9 Ways to Learn a Language Fast!

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You want to learn a new language, but you don’t have the time or money to go to language classes. You also don’t want to have to wait months to use your language skills. So, how can you learn a language fast without access to a classroom?

By following these 9 methods and you will be bonjour-ing, hola-ing,
and 您好ing before you know it.

#1-Choose the Right Words

Most people think you need to know every word in a language to learn it. This is absolutely not true. Start with the most important words in a language (e.g. “where is,” “please,” “thank-you”), and solidify them in your mind. Learning a language quickly is impossible if you try and memorize its dictionary. You’ll learn more words as you go, and native speakers can always explain new terms to you if need be.

#2-In-Cognate-O

What if we told you that you already know some words in your chosen language? Cognates (words that are still similar in different languages) are helpful to know when learning a new language quickly and can be found with a simple Google search. For example, the French word for “impossible” is the same as the English one, but it’s pronounced a little differently. This makes it easy to remember and gives you a head start on whatever language you’re studying.

#3-Immerse Yourself

Interacting using your chosen language is important to cement it in your head, and this needs to be done daily. However, you don’t have to travel all the way to another country. Watching TV shows or listening to music in the language helps, but it’s even better if you couple that reading it. News broadcasts in a different language should be chosen over TV shows because they have less slang, but either one is still a valuable learning tool.

#4-Chat With a Native

With a communication between countries being easier in recent years, it’s fairly simple to connect with someone whose native language is the one you’re learning. Using Skype or FaceTime for a few minutes each day will allow you to talk with a native speaker who knows the language inside and out. They can also answer any questions you may have about the finer points of learning. Even if you aren’t fluent yet, practicing speaking with someone who is will help expand your vocabulary and grammar skills.

#5-Mnemonics Are Your Friend

Mnemonics is a word association technique that helps you remember certain words using a clever sentence or story. An example of this can be seen in the Russian word for “tea,” which is “chai.” Using mnemonics, you can help you remember the word for “tea” by using this sentence: “I wouldn’t drink that for all the TEA in CHIna.” Both words, in English and Russian, are in the sentence to help you associate them with each other.

#6-Accept Your Mistakes

Language learners often get frustrated when they make mistakes. This perfectionistic attitude can cause them to give up on the language because they feel that these mistakes have stunted them. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Mistakes are the human way of learning, and native speakers aren’t going to shun you because you messed up a word or even an entire conversation. Fluent speakers realize that you’re still learning, and they’ll be more inclined to help you than to berate you for your ignorance. Accept that you won’t be perfect right off the bat, and you’ll be better equipped to deal with your mistakes.

#7-Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

If and when you’re able to travel to the country that speaks the language you’re learning, you’ll soon find that tourists are easily identifiable by their own country’s habits, both spoken and unspoken. Make your best effort to adopt the cultural and social norms of a foreign country, but pay special attention to your accent. Speaking Japanese in an English accent not only sounds horrible, but it makes you difficult to understand. Use the proper accent from the start, especially when following step #4.

Personal tip: When I was learning to speak Spanish and I wanted to have a  Mexican accent, instead of sweating over every single syllable of pronunciation, I simply pretended I was a Mexican. You can picture someone, either famous or known personally and play like you are acting a role starring them. Example, Selma Hayek or Marion Cotillard (French).

#8-Have Goals

Learning a language quickly is a relative term unless you clearly lay out specific, realistic goals. You may be going on a business trip in a month and need to learn the basics of business conversation. Set a goal for every week that puts you at a certain level in that time. When you meet that goal, congratulate yourself on your accomplishment and move on to the next one. It’s the same principle as when you were in school. You didn’t have your final exam without having a series of study sessions and review tests first. The same principle needs to be followed when it comes to languages.

#9-Progress Makes Perfect

No one has ever mastered an entire language completely, not even native speakers. Think about all the questions you still have about your own language and realize that other language speakers have this problem as well. There’s always something new to learn. When learning a new language, make sure you’re progressing each time you use it. Conversations with native speakers in the language you’re learning will slowly get smoother, but don’t stop once you’ve reached their level. A language not used will soon be forgotten.

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How to be Street Smart Like Charlie Kelly

This post is the first in a series I will start featuring called Readers’ Choice, where I write about subjects my readers have suggested.

