
From: Why Language Learners Quit – The 7 Key “Motivation Killers” (Plus, How to Beat Them)
Let Go of Shyness
“Unless you suffer from a social anxiety disorder or experience severe, constant shyness, YOU ARE NOT SHY. Stop describing yourself as such.” — Benny Lewis
From: The Shy “Delusion”: Stop Being Shy and Just Start Speaking!
Add a Countdown Timer to Your Learning Plan
“A long-sighted learner is only interested in one thing: they want to be equivalent to a native. Three months or any other short period where you set yourself an ambitious goal is clearly not enough to reach native level, so they have this idea that anything else is not good enough.
“Well this attitude is not good enough. It’s wasteful and impractical.” — Benny Lewis
From: Why impatience is a virtue and taking your time is wasting your time
Become a “Language Hacker”
If you want to succeed at learning a new language, you need a great study plan. You also have to find language hacking methods that work for you – and here are some of our favourites.
Speak From Day One
“I just decided ‘I’m going to start speaking the language. I’m going to get all of these excuses and ignore them. That I’m not ready and I need to work more or I’m not intelligent enough to learn a language.’
“I just started speaking it and everything changed.” — Benny Lewis
From: “Benny’s TEDx talk: Speak from Day One
Learn the DIY Method
“Self-study makes you more self-sufficient, as you learn you can get better at a skill without the help of a paid expert.
”I really like the idea of the DIY ethic, which is similar to self study. This works on the idea that we’re all capable of doing most things by ourselves – if only we’d take the time to learn. This is something that I strongly believe, since I know that everyone has the ability to learn a foreign language.”
From: How to Learn a Language by Self-Study
Immerse Yourself at Home
“It’s possible to create an immersive environment at home. For example, you can use social media to find native communities to chat with. Switching your phone’s language or watching shows in your target language will help you achieve an immersive experience, too.” — Katie Harris
From: The Best Way to Learn a Language [Scientifically Proven, Polyglot Tested]
When You’re Stuck, Switch Things Up
“This may seem obvious, but if what you are doing now isn’t working to bring you forward then what you are doing now is not good enough.
“I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has emailed me to say something along the lines of “no matter how much I study, I’m not progressing!” Well, then clearly just more of the same thing is not going to help.” — Benny Lewis
From: How to get over a plateau stopping you from making progress
When “You Don’t Have Time” for Language Learning, Use Time Hacks to Make Time
“For busy language learners, it can feel like your constant thought is ‘I don’t have enough time!’
“I’d like to share some simple shifts you can make in your life so you can manage your time – and have more time available for language learning.” — Shannon Kennedy
From: 24 Time Hacking Tips from Language Hacker Benny Lewis
Take 1-1 Language Lessons – And Do Your Prep Beforehand
“During each lesson, I go through the script with my tutor. He or she asks questions about what I’ve shared, and I aim to reply in my target language.
“I look out for when I want to say something, but can’t quite say it. I ask myself “What words do I need to know so that I could say this thing?” These are the words I need to learn, so I note them down.” — Shannon Kennedy
From: New Language in 90 Days: My 7-Step Formula
Work on Building Language Islands
“In language learning, language islands represent specific topics that you’re very comfortable talking about in your target language.
Imagine you’ve just started learning your new language. It’s like being lost at sea, you don’t have anything to grab onto. Are you going to try to find an entire continent, this would be you speaking the language fluently?
It’s much easier to make a little language island that you can feel comfortable on. There, you will have the time and confidence to keep building other language islands.
Eventually, there won’t be water for you to drown in.”
From: The Beginner’s Guide to Language Islands [All the Answers + Examples]
If you’d rather watch a video to understand the concept, we’ve got you covered!
Make the Most of Your Time with the Pomodoro Technique
“The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity-enhancing method that makes you work for intense 25-minute blocks of time separated by 5- to 30-minute breaks.
I’ve used this technique for learning languages, but also for work and in other aspects of my life. It’s also popular among students to complete long assignments.”
From: The Pomodoro Technique: How to Boost Your Productivity [Full Guide + Examples]
You can also check out this video on the topic!
Apply the Pareto Principle to Minimize Effort and Maximize Results
“When I decided to start my blog, I could have aimed for perfection and decided I needed to get as much expertise in writing blogs as I possibly could.
But did I spend years researching how to blog? Or took a degree course on how to become a writer? I didn’t do that. I figured out what was the smallest amount of effort that I could apply to this business to launch it as quickly as possible.
I’ve done something similar with language learning.”
From: The Pareto Principle (80-20 Rule): Minimize the Effort, Maximize the Results
You can watch my video on the Pareto Principle!
