Everything you know about learning a foreign language is wrong.
If you’re like most people who tried learning a language in school, you probably spent a lot of time studying and got frustrated results.
The sad truth of the matter is that very few language courses are designed to actually get students fluent. They are often more interested in getting their students to pass a standardized test or to continue paying for expensive courses.
It’s not your fault if you’ve failed at learning a foreign language in the past. Learning a foreign language can be a complicated matter, especially if you’re learning using outdated methods.
We’re in the middle of a language learning revolution right now that is seeing a drastic increase in the number of students who successfully learn languages. With these new methods students are able to get fluent in a matter of months and not years.
I’m about to share with you some of the key principles that you must follow if you want to achieve rapid fluency. When laid out here these principles may seem simple, but success requires diligent application and hard work.
1. Focus on Speaking
Now this is going to seem shocking to some people, but if you want to learn to speak a language you actually have to speak it.
Many language courses wait a long time before they let their students speak in their target language. They fill their heads with grammar rules and other bits of the language that aren’t as important to learn in the beginning. They make the language seem more complicated than it really is which results in a lot of discouraged students.
If you want to reduce the time it takes to become fluent then you need to spend more time speaking, and you need to do it sooner rather than later.
2. Learn what is important to your life
If you want to be successful in learning a language you have to learn things that are important to you.
Many language courses waste their students time by teaching them vocabulary that they aren’t going to use. They make students memorize vocabulary lists around topics that they have no interest in. It’s a lot harder to learn something when you don’t see how it applies to your life.
You’ll enjoy greater success if you go through a language program that addresses your specific situation and teaches you how to say things that are important to your life. Avoid teachers and courses who teach you how to say things that you don’t even use in your native language.
3. Get Specific With Your Goals
Many people set the goal of “learning Portuguese” and never reach it because their goal is too broad. Accelerated language learners know that by setting specific language learning goals that are tied in with your intended use you will reach your goals quicker.
For someone who speaks not a word of Portuguese, a good place to start is with the goal of, “Learn how to introduce myself in Portuguese.” With that goal in mind you can reverse engineer the words that you’ll need to learn in order to be able to reach that goal.
Many people learn foreign languages because they want to communicate with people at work or live in a foreign country. Break down the individual situations where you intend to use the language and study the words that you’ll need in those situations.
As a foreigner living in Brazil some of the first things you’ll need to learn to do are: order food at a restaurant, ask for directions, tell a taxi where to go, ask how much something costs, ask someone if they speak English.
Map out the individual situations where you need to achieve fluency and practice speaking in those situations.
4. Practice a little bit every day
Learning a foreign language is a long term commitment. If you want to achieve your goals you need to commit to improving every day.
Consistency is the most important factor for achieving fluency. It’s better to study for 5 minutes every day than to spend 1 hour once a week studying your target language.
While living in a foreign country helps with your fluency, you don’t have to travel abroad to replicate the daily exposure of an immersion environment. You can get the same time exposure by finding ways to introduce the language into your life every day, whether it be through online means or in person.
5. Get excited about the culture
Language and culture are interconnected. If you want to improve your proficiency in a language you need to understand the culture that language comes from.
Few language courses give culture its proper due. In my opinion culture is the the most important and overlooked aspect of learning a language. If you aren’t fascinated by the culture behind that language then you’ll have a hard time maintaining your enthusiasm for learning that language.
Seek out music, books, TV shows, movies, food and blogs that connect you with the culture of the language you’re learning. Fall in love with the culture that you’re learning about and you’ll rapidly and effortlessly learn your target language.
Want Tips About Learning Portuguese?
On this blog you’ll find a lot of content about Brazilian culture and the Portuguese language. For a complete list of everything I’ve written check out the archives. I’d recommend starting here with this post that has links to Brazilian Portuguese lessons.
If you just want to get started learning Portuguese and are looking for a structured online course that you can use at your convenience, I recommend checking out Semantica.