How to Learn Any Language in 3 Months

The Okano Isao judo textbook I used to learn Japanese grammar.

Post reading time: 15 minutes.

Language learning need not be complicated.

Principles of cognitive neuroscience and time management can be applied to attain conversational fluency (here defined as 95%+ comprehension and 100% expressive abilities) in 1-3 months. Some background on my language obsession, from an earlier post on learning outside of classes:

From the academic environments of Princeton University (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian) and the Middlebury Language Schools (Japanese), to the disappointing results observed as a curriculum designer at Berlitz International (Japanese, English), I have sought for more than 10 years to answer a simple question: why do most language classes simply not work?

The ideal system — and progression — is based on three elements in this order…

1. Effectiveness (Priority)

2. Adherence (Interest)

3. Efficiency (Process)

Effectiveness, adherence, and efficiency refer to the “what”, “why”, and “how” of learning a target language, respectively. In simple terms, you first decide what to learn, based on usage frequency (priority); you then filter materials based on your likelihood of continued study and review, or adherence (interest); lastly, you determine how to learn the material most efficiently (process).

Let’s cover each in turn. This post will focus on vocabulary and subject matter. For learning grammar, I suggest you read this short article. For “reactivating” forgotten languages — like high school Spanish — this sequence will do the trick.

Effectiveness: If you select the wrong material, it does not matter how you study or if you study – practical fluency is impossible without the proper tools (material). Teachers are subordinate to materials, just as cooks are subordinate to recipes.

Adherence: Review, and multiple exposures to the same material, will always present an element of monotony, which must be countered by an interest in the material. Even if you select the most effective material and efficient method, if you don’t adhere with repeated study, effectiveness and efficiency mean nothing. In other words: can you persist with the material and method you’ve chosen? If not, less effective materials or methods will still be better. The best approach means nothing if you don’t use it.

By analogy, if sprinting uphill with bowling balls in each hand were the most effective way to lose body fat, how long would the average person adhere to such a program?

If you have no interest in politics, will you adhere to a language course that focuses on this material? Ask yourself: Can I study this material every day and adhere until I reach my fluency goals? If you have any doubt, change your selection. Oftentimes, it is best to select content that matches your interests in your native language. Do not read about something that you would not read about in English, if English is your native language (e.g. don’t read Asahi Shimbun if you don’t read newspapers in English). Use the target language as a vehicle for learning more about a subject, skill, or cultural area of interest.

Do not use material incongruent with your interests as a vehicle for learning a language – it will not work.

Efficiency: It matters little if you have the best material and adherence if time-to-fluency is 20 years. The ROI won’t compel you. Ask yourself: Will this method allow me to reach accurate recognition and recall with the fewest number of exposures, within the shortest period of time? If the answer is no, your method must be refined or replaced.

An Example of Effectiveness (80/20) in Practice

Pareto’s Principle of 80/20 dictates that 80% of the results in any endeavor come from 20% of the input, material, or effort.

We can adapt this principle and prioritize material based on its recorded likelihood and frequency of usage. To understand 95% of a language and become conversational fluent may require 3 months of applied learning; to reach the 98% threshold could require 10 years. There is a point of diminishing returns where, for most people, it makes more sense to acquire more languages (or other skills) vs. add a 1% improvement per 5 years.

To see exactly how I deconstruct the grammar of new languages, I suggest you read “How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour”. Now, on to the meat and potatoes of communication: words.

If you were a student of English (though the list can be adapted to most languages), the following words would deliver the greatest ROI per hour invested for the initial 1-3 weeks of study:

The 100 Most Common Written Words in English

  1. the
  2. of
  3. and
  4. a
  5. to
  6. in
  7. is
  8. you
  9. that
  10. it
  11. he
  12. was
  13. for
  14. on
  15. are
  16. as
  17. with
  18. his
  19. they
  20. I
  21. at
  22. be
  23. this
  24. have
  25. from
  26. or
  27. one
  28. had
  29. by
  30. word
  31. but
  32. not
  33. what
  34. all
  35. were
  36. we
  37. when
  38. your
  39. can
  40. said
  41. there
  42. use
  43. an
  44. each
  45. which
  46. she
  47. do
  48. how
  49. their
  50. if
  51. will
  52. up
  53. other
  54. about
  55. out
  56. many
  57. then
  58. them
  59. these
  60. so
  61. some
  62. her
  63. would
  64. make
  65. like
  66. him
  67. into
  68. time
  69. has
  70. look
  71. two
  72. more
  73. write
  74. go
  75. see
  76. number
  77. no
  78. way
  79. could
  80. people
  81. my
  82. than
  83. first
  84. water
  85. been
  86. call
  87. who
  88. oil
  89. its
  90. now
  91. find
  92. long
  93. down
  94. day
  95. did
  96. get
  97. come
  98. made
  99. may
  100. part

The first 25 of the above words make up about 1/3 of all printed material in English. The first 100 comprise 1/2 of all written material, and the first 300 make up about 65% percent of all written material in English. Articles and tense conjugations that can often be omitted in some languages or learned for recognition (understanding) but not recall (production).

Most frequency lists are erroneously presented as the “most common words” in English, with no distinction made between written and spoken vocabulary. The 100 most common words as used in speech are considerably different, and this distinction applies to any target language.

The 100 Most Common Spoken Words in English

  1. a, an
  2. after
  3. again
  4. all
  5. almost
  6. also
  7. always
  8. and
  9. because
  10. before
  11. big
  12. but
  13. (I) can
  14. (I) come
  15. either/or
  16. (I) find
  17. first
  18. for
  19. friend
  20. from
  21. (I) go
  22. good
  23. goodbye
  24. happy
  25. (I) have
  26. he
  27. hello
  28. here
  29. how
  30. I
  31. (I) am
  32. if
  33. in
  34. (I) know
  35. last
  36. (I) like
  37. little
  38. (I) love
  39. (I) make
  40. many
  41. one
  42. more
  43. most
  44. much
  45. my
  46. new
  47. no
  48. not
  49. now
  50. of
  51. often
  52. on
  53. one
  54. only
  55. or
  56. other
  57. our
  58. out
  59. over
  60. people
  61. place
  62. please
  63. same
  64. (I) see
  65. she
  66. so
  67. some
  68. sometimes
  69. still
  70. such
  71. (I) tell
  72. thank you
  73. that
  74. the
  75. their
  76. them
  77. then
  78. there is
  79. they
  80. thing
  81. (I) think
  82. this
  83. time
  84. to
  85. under
  86. up
  87. us
  88. (I) use
  89. very
  90. we
  91. what
  92. when
  93. where
  94. which
  95. who
  96. why
  97. with
  98. yes
  99. you
  100. your

Individual word frequency will vary between languages (especially pronouns, articles, and possessives), but differences are generally related to frequency rank, rather than complete omission or replacement with a different term. The above two lists are surprisingly applicable to most popular languages.

