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There are so many gimmicks online today for language learning.  Some offer “amazing” techniques to reach fluency in just a few hours!  Do you want my opinion on these plans and programs??  Well, they are somewhere between lies and junk!

Here are a few practical ideas that work… work being the essential word of that last statement.

1. Know why you want to learn a new language.

When I began to study Spanish back in college, God was already leading me to missions in Latin America.  I knew a good grasp on the language was an absolute necessity for effective evangelism, discipleship, and leader training.

As Steven Covey says in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind”.   Know where you are going, and why it’s so important to get there.  That understanding or conviction will help get you through the challenges of language learning.

2. Learn from a native speaker!

Set aside the software programs, library books, and DVDs.  It’s time to build a friendship with a native speaker!

The best way to learn is to be completely immersed in the foreign culture and language.  It is virtually impossible to learn a new language if you rarely hear and use it.  Immersion forces you to learn.  Remember, “swimming is best learned wet.”

3. Watch, listen, and mimic.

Don’t just listen to what they say, listen to how they say it!  Your goal is to become as much like them as possible.   Culture and language are tightly interwoven, and your goal is to learn both.   Some researchers say that up to 80% of communication is non-verbal.

Watch and learn.  Be like them.  Learn to think like they think.  Then, and only then, will you be able to communicate effectively in your new language.

4. Avoid English like the plague.

As you pursue fluency, expose yourself to 40+ hours a week in the new language.  In addition to your formal classes, spend lots of time with native speakers.  Read local newspapers and magazines.  Watch TV in your new language.  Avoid hanging-out with other Americans.  Eat, sleep, and breathe your new language.  It’s not easy, but it can be done!

5. Focus on incremental changes.

Language learning is much more like a marathon than a 100 yard dash.  In our society of instant gratification and quick fixes, many don’t persevere.

It takes determination to build an extensive vocabulary.  In America, the average college bound 18 year old has a vocabulary of 18,000 words.  If you strive to reach this level, your vocabulary will need to continually grow for years!

In the mean time, celebrate when you understand 100 words.  Be thrilled when you can order your own food at a restaurant.  Focus on inches, not miles.

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What are some other tips for language learning?  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.  Please join the discussion in the comment section below.