You Can Learn Languages Easier Now Than In School

Two years of high school German is enough to know the basics of how the language works and to think you know a thing or two. But it's also enough to realize how big a task it is to be fluent, and how much you still don't know.

In my experience, it seems most people observe the pace of their learning in school and equate that to their expectations over all. In school I thought, "if it took me two years to learn this much, it's going to take me 4 more years to be fluent!"

Well, that's not true.

I reached a reasonable level of fluency in Russian (a very complex language) in just one year. And in Italian (a much easier language) I flew to fluency easily. Sure, I've had some bumps along the way with Turkish and Greek, but those interruptions were the result of motivation, priorities, interruptions, or (recently) tragedies. My learning has never been hindered by the language, or by how difficult it is to learn.

And now that I have learned how to learn, I know that it's not going to take 4 years to be fluent, because time is relative. When you take the responsibility for learning, rather than leaving it up to the school, you can learn more in one day than you'd get in a week or two of school.

Because of the fact that I've already had some German in school, my task doesn't start from the beginning this year as it normally would — which is probably a good thing, since I'm starting several months late. So here's what I'm already doing:

I've found two blogs that I'm reading to pick up on some of the finer points of particular words and expressions: German is Easy and Marathon Sprachen. (The latter is really good!)

But just learning words and phrases isn't enough. I'm also jumping into the fire feet first and reading Blogging IT, a blog on topics that relate to my career, which is written entirely in German.

Do I already understand everything? No. But I understand a lot, and I can infer a lot... and that means I can learn a lot!

So, are you still letting your school experience set your expectations? Or have you decided to pick up the pace?

Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.

Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • I had really good pronunciation in French before I ever started the class as a Freshman in high school because I got my mom to buy me Pimsleur French Level 1 and I did the entire course on my own several times--I was the only one who could properly pronounce the "r". I quickly stopped pronouncing the "r" correctly and just pronounced it like we do in English because that's what everyone else was doing and the teacher didn't seem to care, she didn't emphasize pronunciation (in fact she didn't emphasize speaking at all, it was all about reading and writing). I dumbed down my French so I wouldn't stick out too much.Cheers,

  • Andrew, I can relate... My dad had spent time studying in France and I was raised hearing the language and understanding proper pronunciation. I get to my first high school French class and my teacher is literally like the Saturday Night Live Alec Baldwin French teacher skit.... Ridiculous! Fast forward through high school and college French classes and I'm now standing in a train station in Paris needing to ask someone where the toilets are and the way to the Metro. I then became a little bitter at my teachers for 'dumbing things down' and having very low expectations for their students but thankful at the same time that I didn't give in to their bullshit.I feel that school environments are out-dated and not conducive to the actual learning process. They are however quite conducive to memorization, which is a shame for the students that have a desire and excitement around actually learning new things. If you're intelligent enough to have a passion for languages, or any subject for that matter, screw school experiences and set your own pace. You'll probably far surpass any teacher you ever had.

  • Andrew, I did exactly the same thing with a "French in 3 months" course I got from the library. I learnt to pronounce really well after lots of repetition. However, others in the class would make fun of me for "putting on a stupid accent" (such is life in school). So in the end, I just talked with a rubbish accent like everyone else, and lost all interest.

  • Yup, exactly what happened except no one openly made fun of me, it didn't even take that to get me to drop it, I just didn't want anyone thinking I was trying to show how much smarter I was than them, I didn't want to stick out :/

  • I hate how, once
    you take a school class, you think that the pace that you must learn at is
    the one set down by the school. You are very right in saying that people need
    to learn at their own pace. Sometimes people learn fast, sometimes slow, but
    language is a constant learning experience, not something that you can put a
    timer on. Great article!Chris

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