Content and vocabulary selection beyond the most common 300-500 words should be dictated by subject matter interest. The most pertinent questions will be “What will you spend your time doing with this language?”

If necessary, the most closely related rephrasing would be “What do I currently spend my time doing?” It bears repeating: do not read about something that you would not read about in your native language. Use the target language as a vehicle for learning more about a subject, skill, or cultural area of interest. Poor material never produces good language.

Feed your language ability foods you like, or you will quit your “diet” and cease study long before you achieve any measurable level of proficiency.

As a personal example, I used martial arts instructional manuals to compete effectively in judo while a student in Japan. My primary goal was to learn throws and apply them in tournaments. To avoid pain and embarrassment, I had tremendous motivation to learn the captions of the step-by-step diagrams in each instructional manual. Language development was a far secondary priority.

One might assume the crossover of material to other subjects would be minimal, but the grammar is, in fact, identical. The vocabulary may be highly specialized, but I eclipsed the grammatical ability of 4 and 5-year students of Japanese within 2 months of studying and applying sports-specific instruction manuals.

The specialization of my vocabulary didn’t present a single problem in communication, it is important to note, as I was spending 80% of my free time training with people who also used judo-speak and other vocabulary unique to sports training and athletic development.

Once the framework of grammar has been transferred to long-term memory, acquiring vocabulary is a simple process of proper spaced repetition, which will be the subject of a dedicated future post.

In the meantime, don’t let languages scare you off. It’s a checklist and a process of finding material you enjoy with a good frequency ROI.

Ganbare!

###

Odds and Ends: Giveaway and USC Video

I’ll be giving away some very cool stuff this week on Twitter (electronics, my favorite bags, etc.). Just click here and follow me to see the goodies.

The Cisco-sponsored video about my house by the USC team is in the final 24 hours of competition and needs a few more views to win. Unfortunately, none of the embed views counted last time due to bad code. Please click here and wait a few seconds to help these kids get their big break!

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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548 Replies to “How to Learn Any Language in 3 Months”

  1. I am doing a review of Rosetta Stone for my language learning site and remembered your comments about them above:

    “Using ‘learn like a child’ is a great excuse for a company to produce materials with the same images for every language and minimal tweaking of translation, which = lower cost of production. It’s designed to be simple to produce en masse, not for best results.” I remember you said that same thing about text books that are printed exclusively in the target language (e.g. Berlitz.) Like you, I have also worked for Berltiz, and was equally frustrated by their monolingual, ineffectual materials.

    Rosetta Stone and Berlitz are good examples of a well-funded, well-marketed, but altogether mediocre products. Like many of the most profitable companies, they have taken a weakness (i.e. not wanting to pay for language specific images, translations, etc.) and turned them into product features: “No translation! No memorization!” On the surface, this looks good, but when you dig down into the products, you realize just how limited they are.

    My conclusion: Instead of wasting hundreds of dollars on CD-Roms that require sitting at a computer, why not just download any of the 100,000+ podcasts on a topic that floats your boat.

    Interest = More time with the language = Fluency

  2. Tim,

    Thanks for the post, but I do have some questions about the effectiveness and efficiency portion. Adherence is easy, because one can say, “This is great stuff. I think I’ll stick with it.” However, effectiveness is not. As an example, since you are a tango buff, to a person who has never danced and seen tango before, it would be difficult to determine which crosstown tango schools are more effective. How would he/she know which is better? Or, more importantly, better for him/her?

    I think the same thing can be said of efficiency. How does one measure progress when learning a language on one’s own?

    I guess my main concern is that in the 1 to 3 month time frame, it seems that determining which materials and processes are the most efficient and effective would eat into that time – especially if finding the perfect materials and methods turns out to be a trial-and-error process.

    Any thoughts or ideas? Or better yet, recommendations?

    Thanks,

    Marc

  3. Amazingly insightful. Breaking bigger jobs down in to bullet points makes a lot of sense – I’ve seen this used for speed reading courses, so it looks like you’re right on the money. Maybe in 90 days I’ll be posting comments in Italian!

  4. Tim,

    Old post, but I decided to revisit today.

    I’ve recently begun working with a refugee family from Syria.

    They have very little English and this has given me some ideas on helping them learn English.

    As they are new to Canada it seems we need to focus on ensuring they get the most bang for their buck as fast as possible to a least get some semblance of comprehension.

    Thanks

  5. Tim,

    I am in Geneva right now, where I have been on a mini-retirement for the last 2 months. I have used your methods and those of a few others in accelerated learning to develop my French extremely quickly. I can understand and express myself 9 out of 10 times. It works. Thank you.

    BUT!!! despite really working on it, I am struggling to improve my pronunciation. I can always get my message across, but its not the way I want to speak the language. Do you or anyone else out there have any methods to train pronunciation???

  6. Hi Tim,

    I watched your random video with Kevin Rose…love the show by the way! You mentioned some language resources that you use. Do you know a really good resource that teaches Canadian French (Quebecois)? Thanks.

  7. Great read. Especially in the beginning you have to focus on the main material. Another tip i can give is to “group” words togheter when learning vocab and make a mental projection or link between them.

    This is a technique used by the ancient greeks who were memorising speeches. E.g. make a mental walk through your house and memorise the translation of each object you see in your “mental walk”.

  8. Hi!!!

    I have been in Beijing for 2 weeks know and I am studying Mandarin – I am a Colombian guy(spanish) who speaks no more than xie xie and ni hao. I know you speka mandarin and i was wondering if you have any special sugestion about mandarin -i know you speak it very well-, not just speaking but also writting.

    Thanks,

    Juan

  9. Hey Tom,

    Thanks for compiling/finding/researching a list of the most common written and spoken words. When I began my studies of French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and Dutch, I thought that a sensible approach like learning the most common words would be the most efficient way to begin my studies. I did a cursory search of such a list a month or so ago, but was unsuccessful in acquiring one. Yesterday, a friend of mine turned me on to your book and your blog. Thanks again for your ingenuity.

    Take care and thanks for your help,

    Peace and smiles,

    Michael

  10. One method that is so great for those who want to learn the English languauge is to begin with the most commonly spoken words. A new learner can start with the 100 most common words, then the 500 most common words, then the 1000. The truth is that there is just so much more research and materials out there for learning English as a second language simply because of its popularity and because of the ESL or TESOL methods. However, when it comes to learning Polish or any other language for that matter the same principles can be applied. Start with the most common words or phrases and build yourself up from there. How do you know what the most common words are? Well, many are probably the same as in English. Also, consider the languauge that you most likely hear when experiencing the language.

  11. Hi Tim,

    First of all — wonderful article! And thank you everyone for all your thoughts!

    I am a Peace corps volunteer, native English speaker, living in a francophone (French speaking) country, trying very hard to learn the African language as well build on my French. I noticed you mentioned to another commenter it is impossible to learn two languages at once, but possible to learn one and review another.

    Since English is not spoken in my country of service I am learning the African language, in French. I hope to build on both languages at the same time and I’m hoping this is possible because they are not at the same level….My French, I would say is on the mediocre-poor end of being conversant (intermediate low level) and the African language I am learning is from scratch.

    What are your best recommendations for learning both languages and is it possible to build on both languages at the same time? Or should I just focus on one. I’ve never had a flair for languages and it’s always been challenging for me.

    Has anyone else been in a similar situation? I’d love to hear about anyones experiences learning two languages at once, or learning a language in another language (that’s not the native tongue).

    And to everyone learning new languages, exposure and practice is key. Most Peace corps volunteers are conversant in another language within three months in country, and fluent within the two year service.

  12. Tim

    Great work by you and everybody!! Much appreciated. I have been looking for a long time to find a method that will best suit me and I think this is it. Do you mind though giving us a bit more detail on your learning schedule during these 3 months? A summary step-by-step from blabla to fluency.

    Thanks!

    Etienne

  13. Hi,Tim

    Cheers for the article!

    I am a Japanese>English Translator working in the UK. Over the last 3 years I taught myself Japanese to near fluency by creating an environment where it was basically impossible to not learn Japanese.This involved having the TV or Japanese music running all the time, changing my computer OS over to Japanese and reading comics and books constantly. Even if you don’t live in the country, the internet now means you can create an immersion environment anywhere.

    I wrestled with textbook study for about a year and found it boring and exhausting. Language learning is fun, immensely rewarding, and should never feel like a chore. I found I was able to learn and remember a lot more from watching dubbed versions of Fight Club and the Matrix, learning recipes, playing Taiko at a local club and reading Japanese translations of personal development books or novels I’d already read in English.

    The biggest discovery for me was the spaced repetition system (SRS). It has made a *huge* difference to my recall, reading and fluency. Native level fluency is said to lie at around 10,000 sentences (if you add 25 new sentences a day, that’s a language in a year). I am at about 7500 for Japanese, and will definitely be using another when I tackle the many other languages I’d love to learn. I’m looking forward to your future article on spaced repetition.

    Check out these links on SRS, immersion, motivation and the awesomeness of language learning;

    – alljapaneseallthetime.com (this guy reached fluency in 18months)

    – antimoon.com

    good luck language learners!

    Dan

  14. I am learning American Sign Language in a community college in Berkeley and there are definitely some more key components to add to the discussion. An excellent instructor with a superb book (Signing Naturally) and a classroom community of other students supporting each other is a big help! We meet twice a week, have to take written, comprehension, and expressive exams and practice ASL together in every class. Learning language is repetition over time, coupled with a desire to communicate. Those who have the most to say and the greatest interest in what others say will advance faster. One more VERY important detail. I recently found an adorable and skillful tutor to meet with me weekly. I want to understand and be understood so badly that my language skills have taken leaps and bounds with the tutor. Language is social. Have fun and be yourself with it.

  15. First of all to mention that this is a interesting article so far. I just stumpled on this some days ago. As a German native speaker and foreign language addicted (Spanish, English, Russian) I experienced the following:

    For me it doesn’t make any sense to learn languages at the same time or one after another if they are from the same family of languages (e.g. learning at the same time Spanish, Italian and Portuguese or Dutch and German). Doing this you can get easily confused and instead of improving your language skills you are actually worsen them (that happend to me while learning Portuguese I lost some of my Spanish grammar)

    In contrast to that, I never experienced problems of studying for example Spanish and Russian at the same time and thanks to that nice experience I enrolled me at some Chinese class instead of hang on to my Portuguese.

    Regards

    Florian

  16. Thanks for the tips. I’ve studied Japanese for about two years now and I’m still not as fluent as I want to be. I am currently in Japan studying and was just recently debating whether to take more language classes which would limit my time with the school judo team or to continue with a small number of classes and continue full speed with judo. Your above article addressed my specific debate head on. Thanks.

  17. Great post. The systematic way in which your mind works is quite contrary to my fantastical, imaginative brain habits: it inspires me. I was thinking of translating the most commonly used English words (that you listed) into other languages and using this as a basis for an audio CD of basic vocabulary that I could listen to in the car. However, in the post you mention that “the first 300 make up about 65% … of all written material in English” but only actually post two lists of 100 words. Do you have a list of the other 200 words (or 100 words if you were referring the lists of written and spoken combined)? Thanks and cheers.

  18. hola Tim! te escribo en español ya que supongo que todavia mantendras tu español ^^ soy de Argentina, y hablo ingles y aleman a un nivel conversacional fluido, ambos los aprendi de manera auto-didacta(vivi 1 año en Austria), y estudie 2 años de japones (noryoku shiken 4-kyu aprobado) ademas que tengo ganas de empezar a estudiar frances por un posible viaje a suiza durante las vacaciones de verano 2011… asi que te queria comentar que tus posts de aprender idiomas se agradecen y son muy buenos! segui posteando… estos dias voy a ver si puedo conseguir tu libro, pero no tengo demasiadas esperanzas de encontrar nada aca… 🙁

    saludos desde La Plata!

    Bruno

  19. Hey Tim,

    I just received a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship and I’m going to use it to apply to a 10-month MBA program at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. Getting into that program will be my Everest.

    As part of the scholarship, I need to be fluent in French. I’m going to follow your techniques to make that happen. To enhance my “interest,” though, I was wondering if you are at all interested in a real-time FHWW case-study challenge? We could set the parameters of the challenge and then I’d get to work while giving updates so my progress could be followed. What do you think?

    Best,

    B

  20. Hey Tim,

    I apologizein advance if you know this or someone else has suggested it. (I don’t think reading every comment here is very time-smart, although I did browse by checking your posts and the ones you responded to) Anyway…

    For learning Kanji, it sounds like you learned through typical radicals and saturation. Did you ever try Remembering the Kanji by James Heisig? I’ve been using it lately and have found it a great way to learn 25, 50, or even 100+ kanji a day. It doesn’t give readings (there’s a seperate book for that), but learning how to write them and what they mean helps a ton. I’m learning the readings as I go. (I live in Japan, so saturation is easy as pie) Heck, sometimes I already know the readings because it’s vocabulary I’ve already learned!

    Hope it helps!

  21. http://www.semantica-portuguese.com

    I stumbled upon this site 3 months ago when I saw a video from Xuxa mentioning it. I’m already having decent broken conversations in Brazilian Portuguese over Skype and hopefully I’ll be able to talk pretty smoothly in 2 more months. Best of all, it’s free!

  22. I wish I had this advice earlier. There are two other shortcuts that have helped me tremendously. They are rather rote learning, and a bit painstaking. However, I would not have passed the 2kyu without them. One is the nintendo DS and the Kanken kanji program. The other is Smart.FM. I am onto Chinese now!

  23. I am native speaker of Japanese and I really agree with your method.I have not tried learning other than English but I saw some of my friend learned many different languages like you did.he focused on one target language then find the place where he can use the language he learned.He worked for chinese restaurant in china town.He learned not just chinese and also learned cocking chinese.It’s really to kill two birds with one stone.

  24. I’m not convinced of your method at all. It might work if your native tongue is English and you’re trying to learn a European language or any language that has a phonetic alphabet.

    I’m Japanese American, and I speak Japanese (and English) at home. I went to Japanese school from preschool to high school. After high school I bought college textbooks and I continue to study to this day (I’m 30). I’ve been to Japan twice. I watch Japanese tv. I bought a Canon wordtank V903 in Japan last summer. I’ve studied 5 other (European) languages. I STILL have a very hard time with Japanese. I MIGHT be able to pass JLPT level 2, maybe. No matter how hard I study, the kanji is impossible to retain. I hate the few phonemes and the homophones. It seems that the vast majority of words are 2-kanji combinations. How many words rhyme with kyousou? The lack of sounds makes it very hard to distinguish words, and they all sound the same. I have a hard time putting together sentences of even intermediate complexity. Japanese is probably the 2nd most inefficient language in the universe. Every time I look at something written in Japanese I see kanji I’ve never seen before. Brute force memorization seems to be the only way. I’ve never noticed an improvement in language ability just by being immersed in it. My learning has come almost entirely from book learning.

  25. Hey Tim,

    I agree with your ideas.

    I taught English in Korea for 2 years, and the system is all book based for kids in kindergarten and elementary school..rediculous carry on!

    I told the boss, i wanted to teach through creative story making, comic character creation, etc.. Luckily she agreed but still wanted to get through the books

    By focusing on what the kids enjoyed, the rate of learning was found to be miles ahead, and by the way, the more empowered they were, and given mature treatment, the better they did.

    Do you think a health/communication/creative thinking style 1 year program would work in the US, to improve kids health consciousness, and creativity?

    Its just that im thinking of getting a team together in Korea to test it out.

  26. I’m a resident of Japan with over 25 years of Japanese study behind me. I read R. Hashi’s troubles, and – well, I certainly don’t dispute his personal tale, but let me assure would-be learners that not everyone has the same experience. I’ve found my learning difficult, sure, but not particularly more so than other languages I’ve approached. (I wouldn’t even know what it means to say Japanese is “an inefficient language”.)

    As R. suggests, learning to read/write Chinese characters is likely the biggest obstacle for anyone learning Japanese or Chinese – though I say that if well over a billion people can do it, then so can you and so can I! (And so I did.)

    For the curious, I’ve listed the few things that make learning Japanese hard, and the many more things that make learning Japanese easy. Would be interesting to hear from other learners of Japanese, who may or may not agree with my lists! (Sorry, can’t give you URL, though; this comment won’t post if I put a URL in text or in the Website field. Try homejapan dot com slash learn-japanese .)

    In any case, good luck to all learners of all languages. It’s fun stuff, n’est pas?

  27. I found the article very interesting, but I’m confused on the paragraph following the listing of “The 100 Most Common Written Words in English”

    “The first 25 of the above words make up about 1/3 of all printed material in English. The first 100 comprise 1/2 of all written material, and the first 300 make up about 65% percent of all written material in English.”

    What is meant by “and the first 300 make up about 65% percent of all written material in English”????

    What 300??? The list is “The 100 Most Common Written Words in English?!?”

    What am I missing here?

  28. hey I am learning chinese and I am trying to apply this stuff. Does anyone have a list of the 1,000 more SPOKEN words in english (I know I am learning chinese but I can translate the 1,000 words)

    Thanks

    xie xie

  29. I found the coolest book for learning French at the Dollar Tree. I guess it was a publisher remainder. It appeared to be the reprint of a novel published in the 1940s. I wish I could remember the title, but it escapes me at the moment. I will try to hunt it down and post the title in case anyone is interested in tracking it down. The book starts out in English and gradually begins to scatter a few French words and phrases in each chapter, all perfectly understandable in context. It gradually adds more and more French language to each chapter, until you reach the final chapter, which is entirely in French. By the time you have finished reading the novel, you will also have learned to read basic French. Pretty amazing. I have a MA in Spanish, but I never saw a book like this for Spanish.

  30. You missed the mark on this one. The title is misleading and you don’t give any concrete examples of how this actually works (in your book for example you use a lot of anecdotes to drive a point home which is how you put these into practice). Effectiveness, Adherence, Efficiency. Check. Check. Check. Memorizing most frequent words–ineffective. I agree that you must start with frequent vocabulary but think about it . . . you can get by pretty far in English (at least spoken English) without some of those words. If a new English language learner says “I no have food. Please where restaurant.” that communicates a great deal while still omitting high frequency words.

    I feel like what you are trying to say is that language learners need high frequency vocabulary (vocabulary phrases vs. words) in a meaningful context that will keep them engaged in the learning–a funny story for example, romance, drama . . . Storytelling is a powerful way to do this. Reading is another way to build an incredible amount of vocabulary (and language acquisition) in a short period of time.

  31. This post is incredibly helpful! My husband and I will be implementing many of the ideas in the 4HWW very soon and so are planning to fulfill dreamlines of travel abroad (starting in Europe). I love languages and would like to have at least some “get by” knowledge before going to a new place, but I think my husband feels a bit daunted. The lists are a great idea for picking up the most important basics and learn the rest as you go/as interest is piqued.

