1. Put Yourself in a Situation Where Growth Is Inevitable
If you give yourself an option of using your language skills, chances are you’ll choose to not use them. Our brain will instinctively choose a decision that’s simple and requires less thought.
Like acquiring any new skill, learning a new language is going to require strong will. You must consciously lock yourself outside your comfort zone and not allow yourself to step back inside it for a while. It’s not an easy decision and may require some creative thought, but the results are well worth the effort.
Use your target language as much as you can
Many people say the best way to learn a new language is by living in the country—this is not true! More often than not, when you’re in that country, the natives will want to practice their English skills when they see you. We live in a world where English is a desirable and lucrative skill to have, so most foreign countries will have an English-speaking population, especially around the larger cities. In this situation, growth isn’t inevitable; it’s still optional.
Bring the language home to you
Not living abroad? No problem! There are still plenty of ways to make learning unavoidable. Some of these might include switching your cell phone or social media to the language you are studying, committing yourself to a language group, or finding a conversation partner. You can even try visual cues by taping a list of new words to your bathroom and kitchen walls.
Find your saturation point through immersion
An excellent method for making fast progress is intensive immersion. And yes, you can achieve this wherever you are!
The key is not to ease up one bit on the target language. Make every area of your life part of your language program. That means you should listen to the news and music in the language, speak only the language—just make every option available in only the target language!
Create a period of relentless study and so much language it feels like on-site immersion. And when you think you can’t stand one more bit of the language? That’s the time to intensify your study.
Force your brain to begin thinking and responding in the target language.
Consider every minute of the day prime time for language study, and that includes your nighttime hours, too. I know a number of language learners who adhere to the technique of listening to languages while they’re sleeping. Play music, turn on some lessons, or let the foreign-language films play while you rest.
2. Value Fluency over Accuracy
Another way to learn at a more rapid pace is to value fluency over the accuracy, which is one of the most difficult, yet powerful concepts to comprehend. First, let’s clarify what I mean by “fluency” and “accuracy.”
Fluency is the ability to express oneself easily and articulately. It means using the language smoothly in real-time.
Accuracy, on the other hand, is the ability to be correct and precise. It means communicating without any grammatical, vocabulary, tonal, and other errors.
Yes, these two are distinct entities. You can be fluent in a language without having 100% accuracy. Alternatively, you can have language accuracy while still not being anywhere near fluent. The ultimate goal when learning a new language is to use it fluently, not accurately.
This does mean we should forget the importance of accuracy. Yes, you may have slip-ups when using your new language, and that’s okay. Think about times when you didn’t accurately follow the rules of your native language, but you were still perfectly understood by others. It happens more than we realize.
Focus on usability, not thoroughness
When beginning to learn a new language, resist the urge to start learning as many words as possible. Resist the urge to say each sentence perfectly. Language cannot be learned from a textbook alone. Instead, focus on learning practical, colloquial topics and work your way up from there. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and stress.
Start speaking right away
Don’t wait for your skills to get great—begin speaking immediately. Just dive right in! Speak aloud, name everything and engage in conversations with anyone available. If you don’t have a language partner (more about this later in the post), talk to yourself. Now is the time to do that!
Expect to make mistakes—and be grateful for them. You don’t have the time to fret over language blunders, so just learn from them and move on. Remember, practice makes perfect—so practice constantly.
The more you practice (and make mistakes) the more you’ll learn. We learn from our mistakes, right? That definitely applies to fast-tracking a language!
3. Replace Cramming with a Spaced Repetition Software
When you do a study on your own, it can be tempting to try cramming loads of new vocabulary into our brains and then waiting a while before we study again. While this may be effective in the short term, it’s ultimately not the way to develop a long-lasting memory.
4. Invest the Necessary Time
Maximize your time investment.
That is, commit to as many hours each day as possible to dedicated language learning.
It makes sense. If you wanted to grow your financial investment portfolio, you’d pump as much of your assets into the endeavor as possible. Time is your greatest asset and speed-learning is the endeavor—so prioritize the investment to see rapid results.
Fast, short-term growth means you have to grab some foundational skills to build upon. A foolproof way to do that? Invest the time—it’s so commonsense and logical that many learners often overlook this point’s importance.