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Street Smarts

Being “street smart” is a term we don’t really stop to examine. And no, it’s not just something idiots say after bombing the SAT. It’s actually a very valuable set of intellectual skills that everyone should be equipped with at least to some extent.

And yes, it’s more than just knowing the bus schedule.

crabman street smart

If you Google “street smarts” it gives the definition as, having the experience and knowledge necessary to deal with the potential difficulties or dangers of life in an urban environment.

Compare this to a person who is “book smart” and is able to learn concrete concepts and apply them. In other words, someone with book smarts can memorize and regurgitate information–which certainly has its functions.

However, a person with street smarts has honed their ability to both assess their options, and figure out how to solve or get out of a problem. More important, they can do this on the fly.

Take for example the character Charlie Kelly from one of my favorite shows It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Charlie Kelly 1

This guy is the epitome of a street smart individual. As part owner of an Irish dive bar in a rough section of Philadelphia, Charlie is the man that keeps things running.

Although he is illiterate and can only write in his made-up version of hieroglyphics, Charlie is the go-to guy when it comes to navigating through conflict.

So why is Charlie so good, and what can we learn from him?

Well…

Charlie is aware of his surroundings.

Charlie Kelly 2

Whether he’s hanging out with his bridge people (as in the structure, not the card game) or traveling through the city sewer system, Charlie is always aware of the dangers that lurk in any situation, and he comes prepared.

Like when he hears the sound of water and knows the sewer is flooding–what does he do? Strips down and holds his clothes above his head. That way when he gets back to the surface, his clothes won’t be dirty. Genius!

So, like Charlie, when you know you’re going to be somewhere if-y, do your research, know exactly where you’re going and have an escape plan if things go wrong. This could be as simple as knowing the location of a gas station you can run to or how to apply a Krav Maga style hammer fist to a dude’s face.

Charlie has people skills.

Charlie Kelly 3

Whenever Charlie encounters someone less than caliber he knows how to talk to them without getting into an altercation. Whether it’s the mob or a hostile drug dealer, he knows how to play his cards right and avoid taking a beating. Unlike his friends Mac and Cricket.

If you ever encounter someone shady and they try to talk to you, say “hi,” be polite, but don’t invite conversation. Don’t show fear, otherwise you’ll seem like an easy target.

Charlie knows how to blend in.

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Mainly it’s because he’s poor and never buys clothes. He prefers to patch up his old stuff with a needle and thread–another valuable skill.

But you and I can learn from this. If you’re ever going to be in a rough neighborhood, try not to stand out. Don’t wear your nice clothes. Avoid name brands and solid colors as it might be construed as gang wear.

And ladies, keep the boob-age in check.

Charlie knows how to play it cool.

Charlie Kelly 4

Bums, meth-heads, muggers. You name it, Charlie’s seen it. And probably served it a beer or two. Charlie shows no fear, and neither should you.

On the mean streets you may run into some shady people doing shady business. You may accidentally witness a drug exchange. What’s worse, the dealer might see you witness his sale (which happened to me once). What do you do in this situation? Play it cool.

Try and look like you’ve never been so bored in your life. Parading prostitutes? Don’t care. A mugging? No big deal. Car jacking? Meh. Just an everyday exchange in my neighborhood.

That’s the kind of attitude you need to have. Don’t make trouble.

If you want to be a good Samaritan then memorize the perpetrator’s features and call the police when you are in a safe area.

Having an understanding of the sort of people you’ll be encountering is essential. Obviously social norms vary from place to place and it’s up to you to gauge the area or person and act accordingly.

Based on my research, I’ve concluded that the most important aspect of street smarts is a deeply engrained set of people skills. It’s not just knowing how to get away from danger, but also knowing who to call when you need something. Need your car fixed on the cheap? I got a guy I trust. He’ll give you a deal.  Plumbing problems?  My cousin’s got a friend who’s a plumber. He’ll take care you.

Ideally it’s best to have a bit of both worlds. You need the yin and the yang. Having a combination can help you handle difficult problems, even in the workplace. By having a bookish understanding of the concepts and applying a little street smart creativity, you will probably stumble upon some “outside the box” solutions.

And it also doesn’t hurt to know the bus schedule.