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Speed Language Learning: Is It Really Possible

Here, we’ll address some of the more common questions we get from people who are looking to learn a language under time pressure. You know the type — they’re leaving for another country soon (whether for a short- or long-term visit) and need to pick up some of the language fast.

Question 1: “Can I Really Learn A Language In 10 Days”

Most of the “learn languages fast” ad copy I’ve seen in the web fall into this promise or some type of variation, like “7 days,” “1 month” or “2 weeks.” Many of them don’t exactly go into great detail about how they’ll actually let users achieve that in so short a time, leading to the confusion for students looking to buy the product.

Is it really possible? Well, anything is possible. I have tried a good amount of language programs as part of my job and some will definitely prepare you to gain usable language elements in the timeframe they promise.

Will you be fluent? Hell, no. Will you be able to converse with anyone about absolutely anything? Hell, no. Most of these “instant learning” promises don’t really promise you “instant skills.” Instead, they usually mean they can teach you the basics of a language such that you can survive being out in a foreign country with some rudimentary speaking skills in your arsenal.

They don’t mean those 10 days are all the work you need to put in. Instead, they mean you can be functional (in a very limited capacity) using the language in that short time, provided you follow-through on all the lessons and practice sessions you’re given during the timeframe. You’ll still need to continue using the software if you want to further develop your skills.

Question 2: “Is Buying A Product Needed To Learn A Language Fast?”

Some people probably don’t need to buy a product. If they’re super smart, they can rely on free resources, design their own practice lessons and all that. Unless you’ve been able to teach yourself a highly involved type of skill within a very narrow timeframe all on your own any time in the last three years, though, you’re probably not that smart. And, no, I’m not insulting you — I, personally, don’t believe anyone is that smart. Yes, even those with mad scientist-levels of intellectual ability and stuff.

Products intended to teach you a language fast have been developed by people through studies plus trial-and-error. There are, literally, man-years of training and education sunk into them. If you really believe you can make up ground and match that on top of learning a new language within a limited timeframe, then you’re welcome to prove it. Otherwise, just swallow your pride and buy an off-the-shelf program — it’s worth it.

Question 3: “How Come This Dude Claims He Got Fluent In XX Months?”

That’s the operative word, though: “claim.” Anyone can claim anything. Heck, you can claim the same thing five years down the line and you’re fluent in the target language you’re aiming for.

Don’t put too much stock about people’s claims on the internet, especially wondrous ones. All languages are learnable, but fluency takes time. If you want to get fluent in two weeks, you’re welcome to try. Chances are, all you’ll be doing is dreaming about getting fluent instead of acting on it the entire time. Our brains just aren’t wired to learn that much that fast.

All this “fluent in an unbelievable amount of time” sounds very much like the “get fit in six weeks” spiel of diet pills and the like. If you’ve had any experience with those, you’ll know they’re more hype than a sober estimation of facts.

Think about it: could you have mastered all of high school calculus in a week? How about three weeks? It’s the same thing. Skills take time to acquire — don’t let the exceptional achievements of some people and the empty braggadocio of others undermine your own efforts.

Question 4: “What Things Should We Focus On When Learning Fast?”

Personally, I’ve never really tried to learn at a faster pace than what the software I’m using recommended. In fact, I often try to go even slower, as I prefer to digest things and do lots of practice, instead of jumping from lesson to lesson.

As such, any ideas I may have about speed-learning languages probably won’t count for much. With that said, I would focus on a limited selection of things if I were in that position:

1. Survival vocabulary. All those basic phrases and sentences that will allow you to get around the country unimpeded. Don’t bother with advanced items — just focus on ground-level conversational material.
2. Practice. Forget long hours sitting in front of a computer. Instead, work on getting as much practice as possible. You want to internalize the language elements as fast as you can. Nothing does that better than practice.

Like I said, though, you’d want proper guidance when learning a language fast. That’s why I’d rather you get a software that’s been fine-tuned specifically for quick learning, then follow the instructions to the letter. Doing so will give you the best chance of actually getting good results, provided the promise isn’t just some marketing fib to get people to buy.

Question 5: “Is There A Special Shortcut Trick To Learn Languages Quick?”

This is something people need to learn: “powerups” and “cheat codes” frequently only happen in videogames. In real life, most people do hard work to get what they want, whether they’re looking to learn mixed martial arts, advanced calculus or a new language. Sure, you can get lucky and discover a trick to boost your learning every now and again. Those usually come few and far between, though, with their effects often more exaggerated upon recollection.

Question 6: “So, Is It Really Possible?”

Yes, it may be possible. Do note that making this happen will likely require:

1. Full-time focus on learning the language
2. Plenty of hard work within a short time frame
3. Large potential for failure (because, let’s be honest, high-speed language learning just isn’t for everybody)

If you’re willing to embrace all three (especially the third one), then try it. All you have to lose, after all, is 10 days (or a week or whatever timeframe is promised by the program).