    I really wish that the military would take some pointers from you! I studied Arabic when I was in the service, and it was a 63-week course of nothing but Arabic for 7 hours a day for 5 days a week, and I graduated the course without feeling as fluent as I would have expected after so much study. Your ideas on language learning seem so much more practical. It really seemed that 90% of the vocabulary for the course was for words that would only be used in very specialized situations that might not ever come up–like in- and out-patient procedure for surgeries–but could be learned on the fly if the situation arose.

    Most of the words that I still remember well (after almost 3 years of not using the language) are the ones that appear on the lists.

    Thank you!

  32. Hi Tim! Thank you so much for your BOOK! I live in Russia (St. Petersburg)and I am real happy that my brother gifted yor book 🙂

    I’ve read this article, so I find it very interesting and useful) I’m 20, I am historian of art and I schould to know lots of languages. I study 7 foreign languages. I learn its with languages-groups (latin – spanisch – italian – french – portugal; englisch – german) and I belive that this way is rational. What do you think about it?

    Have you ever been in St. Petersburg?

  33. in reference to:

    “Teachers are subordinate to materials, just as cooks are subordinate to recipes.”

    I would like to contend.

    A master chef can create recipes just as a superior teacher can create the materials needed to teach. Subordination occurs only whenever we choose to be bested by something which, often enough, occurs due to a lack of desire and laziness. When we do not ultimately want to understand something ( ex. bread baking) we will always fall victim to recipes because, in the end, why bother? someone has already figured this out – why waste your time learning to cook without recipes?. To have understanding there must be the desire (adherence – interest) to reach that understanding. Modern living does not lend itself to such advocacy. The lack of want and desire makes us less inclined to achieve.

    We are not subordinate to the information or materials – just to our own desire to understand. But one can hardly be blamed. With modern advances turning over every month – it’s hard to keep up.

  34. Disagree. I teach English to toddlers in China, and by order of my employers, I am subordinate to the material. That’s reality out here in the working world.

    Of course,I supplement the materials by realia and have created entire learning units for the kids that aren’t in the materials they’ve supplied. However, I have to admit that the texts are really pretty good but no textbook is perfect. They could certainly be much worse–seen those, also!

  35. Add another to the SRS category. Supermemo is fantastic, it is the best tool for long-term retention of information and languages.

  36. It would be interesting to see how you attack the vocabulary also. What techniques do you use to actually memorize words, sentences etc?

  37. I have some numbers about Supermemo. After 12 months I got retention 97%.

    Before, when I was studying individual words I had retention 78%. Now I’m putting the whole phrases into Supermemo. It works a lot better.

  38. I speak, write and read 4 languages with native speaker fluency (English, French, Russian, Arabic), plus my native language: Georgian. Most of these languages are considered some of the hardest to learn because of their grammar, except English and French. Except English language, I have NEVER EVER studied anything related to grammar from any of these languages. I simply detest grammar and I learned by listening, reading and simply using common sense. Just like a child learns. I have never used Rosetta Stone and I’m not sure what their “child learning” philosophy means and how it compares to what I did, but I can honestly say that English (being one of the easiest languages generally) was the hardest and most time-consuming to learn because I was forced to learn grammar by my parents. I am an artist and my mind is simply NOT conditioned to learn rules and formulas – I learn by associations and observations. You can try to memorize words and grammatical rules, but if you don’t observe how native speakers interact (on TV, radio, etc) and if you don”t read voraciously you will be stuck in learning hell… possibly forever. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should disregard building of your vocabulary, on the contrary. Main thing is how you build it, not by what you build in terms of quantity…

    This may not be for everyone, but I found that if you just let go, stop worrying about what is conjunctive, infinitive, past present (I don’t even know what these mean) and simply observe you will progress much faster. Tim wrote somewhere that you have to make many, many mistakes in order to learn a language fast. That is absolutely true. The best way to do this is to actually interact with native speakers. Unless you stop being conscious about the rules and what is what and what comes after what, your progress will be tedious, slow and painful. This can only be done if you force yourself to interact with others. Interaction in turn, will force you to think less and talk more. This is the most important stage where you begin to abandon useless references to grammatical rules and begin to relate to the language like a native – that is, without thinking about grammatical rules. The more you read the less you need grammar because through reading you will eventually discover patterns that repeat themselves and that’s really what will help you to learn a language. Through observing the patterns you will learn the grammar and sentence structure in a way similar to what native speakers do.

    For example, my private tutor in French was one of the most renowned experts and translators of French in Georgia and she had a mind of her own. She taught me with her classical, traditional method for 2 months, but I gained nothing but a headache. Her stubbornness was no match for mine. I refused to learn difficult names of even more difficult and elaborate grammatical rules and structures. I demanded that she just teach me with examples. For example: “John would have gone to school, if he hadn’t had forgotten his books.” If she were to explain to me the structure of this sentence from a purely theoretical grammatical stance, I would’ve never learned French. But, I just wanted to know the translation. That’s it. The rest I found out through context. If you begin to study words or grammatical structures without a context, your spirits might dampen pretty soon. I did the same thing with “la” and “le” in french. Even though there is a general rule that helps to differentiate words with different gender, depending on the ending of the word, there are numerous exceptions. In French, there are so many exceptions to the rule that one wonders why they are called exceptions and not the rules. What I did, was to simply READ and READ and observe what kind of articles are you used in conjunction with these words. After a while, I didn’t even have to worry about any rules, I just knew all the exceptions, just like a native speaker does – intuitively, subconsciously, without applying structures and theoretical rules. In exactly 6 months I was her favorite student. Period. She had other students who also spoke GREAT French, but they spent at least 2-3 years with her. I’m not saying you won’t learn a language by following the classical model, I’m just saying it’s not for everyone and it’s very time consuming.

    What do you do if you can’t travel to the country the language of which you’re trying to learn? In that case READING and listening (literature, newspapers, magazines, TV shows, movies) become even more paramount. If you don’t read enough, your conversations and/or writing style will always be very basic, street vendor level. Reading quality books (i.e. literature) will enhance your vocabulary immensely and build language structure subconsciously, while also receiving pleasure from reading. Reading is very important.

    I wanted to learn Japanese and I looked up Rosetta Stone web-site several days ago. They mention a very important word “immersion” which is a key word. You have to immerse yourself in any language and the only way you can do it is by forgetting whether “dog” is a verb or a noun. You know anyway that “dog” is different from “to smile”, don’t you? Just read and listen to examples and you will learn to differentiate and construct sentences by simple observation.

    Same in sports. If you get stuck on rules you will never learn. Learn the basics and then immerse yourself and learn from your mistakes and practice. Ask people who know better, don’t just learn theoretical rules, otherwise you will always catch yourself thinking “well, now I’m in the water so let me swing my arm while at the same time criss-crossing my feet and trying not to bend my knees too much. well that’s good, but oh shit I’m forgetting to breathe, ok breathe breathe. Oh shit, I’m bending my knees too much. Etc, etc” You can simply drown.