Create a Language Immersion Retreat
“A language immersion retreat is a chance to take some time off from your daily routine both in work and language learning to entirely live in the language.” — Elfin Waters
From: How (And Why) To Create Your Very Own Language Immersion Retreat
Apply These Language Hacks to Speak from Day One
At Fluent in 3 Months we’re big about speaking from the first day of your language mission. This is what our students do in order to have a 15-minute conversation in their target language after 90 days!
Find An Online Language Tutor
“[Having an online tutor] doesn’t require living in the country, is dramatically cheaper than in-person private lessons, requires zero travel time for both the teacher and the student, and more!” — Benny Lewis
From: How to Find the Right Online Language Tutor for Your Language Classes
Get Connected with Tutors on Preply
“Preply connects language students with private tutors for 1-1 lessons. Language lessons take place online in a virtual classroom. All you need is a computer, WiFi and a sense of adventure.” — Elizabeth Bruckner
From: Preply Review – a Detailed and Honest Review of the Preply Language Tutor Platform
Search for Tutors on italki
“italki is a website that connects language students with private tutors for 1-1 lessons. Language lessons take place online on platforms like Skype or Zoom. All you need is a device with WiFi connection.” — Benny Lewis
From: Review of italki: Find native teachers and free language exchanges to learn a language via Skype
Seek Out a Language Exchange Partner
“With a language exchange, you find someone who speaks the language you’re learning. You spend some time chatting with them in English. In return, they spend some time chatting with you in your target language.
“When language exchanges go right, they’re one of the best things you can do to improve your language skills and boost your confidence.” — Shannon Kennedy
From: Language Exchange Partners: The Ultimate Guide
Get Speaking on Your Own Terms – From Day One
“The truth was, I was afraid of speaking. But I also felt drawn to speaking. I decided to find a way that I could start speaking on my terms. I was determined to find ways to speak that would feel right, work with my personality and make me a little more comfortable.” — Shannon Kennedy
From: How to Practise Speaking a New Language… Without the Anxiety Rush!
Stop Being Shy
“This is another post that is going to ruffle some feathers, but it has to be said.
Unless you suffer from a social anxiety disorder or experience severe, constant shyness, YOU ARE NOT SHY. Stop describing yourself as such.”
From: The Shy “Delusion”: Stop Being Shy and Just Start Speaking!
Work on Your Pronunciation From the Start
“The more you speak and hear the language, the more you will adapt and pronounce words properly. But that’s assuming you’re actually speaking and listening all the time. Many beginners don’t do enough speaking or listening in their target language.” — Benny Lewis
From: Learn to Sound like a Native and Pronounce Words in Any Language
Practice Rolling Your “R” Until You Succeed
“You may be surprised to hear that you can already produce a rolled ‘r’ sound!
When you say the word “butter” quickly, the ‘tt’ sound is made by flapping your tongue against the roof of your mouth, rather than a normal ‘t’ sound (like tree). USE THIS.”
From: 6 Easy Ways to Roll Your ‘R’
Start Conversations without it Feeling Awkward
“Speaking conversationally is usually just about knowing the right thing to say in any given situation. That’s rarely taught in classrooms.
“This article answers the questions ‘How to start a conversation in another language?’ and ‘What’s the best conversation starter to have things to talk about, without the awkwardness?’” — Benny Lewis
From: 150+ Conversation Starters So You Can Confidently Talk to Anyone, in Any Language
Record Yourself to Clean Up Your Speech
“I was so hesitant to kick off my French learning but the 2-minute speaking practice of the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge came to my rescue. It’s a strategy that has effectively boosted my confidence.” — TY
From: The 2-Minute Speaking Practice: Recording Myself to Stop Saying “Like” All the Time
Get Lots of Listening Practice
At Fi3M, we focus a lot on the speaking part of learning a language. But to keep on speaking, you have to listen too…
Beware of Passive Listening
“With passive listening, you simply listen to a recording of your target language or watch a movie. The idea is that even though you don’t understand it now, over time you will start to understand more and more through a natural process of absorption.
“The problem is… it doesn’t really work.” — Andrew Barr
From: How to Improve Your Listening Skills as a Language Learner – an In-Depth Guide
Make the Most Out of Podcasts
“Podcasts are one of the first places I turn to when I’m starting in a new language. Why? Because I’ve found that speaking from day one is the best way to learn a language. Podcasts give the opportunity to listen to your new language being spoken. As you listen, you’ll learn correct pronunciation.” — Benny Lewis
From: Language Learning Podcasts: Can You Learn a Language by Listening to Podcasts?
