Benny Lewis is one of the most popular language teachers on the web. He’s running the “Fluent in 3 months” website, where he sells a $97 course on how to learn a language fast. He himself speaks 11 languages, which he learned over the course of the past 11 years.
In this TedX talk, he’s sharing the fundamentals of his language learning system, and he makes really excellent points.
It’s mostly about the mindset of successful language learners.
What’s Your Motivation To Learn A New Language?
He talks about the importance of having the right kind of motivation for learning a language. In his own case, he wanted to learn Spanish in order to impress others, and this didn’t really work for him. A lot of people want to learn a foreign language to pass an exam, or to advance their career.
But what he found was that those who are really good at language learning learn a language because they enjoy learning about the language, the country, the culture, the people. They have an interest in the literature of the country, or the music, the food. For them, learning the language isn’t just a means to an end.
Do You Think You’re Too Old To Learn A New Language?
A lot of people also think that they are too old to learn a new language. Interestingly, he mentioned a study which proved that adults can learn a new language faster than children, if they use the right methods to learn the language.
He also has lots of anecdotal evidence, of people who were in their 60’s and still learned new languages. So unless you’re going to die in the next 3 months, you probably aren’t too old to learn a new language.
Your Memory Is Too Bad To Learn A New Language?
Sure, learning a new language requires a lot of memorization. New words that must be learned, new grammatical structures, the right pronounciation and intonation…
For this, Benny Lewis gives you two pieces of advice:
- spaced repetition and
- mnemotechniques (especially associating words with images)
Spaced repetition means that you repeat vocabulary with a certain frequency. This is based on the Ebbinghaus “forgetting curve”, which basically shows that the more time passes between the time when you first learned something, and the time when you recall it, the more you tend to forget.
But if you repeat a certain piece of information (e.g. a word from another language), at just the right point – which is just before forgetting it – and then repeat it again at just the right time after that (which is again just before forgetting it), and do this repeatedly, then you get maximum memorization efficiency. Benny Lewis himself has described spaced repetition pretty good in this blog post.
Associating words with images is an ancient memorization technique. If you first try it, you will find that it’s quiet cumbersome, but the more often you do it, the better you will get at it, and the more helpful you will find it to be.
Not Enough Money To Learn A Language?
If you think you need money to learn a foreign language, he’s got solutions for that too. You can travel to another country for very low prices nowadays, but even if you don’t have that kind of money – the internet is a great place to find native speakers with whom you can do a language exchange for free via skype and email. Or you can just go to a nearby city or airport, where you will find lots of people from different countries, and you can just practice speaking a language with them there.