    When I was 7 I became fascinated with horses and by the age of 14 I was racing horses in official races with people who had Master Jockey qualifications and were 30-40 years old or older with decades of racing experience. I never went to an Equestrian Academy, but I learned by simply observing the Masters at work. For one year I simply took care of horses, washed and fed them. When I turned 8 I asked one Jockey to let me ride his race horse. He was a kind-hearted man and let me seat on it thinking he would simply walk the horse around while holding the reins. As soon as I sat on the horse I assumed correct back posture, right leg position and held the reins correctly. He was amazed. I asked him to run for a few seconds and lead the horse. He did and was amazed that I could rise and and fall on the saddle in rhythm with the trot of the horse. I didn’t know at the time that students were taught how to move in rhythm with the trot by counting, like in music. 1,2, 1,2… Most of the students were lost in counting and would flop their buts on the saddle until it hurt so much they were disoriented and the horse didn’t heed anymore. I learned this by simply observing that it was necessary to raise your butt and put it back on the saddle, because that’s what the Masters did. Simple as that. In 3 months, I had an enormous privilege to be selected as a candidate rider for a beautiful Akhal-Teke horse (a most beautiful and gracious breed of horses in my opinion from Central Asia). In another three months I rode the horse full time without setting a foot in the Equestrian Academy, which was almost unthinkable then.

    One doesn’t wind up in an unexpected street fight and think: “Oh let me swing my arm from my shoulder and not open up my arm all the way, that way it will have more effect and I will protect my wrist and hand.” You do it naturally,. You just do it. Language is the same. Mistakes and endless repetition/practice.

    Sorry for such a long post. Good luck to everyone with languages.

    1. This reply is four years old, but I think mastroiani ‘s post is one of the best short summaries of how to learn a language that I’ve ever read.

  39. Hi,

    I had a crazy passion for learning Russian. I still love it, but my motivation isn’t alive.

    What I find is that if I am trying to talk Russian and the Russian I am speaking to begins to speak in English, I automatically revert back to English. So I think “Why do I need to learn?” This is why I prefer to have just a couple of female Russian friends who have no idea how to speak English. It forces me to keep practicing.

    My wife is Russian. I met her on Skype and we met for a holiday in Thailand. Amazing trip, but now we only speak in English (she needs it if she is going to survive here and work). And because i’m still learning, if I force myself to speak (I can actually hold a deep conversation in Russian), if I don’t know words, I go back to English and then have to force myself to go back in, even though these Russians know English.

    However, when I started learning to speak Russian, one of the best CD’s I bought taught me to speak romantically in Russian. Sure there were useful day to day lessons and great grammar lessons, but I loved the romantic Russian. It REALLY helped when I met my girl in Thailand and when I travelled to Russia and met her family and friends. Once again, she doesn’t require that learn Russian. She prefers to speak to speak in English.

    Anyway, this program, which I highly recommend is at http://speakrussian.bilstonaudio.com . It’s awesome if you want to get a jumpstart in the language. What I found is that after I mastered this series, learning all the past, future and gender versions of other words was a breeze. PLUS I know how to speak romantically in Russian.

    In the end, you have to drive yourself to do it. Nobody will care but you. Only you miss out on the experience by not practising against all opposition.

    Hope it helps.

    Greg

  40. Does someone have a link to a Katakana/HIragana poster?

    I think it was mentioned somwhere on this blog.

    In Tim’s words: Ganbare!

  41. Tim,

    Since you learned Japanese How did you find the 100 most written and spoken words in Japanese? I am going to use your method to learn Japanese so I was wondering where to get started. I have a Japanese wife and she wants to help me learn.

    Thank you,

    –Shoki

  42. Hi Tim,

    I’m new to your blog which I found after accidentally stumbled on your video on TED website. I never heard of you or your book before, and I wish I did. My life could have been different by now.

    I don’t agree that most language classes don’t work.

    I used to hate the idea of learning a foreign language, until I decided that I absolutely had to learn English. I wasn’t ready to start from scratch or to spend all my time learning vocabulary and grammar on my own. So, I decided to take language classes and persuaded the school to accept me to the third (out of six) and not to the first level. In three months I caught up with the rest of the class. I applied the same principle to learning French and Italian.

    So, I highly recommend taking language classes to those who are lazy and not very excited about doing extensive self-study. Do it the same way I did, take language classes of two proficiency levels higher than yours, and you’ll see how fast you can learn!

    But I’m definitely going to try Tim’s approach and finally start learning Japanese as I can’t find Japanese language lessons in my town.

    Thank you!

    Svetlana

  43. Really good post Tim. Before reading 4HWW and the content on this blog I too was one of the many who believed learning a new language should take years of tireless practice. Now I’ve opened my eyes to these new and efficient ways of learning I hope to vastly improve upon my Spanish and French and maybe even look further afield!

  44. How to learn 40 languages in 10 years ?????

    So that is very easy then. You just start out with learning 1 language in 3 months and then start learning every 3 months a new one. 3 times 4 times ten = 40 languages in just 10 years.

    I’m right now learning Chinese my fourth language and it is very hard so. Please that nobody gets the idea of that learning a language is that easy. If it would be like that every person in the world would invest 2 years of studying hard and at least speak 8 languages……… 😉

  45. Hey, cool blog. Cool like Fonzie. I am an English tutor in Germany and this guy just contacted me wanting to go from almost no English to speaking and writing well within four months. We are going to meet 15 hours a week for four months (he’s got a lot of time). I’ve never tried to teach someone that intensely… I’ve been more of a conversation helper and once-a-week intermediate teacher… and, as a native speaker, my understanding of the English language is relatively poor. How can I help this guy most effectively? What kind of structure and exercises? (besides teaching him frequency words–a great idea, by the way–and phonetics right off the bat)? I got a book for adult learners, but I mean… I want to actually get results and motivate him and not just follow a simple, stupid book. If you have any advice as a language guru, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

  46. Ok and PS. I am fluent in German, and attained fluency rather quickly, but have been stuck for a while at approximately the same level. It is very hard to motivate myself to do grammar exercises because the holes in my grammar are so scattered, and I can already use the language so well (you shouldn’t put off learning German, it’s fun!) the missing pieces have to do with prepositions, when verbs are transitive or intransitive, and specific expressions. Thanks, guru.

  47. In school I really disliked German lessons – mostly because the text book was about 2 unrealistic sensible youngsters playing detectives – how boring can you get?

    But when I was interested in the subject of radio antennas I went through a highly technical book about this subject in German with no strains or worries at all. The concepts just got to me, and I never thought it as ardous or hard to read.

  48. Ellen, I would suggest you have him read… a lot. After he gets some basic grammar in English (which shouldn’t be hard, English grammar is a bit more forgiving than in some other languages) the more input he gets the quicker he will pick up vocabulary and get the “rhythm” of the language. Have him read something (he is interested in, such as some articles from wikipedia or a blog about hobbies he likes or what his profession is) and then have him summarize or state his opinions about them to you, and you can discuss them. Have him highlight the words he doesn’t know so he can study them, or remember them when they come up again in another context. Also, teach him “filler phrases”, phrases that are there only to keep one’s mouth moving while they are thinking of something useful to say. This is something native speakers do which a lot of foreign speakers don’t, and will make him sound more natural. Examples are stuff like “now that you mention it”, “to tell the truth”, “while we are on that subject”, “its on the tip of my tongue”, “this reminds me of an interesting story”, “from my point of view”, “that could be, but” etc. And have him listen to English radio or tv when he’s not with you. Hope this helps.

  49. Do you know what an English idiom push up daisies mean? Well, now with WikIdioms, you can know in no time. WikIdioms is a new collaborative effort of translators and language lovers who have created first Internet multilingual dictionary of idiomatic expressions. It is both useful and fun! Everyone can also contribute expressions that he knows. Visit WikIdioms, educate yourself, translate idioms, contribute, have fun!

    Idiom translation is one hardest translation-related tasks. Idioms cannot be translated literally, as it will result in non-sense. In order to translate an idiom one should find the equivalent expression in the second language. It requires deep familiarity with the language and knowing the specifics of its metaphorical speech. WikIdioms is in fact a multilingual dictionary of idioms, created by native language speakers.

  50. I found your blog post during the course of some research to learn Zulu, and am most impressed with your insight and methodology with regards to learning new languages. The 80/20 rule is a business concept that I never really would’ve applied to language learning, but your point is well taken!

    Thank you for your excellent insight, I am going to look for some more similar posts on this blog straightaway.

    Best wishes

    Tim

  51. This is awesome to hear as I have been studying Spanish with one foot in the door (barely in the door). I was surfing for language study tips on google when I came across this post! Thanks for the swift kick in the butt to just do it!

  52. Nice article. as a successful Japanese language learner and now a teacher, I’m always looking for ways to make language learning more efficient. I like the idea of approaching learning from the perspective of greatest ROI. I think most decent materials attempt to do this to some extent, but I’ve always thought that the process could be made even more efficient. Good food for thought!

  53. My favourite is: seeing DVDs. But not the usual, lazy way.

    Turn OFF subtitles. Listen to the dialogues in the foreign language. Maybe you don’t understand the meaning, but you can write the words down. Pause after sentences. Rewind if neccesary (it is, almost always). If you can’t make a word out for the third hearing it’s a complicated one. So jump on to the next sentence.

    Then turn ON the subtitles. Write down the written words, the idioms. Be thorough.

    In a week or so you can kill a film.

    After 2-3 films (one month) you’re done. You ‘ve got excellent and LIVE, USEFUL vocabulary.

    Go for advanced level exam!

  54. It’s all about motivation and incentives. I just came back from a 4 month China trip and mainly stayed in Beijing to learn Mandarin Chinese.

    1. compared to other European languages such as Spanish for example Mandarin Chinese is even more easy to learn from my point of view

    2. there is almost no grammar to learn and the verbs aren’t conjugated

    3. shì (be) is always shí (and no be, was , been, were, is, are) whatever

    SO WHY THEN SO MANY FOREIGNERS (ESPECIALLY EUROPEAN ONES) LEARN RATHER SPANISH THAN CHINESE ????????

    ANSWER: BECAUSE FOR SOMEBODY FROM EUROPE OR AMERICA THE INCENTIVE TO LIVE IN A NICE COUNTRY SUCH AS SPAIN OR SOUTH AMERICA IS 100 X BIGGER THAN THE INCENTIVE TO LIVE AND WORK IN BEIJING FOR EXAMPLE.

    LANDSCAPE-WISE AND CULTURE-WISE THE DIFFERENCES ARE SO BIG THAT NO “NORMAL” EUROPEAN WANTS TO LIVE IN CHINA FOR A LONGER PERIOD OF TIME TO LEARN CHINESE PROFFESIONAL (LETS SAY MORE THAN 2 YEARS)

    IF WE TALKING ABOUT LANGUAGE LEARNING ———- AT LEAST I PUT ALWAYS THE MOTIVATION AND THE INCENTIVE FIRST.

  55. Hey Tim (or anyone else out there),

    I love this article, however can you explain HOW you learn a word list once you have one?

    Do you learn batches of words at a time (say 20 per day, then review each day after)? What is a good way of remembering – writing it down many times or is there a better way? I tried to find an answer in the comments but didn’t have much luck.

    Cheers!

    Luke

  56. After reading this article I searched for frequency lists and came across a set of books called “The Ultimate Word List” for a ton of different languages on Amazon. I haven’t seen them before but will check out the Hebrew one since that’s the language I’m studying. Tim, did you get your list from those books?

    Steve

  57. Follow-up: My actual DVD is Couples Retreat. It rocks (not a Monthy Python but still very good).

    Yesterday I got to the point that having turned off the subtitles maybe 80% of the film remained understandable for first hearing, with rewinds it climbed up to 90%.

    (the English guy’s dialect and manner is awesome)

    Icing on the cake: when I switched to German audio (DVD was bought in Vienna) it was still relatively easy to understand (my mother language is none of the above 😉

    Oh nooo, maybe it is too easy a film to understand … ?

  58. @Luke: experiment with your methods. Yes, start with 20 words. Then change. Important is to meet a word quite a few times. Triple-check your vocabulary.

    Obviously you must have your word list written (I use different colors, but without any specific order, just to make it colorful, playful).

    No struggling. If a word is really important you’ll meet it quite a few times (and eventually you’ll learn it). If not, it wasn’t so important, don’t feel guilty when you forgot it.

  59. Hello

    great post

    I have to say as a linguist it really doesn’t take much to learn a new language. I learned to communicate in chinese in 1 month after 30!