(Psss… Tune in to the Language Hacking Podcast for many, many more tips on language learning! I interview polyglots and language hackers from all around the world to bring the best language learning hacks to my listeners!)
Listen to Podcasts in Spanish (or French, German, Chinese, Japanese – Whatever Language You’re Learning!)
“Podcasts are a great way to learn a language, but don’t just rely on those aimed for language learners. Find a podcast in your target language, preferably hosted by a native speaker, about a topic that interests you!” — Benny Lewis
Find how here: How to Download Free Native-Spoken Podcasts & MP3s in Almost Any Language
Dive Deep into Language Content on LingQ
“LingQ is a language learning app with thousands of hours of “real world” audio and written content, plus tools to help users learn vocab and grammar.” — David Masters
From: LingQ Review: An Honest, In-Depth Review of the LingQ Language Learning Tool
The “Transcription Technique” Might Be What You Need
“With the Transcription Technique you’ll simultaneously practice listening and writing, then reading and speaking. Every minute I’ve spent on this technique, I’ve noticed my language skills improving.” — Guest Author
From: How Using Transcriptions Can Improve Your Listening Skills
Practice Reading and Writing in Your New Language
If you’re a fan of reading, you should use that in your language learning journey!
Build Your Subconscious Base in Your Target Language
“Reading in your target language improves your ability to intuitively understand grammar structures and vocabulary. This gives your brain a large base of subconscious passive knowledge to work from, giving you an advantage in the active language domains and therefore boosting you to fluency.” — Matt Anderson
From: Reading in Your Target Language Can Boost You to Fluency – Here’s How!
Join a Book Club
“Sharing the experience with other readers increases your enthusiasm and gives you more learning options! You can learn from your peers, as well as from the teacher, if one is running the club.” — Laura Scaramella
From: How Joining a Book Club Will Help You Learn Italian Fast
When You Need to Write in Your Target Language, “Write Like You Speak”
“‘Write like you speak’ was the best piece of advice I ever received from a writing mentor, who was helping me with my English writing skills. And, today, I’m going to urge you to do the same in your target language.” — James Johnson
From: How to Improve Your Basic Writing Skills: Hacks for Language Learners
Build a Bigger Vocabulary
I don’t know about you, but when I was a student, I would cram to pass some exams. A week later, everything was gone.
Us language learners have to learn a lot of new vocabulary all the time. In this situation, cramming doesn’t work. So how not to forget all the vocabulary you learn after a few days?
Get Organised About Vocabulary Learning
“I love me some good notes, and every time I observe what my most successful learners do, it’s that they really organise themselves extremely well. Buy a large notebook or a project pad, work with vocabulary sections, exercise sections and grammar sections.” — Kerstin Cable
From: How To Be Organised About Learning New Vocabulary
Boost Your Memory With Memory Palaces and Other Mnemonics
“A mnemonic is a learning device that helps you recall difficult information. One of the most powerful types of mnemonics is the Memory Palace. You can use a Memory Palace to memorize hundreds of words and phrases from your language of choice at will.” — Anthony Metivier
From: How to Use a Memory Palace to Boost Your Vocabulary
Learn the Best Mnemonics With the Magnetic Memory Method
“The Magnetic Memory Method is a set of video courses that teaches the fundamentals of memory palaces and mnemonic devices for memorizing different types of information.” — Holly Keenan
From: Magnetic Memory Method: An In-Depth Review from a Language Learner
Remember the Stressed Syllable and You’ll Remember the Word
“Research has found that if you focus only on the stressed syllable of a word when trying to memorize it, your brain is able to remember the unstressed syllables without much effort” . — Yitzhak Magoon
From: How to Use Visual Memory Techniques to Build a Conversational Vocabulary
Maximise Your Vocab Memory With SRS
“Spaced Repetition System (SRS) is a presentation method that gives you information before you would forget it. It makes sure that the information stays constantly fresh in your mind.” — Benny Lewis
From: Spaced Repetition System: Learn Vocabulary and Never Forget It!
Use Anki’s Great Flashcard System for Long-Lasting Vocabulary Memory
“I’ve been learning languages on and off for more years than I’d like to count. Different books and websites and ways to figure out languages come and go, but only one always remains: Anki.
“Anki cards are basically digital flashcards that you can use on both your computer and your mobile device, but they’re so, so much more than that.” — Jamie Graffman
From: How to use Anki Cards to Learn a Language
Get Your Vocabulary From Frequency Lists
“To put it simply, frequency lists are a collection of words most frequently used in a language. These lists can help you identify which words are most important in a language depending on their usage, and how often they appear during speech.” — Elie Fossi
From: How to Learn a Language in Record Time With Frequency Lists
Make Google Images Your Best Friend
“The main problem with using an online dictionary (and traditional dictionaries for that matter) is that you look up the word to read the translation.
