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!
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.
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“Unless you suffer from a social anxiety disorder or experience severe, constant shyness, YOU ARE NOT SHY. Stop describing yourself as such.” — Benny Lewis
“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
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.
“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
“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.”
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
If you’d rather watch a video to understand the concept, we’ve got you covered!
“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.”
You can also check out this video on the topic!
“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.”
You can watch my video on the Pareto Principle!
“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
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!
“[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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
“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
“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.”
“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
“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
At Fi3M, we focus a lot on the speaking part of learning a language. But to keep on speaking, you have to listen too…
“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
“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
(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
“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
“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
If you’re a fan of reading, you should use that in your language learning journey!
“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
“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
“‘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
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?
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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!”
Don’t run away! Yes, I know, grammar is boring… Or is it? It all depends on how you decide to learn it.
“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
“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
“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
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.
“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
“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
“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
“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
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!
See you soon, and good luck!