    Now I am not really feeling the motivation to learn more well not at the moment, maybe try a new challenge… new language at 40, 50, 60 etc…

  60. Tim, you have referenced second language acquisition a few times (like in a video while talking about living languages when you mentioned the importance of being able to create words not just understand them) but I find the way you learn incongruent with Stephen Krashen, a polymath like yourself considered basically as the yoda of SLA theory. His emphasizes input, input, input (like Steve Kaufman with linq and his successful blog) on the path to learning. Its not so much talk all the time, but listen and read all the time. What do you think about input theory? Some people say it is ABSOLUTELY essential and others (like Benny the Irish Polyglot) say the complete opposite.

    1. Hi Michael,

      I do both. I don’t think it’s either/or, BUT I do maintain that recognition doesn’t automatically mean recall, but active recall nearly always (I’ve never seen an exception) means recognition.

      Just my 2 cents,

      Tim

    2. Michael,

      Krashen did a lot to advance SLA research in the 80s, but more current research suggests that “input is necessary, but not sufficient.” If interested in knowing more, check out Input-Interactionist theories. (For example, Michael Long’s research is very well respected in the field)

  61. Ah, very good point with needing to chose material that interests you! That actually reminds me of how I learned to read in the first place.

    I was actually placed into the slow kids group because I couldn’t read. I couldn’t read because I didn’t care… “Spot ran down the road.” *Yawn*.

    It wasn’t until my first class trip to the public library that I garnered any interest at all. There was a book with nice clear pictures that let me figure out the context right away. It was a book on building things, like batteries, radios, and other surprisingly simple toys. After that, it can’t have taken more than a month for me to be able to sound out 90% of all words. (But it took me years on the internet to be able to spell more than a handful. Seriously, I probably would have wrote “More then a hand ful.”)

    I also like how you concentrate on common words. I have a friend who is very well spoken, the closest to perfect I’ve ever met.

    We often argue because his perfect grammar and huge vocabulary allow him to make his words speak for him… And that turns him into a terrible communicator.

    Using abstruse words too often is only one issue when you ignore how a language is actually used, and concentrate on perfection.

  62. This sounds like a lot better way to learn then what they do in school. I always had trouble learning languages. Maybe I’ll apply this to my wife’s first language and suprise her one day. lol. She would be shocked.

  63. These are some great suggestions made here on how to learn a language. It really not how much you know that matters, it’s what you do with what you have learned and then applying it everyday. Most people don’t use over a few hundred words anyhow with any given language on a daily basis. So it’s better acquire quickly the basics and the rest will follow quickly. Nice tips!

  64. G’day Tim!

    I was very interested in your learning language article as I’m here in Taiwan.

    I have previously learnt some basic German and never had too much difficulty with it due to the similarities with English.

    I understand that you have learnt Chinese and have spent some time here in Taiwan. I also understand what you’re saying in respect of breaking down and analyzing a language, however, I have done this previously but I feel I am really tone deaf.

    I not only have trouble in retaining the sound of each tone but I feel I also have greater difficulty in memorizing vocabulary compared to German, perhaps due the different nature of Chinese.

    Any tips?

    Thanks in advance,

    Warren

  65. Hey Tim and other readers,

    What are your thoughts on this video and the thesis listed below? I realize it is long (15 mins,) but I think it is VERY persuasive and worth it. It is from Stephen Krashen–maybe the most regarded researcher in the field of Second Language Acquisition. This video summarizes his enormous body of research.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K11o19YNvk&feature=related

    If you dont have time for the entire video, start it at 14:30, although you sacrifice the emphasis he puts on comprehensible input. Its more about that than anxiety.

    Basic summary:

    1) We only learn through comprehensible input

    2) Everyone learns the same way

    3) You can not learn by speaking

    -but speaking can allow you access to more comprehensible input in conversations

    4) To learn, anxiety must be zero. Anxiety prevents learning. We must want to learn and believe we can.

    This has worked very well for me with Spanish and French, although I realize they are not especially demanding languages.

    Thoughts???

  66. Tim and other readers,

    What do you think of this video and the thesis it argues? It is Stephen Krashen, who is pretty much the Michael Jordan of Second Language Acquisition Theory. It is longish (15 min), but I think its persuasive and worth it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiTsduRreug&feature=related

    If you dont want to watch the whole thing, check out start at 14:20 (but in doing this you will lose the large emphasis he puts on comprehensible input)

    If you dont want to watch it at all, here are the major ideas:

    1) You only learn when you have Comprehensible Input. There are no exceptions

    2) Everyone learns the same way

    3) Talking is not practicing

    -Talking only helps expose you to Comprehensible Input because your conversation partners respond

    4) Anxiety can prevent the language acquisition process

    This has been the case with my language learning process. I speak fluent French I think because I have listened to and read alot of French. I speak very fluent Spanish because I have listed to and read A TON of Spanish. Clearly to master a language you have to speak it and languages with sounds that dont exist in English (like the retro-flex R in Chinese or the deep throat H’s and G’s in Arabic) need to be practiced. These well-supported theses, however, argue that what comes in seems much more important than what comes out. Who agrees or disagrees with this?

    I posted something similar on this above but after seeing this video felt compelled to further push our dialogue. Hope you enjoy it.

  67. Hi Mr Tim

    I have bought your book “Four hour work week”. It’s very great!

    I come from Vietnam and now I’m studying English. I love studying language. What you share is very helpful!

    Thank you very much.

    Van Lun from Hanoi, Vietnam.

  68. Hi Tim

    I really apreciate your tips in Brazil you are very popular we call you here a 171 guy maner, 171 cleaver , gorgeous and freely

    best regards

    See you on DP

    Robin

  69. Hi there Tim,

    I love your language articles.

    Do you think you will be able to share this in Japanese?

    ????????????

    Best wishes from Japan,

    Kimi

  70. Hi Timothy, I wanted to give this book to my father in-law, but unfortunately I can’t find any in korean print as he does not speak or read english very well. I thought this book would greatly help him out as he’s always stressed working at his dry cleaning business and never takes a day off and has to make all the decisions. Is there any way to get this book in Korean?

  71. I agree with you about the how, why, and what we study is important. But I don’t see how you claim to learn “95% comprehension with 100% expressive abilities” in 3 months when you said yourself that you need to understand the top 300-500 words in a language just to understand 65% of conversation. Learning a language is so much more than memorizing 500 vocabulary words, especially if you are studying Japanese as a native English speaker or any other combination of unrelated languages. And especially when most of the “common words” are not vocabulary like dog and cat, but intangible grammar words that take on multiple functions according to situation, such as “which” and “almost”, and likely have multiple translations in the target language.

  72. hi Tim, can you help me with a a question, can anybody learn a language in three months with a home study packages such as Rosetta stone? and just curiosity how much language a person can learn in three months?