This means that if you apply it to memory you always have to go via another unconnected language. If you memorise the word voiture you’ll connect it with the English word “car” rather than the concept I outlined above.
This is NOT the way to speak fluently. When you hear a word you know, the thought process for most language learners is something like Ordenador… “Computer”…! Ah ok, I remember!”
From: The Best Online Dictionary for Language Learners: Google Image Search
Level Up Your Grammar Skills
Don’t run away! Yes, I know, grammar is boring… Or is it? It all depends on how you decide to learn it.
Only Focus on the Grammar That You Need
“If learners want to learn grammar because they want to speak clearly and naturally and understand the language more deeply, these are the areas that grammar resources should address.” — Carl Eldridge
From: Hacking Grammar: How to Learn Grammar with No Exceptions
Make Grammar Fun to Learn by Using Games
“A ‘grammar game’ is essentially any technique for memorising or practising a particular aspect of grammar — be it verb conjugations, sentence structure, spelling and punctuation, or any other intimidating feature of your target language — that’s at least slightly more fun than rote memorisation or ‘look, cover, write, check’.” — Benny Lewis
From: 8+ Fun Grammar Games to Help You Learn a Language
Don’t Fuss Over Sentence Structure
“If you’re a native English speaker, this is how you learned English sentence structure as a child. No one ever explained the “place-manner-time” thing to you. You might have never even thought about it until you read this article. Your brain just figured it out by listening to lots and lots of English.
“This isn’t like learning to do long division. It’s programmed deeply into our brains by over 100,000 years of evolution. Humans learn grammar like bats “learn” to navigate by echolocation. It’s part of our natural toolkit.” — George Julian
From: Sentence Structure: How to Build Sentences and Use the Correct Word Order in Any Language
More Tips to Get You Learning Faster
Do you need help re-learning a language you think you’ve forgotten? Or are you learning a minority language? Maybe you’re interested in learning a language in a foreign country.
If any of these sound like what you’re aiming for, this section is where you’ll find what you need to know.
Go On a Treasure Hunt
“If you’ve always wanted to learn a rare language because of a family connection or some other burning passion, I hope I’ve convinced you that it is possible. You just need to get creative: treat it as a treasure hunt, have the courage to speak, and always, always remind yourself of the reasons why you’re doing this.” — Sarah Gillespie
From: How to Learn a Rare Language like Hiligaynon (with Minimum Frustration)
You Can Relearn a Language
“No matter how old you are or how long it’s been since you last picked up a vocabulary flashcard, it’s possible to relearn a language you studied before.
“You probably won’t start at the same level you were before you stopped taking classes, but you might be surprised at how much you remember.” — India Amos
From: How to Relearn a Language from High School You Think You Forgot
Travelling Abroad and Learning a Language Is Possible
“I know this sounds counterintuitive but bear with me!
Immediately after our three Workaways in Italy, we visited Greece and then went on to Turkey, where we spent a little over two months.
In those two months in Turkey, I learned more Italian than in the whole two months living in Italy. This may not be a revelation to you, but it definitely was to me.” — Dayna Brockbank
From: You Can Learn a Language Living Abroad – Here’s What Worked for Me (And What Didn’t)
How to Learn a New Language as an Online Teacher
“Language learning doesn’t come easy. It’s a challenge to keep the practice going, mainly because we don’t have enough time or money. Somehow over the years of teaching, language learning turned from a passion and delight into (at best) a task we never have enough time or money to do properly.” — Elena Mutonono
From: How Online Teachers Can Find Time and Money for Learning a New Language
The Right Time to Start Learning a New Language Is Now!
If you feel like you can’t do it, don’t worry! It’s okay to feel intimidated by a new adventure, what matters is that you be brave enough to take the first steps. All language learners face blocks and insecurities sooner or later; those who succeed are the ones who find solutions to get past the obstacles.
As I have shown you in this post, there are many solutions and strategies to prepare you well for your language mission. In fact, you should give the Language Hacking Podcast a try! I interview polyglots from all around the world to bring the best language learning hacks to my listeners!
If you think you could benefit from the guidance of experienced coaches and the support of a community of learners, check out the Fluent in 3 Months Bootcamp. With the support of a like-minded group, challengers learn their target language aiming to have a 15-minute conversation after 90 days. Give it a thought!
And keep me updated! I want to know how you progress with your language learning, and how we can help you here at Fi3M. You can find me on Instagram here and here, Twitter, and TikTok.
See you soon, and good luck!