Everyone's Top 10 Tips

Would anyone like to post their top 10 tips for acquiring a new language?

  1. Have a reason for learning the language (to have a purpose)…this should be more than just, I want to learn a language

  2. Have patience - t will take much much longer than you think. You will feel at times like you’re moving backwards, or that you haven’t gotten anywhere. You’ll feel victories as well, but then just as quickly failures. Just know that if you keep pushing you will progress (at whatever rate you can do)

  3. Try to do a little every day, even if it’s just a few minutes - every little bit adds up and you can still make a lot of progress with just a few minutes a day (it will just take a lot more days - see #2)

  4. Don’t ignore real life (caveat to #3) - sometimes real life gets in the way. If a day/week/month is particularly stressful then don’t worry about missing a day/week/month, but get back to trying to do at least a little bit each day when you can and it’s healthy to do so.

  5. READ READ READ - reading IMO is the best way to acquire vocabulary. It’s almost magical how quickly you can add to your vocabulary from reading. Reading IMO is important to everything in life. If you don’t enjoy reading (learning) it will be much more difficult to excel at anything.

  6. LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN - You need to be able to understand people in conversation if you want to be involved in conversation. Much more important than speaking (IMO). If you can listen, you can understand and not be lost.

  7. Read/listen to things that are enjoyable to you - this will help keep your interest and keep you motivated. Reading other things will feel like work.

  8. Look at what others are doing - try to incorporate things that others are doing if they make sense.

  9. Throw those things out that don’t work for you - some like SRS, some don’t. It’s not required. I think the only things I would say not to throw out is reading and listening. You have to get input somehow.

  10. Speak when you feel ready - to yourself, to someone else, to a tutor.

  1. Know your purpose or reason to learn
  2. Habits, consistency, and scheduling create steady results.
  3. Get words, LOTS of words.
  4. Actively Listen
  5. Passively Listen.
  6. Find a language partner or tutor in the long run.
  7. Learn words that you would use normally if you were in your own language.
  8. Understand short and long term memory for language learning.
  9. Don’t make unrealistic goals.
  10. Find lots of content early on to prepare for the future.

My ten that work for me are

  1. Abandon within 5 mins any text that does not grab my interest.
  2. One hour per day without fail.
  3. Have a new main language that I am learning and focus on until I get it to around 5,000.
  4. Dip into related languages for fun and diversion either side of my 1 hour on the main language, as I often find cognates there that help me to recognise or remember words in the main one I am learning.
  5. If I don’t stop until I reach about 5,000 known words, these then all pretty much stay in my head even if I don’t come back to the language for several months. If I stop at say, 1,500, however, almost everything seems to go missing.
  6. Studying more than one language at a time as long as it is from the same branch makes a lot of sense and accelerates things across them all. Neuro people have discovered that if you read eg the word elephant in English, the brain also accesses the equivalent in every other language you also know at the same time, even though you aren’t aware of it doing this. The benefit is that by reading in more than one related language, you are helping them all.
  7. I almost never open a paper dictionary as it takes me off task, and I have lost the context and all interest by the time I have found the word. I almost never remember any word that I look up in a dictionary - don’t ask me why - so I no longer use one and have discovered my speed has accelerated enormously, simply because I dance over the odd word I don’t know a few times until it has occurred often enough that it becomes clear what its meaning is.
  8. Something magical begins to happen around 8-10,000 known words. I find that I can then quite often discern meanings out in my head without looking words up. This is a very bizarre feeling - and the word seems to go straight into long-term memory when I have understood the word by deduction in this way.
  9. I ignore words that I don’t know unless totally critical to understanding the entire text. I focus on how many words I DO know and this feels much better than always focusing on how many I do not.
  10. I read and listen to a text maybe 3 times, refusing to look anything up, and often find that it starts to become clear.

and for a bonus

  1. If any word is that important that I really need to know it, it ALWAYS seems to pop up within a few days in some other context. It is miraculous how often it happens that a word I have never seen before suddenly pops up in 5 different texts and by being exposed to it in different contexts my brain seems to then work out what it means, and it sticks and feels natural, unlike words that I tried to learn from lists years ago. Those words do not feel natural to me.

mmm… already number 2 is a show stopper.

  1. One hour per day without fail.

Would be far better to have some form of leeway hence 30 hours per month or quite simply remove without fail and replace it with on average as below:

  1. An average of one hour per day.

We’re humans not robots and imperfect as we are we may fail at times.
What about taking a flight from Europe to Australia (easily losing a day due to time zone differences, jetlag or journey time) or being in an accident, falling ill, needing surgery or other unexpected event.

Stating “without fail” is not only unrealistic but also not entirely helpful.


It’s an aim, not legislation. And it’s my aim. Doesn‘t have to be one of yours. I don’t think a highly rare instance of one flight to Oz once in a lifetime really detracts from my overall aim. I always manage one hour per day, bar perhaps a dozen days a year. This might be half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the evening, or one solid hour. It really helps in terms of keeping the language in my head and cementing things.
Maybe you can offer your own 10 tips into the conversation? Would be great to see what works for you.


Not sure if I’m gonna make it to 10. My list is for the recreational learner, not someone with a deadline for residency, education, or employment

  1. The better approach is the one you can maintain. Do what keeps you engaged.
  2. Commit yourself to a small, do-able daily goal, bordering on trivial. The language learning equivalent of putting on your running gear and walking around the block. Once you are engaged in the activity, it is easy to continue.
  3. Read multiple books by the same author. I find it PAINFUL to slog through a novel a second time. Better to become engaged in the author’s next book, where I’ll likely encounter the same or similar words and sentence structures.
  4. Feel free to abandon a novel if you don’t find it entertaining and compelling.
  5. Mix up listening, reading, and listening while reading. I like to get the “partner” audiobook for many of the books I read. Listening can help comprehension in different ways than reading, by tone of voice, phrasing, etc.

Thanks for sharing.

I totally agree with your number 3. I started to read Houellecq and the first novel was a nightmare slog for the first half, but by the second half much much better, and the second novel only somewhat challenging, and the third a pretty effortless read. I have come to the conclusion that reading the equivalent of about 10 novels and 10 non-fiction books will get me to any level i could ever realistically need, as I only ever read about 10 novels in English too before I stopped noticing new words. I love the experience of reading without new words and that comes after a few novels by the same author. Switching to a new author then brings new words yet again, at least for one novel or so.

I also totally agree with your number 4 - I get the audio and just let it play as I read. Reading without it is infinitely more slow.

“…bar perhaps a dozen days a year” my point exactly!
That’s all I was saying - no more, no less :slight_smile: