How much time do you spend on your language every day? How much can you learn in three months?


I didn’t say they sit in a classroom for 8 hours a day studying the language. They do it in a variety of ways, through classroom study, listening, book study, going on walks, and roll play scenarios. It is very intense, but nobody is “forced” to do anything, they are all volunteers. Although some do leave the program, it is very few, and usually has very little to do with the language study, and more to do with changing their minds about being a missionary.

Given that they eat, sleep and breath, the target language in these language immersion environments, there is no question that it isn’t for everybody. Very few other people have the time, resources, or energy to devote that much to language learning. If it’s your job (For example…being sent to the MLI to learn Korean as a Counter Intelligence Officer for the United States Military) and you are being paid to learn a language, it is much easier to make this kind of time commitment.

In regards to Marks comments:

The LDS Missionaries referred to above, are not allowed to watch TV, listen to the radio, read the news, read any non-church related books, go on dates, watch movies, listen to popular music, surf the internet, etc. It’s a wonder they learn the language at all! LOL.

Seriously though…even though such programs may not necessarily be applicable to the general population, both the programs I mentioned above have proven to be highly successful in taking people from all walks of life, and helping them learn a foreign language in quick order. The LDS Church alone turns out 25, 000 missionaries each year, although that is a worldwide number, I’m not sure how many actually learn a foreign language. There are probably a dozen Mandarin and Cantonese speaking missionaries in Vancouver alone, and there are hundreds in Taiwan and Hong Kong…and they are all replaced every two years.

I don’t think the methods above, are all that different from the LingQ system, It’s just done the old fashioned way with paper flashcards, a CD Player, and a good dictionary. I didn’t mean any disrespect to Lingq by posting about the above programs. I only posted them to illustrate what is possible, if all we had to do in our lives was eat sleep, and learn a language. I’m certain that much the same thing could be accomplished through LingQ, perhaps even more so.

In regards to Steve’s comments about language acquisition, biologically, I think there is a speed limit to how quickly our neuropathways open up to new language acquisition. One symptom of this acquisition that many of us might recognize is when we start to dream in the target language. Instead of thinking in our native language, and translating a thought into our target language, we are gradually able to start thinking in our target language. Constantly listening, reading, and being immersed in this content, as Steve suggests, is the fastest way of encouraging these pathways, but it just takes time. Having previously learned a language can make this process easier.

This process is on a very individual level, and so I think it is very important that we don’t compare ourselves to others, in terms of speed of language acquisition. In the case of language acquisition, how fast you get there is not as important as reaching your destination.

Suppose Steve and I both start on a new language that neither of us have any prior study in. We agree to both study 5 hours a day, using the same study techniques, and have a set schedule that we study by. I would predict that given Steve’s experience in learning so many languages, that he would much much farther ahead that I would be at the end of four months. But what does it really matter whether Steve is fluent in a year, and it takes me two years…as long as I am successful in my goal of being fluent in the target language?

I’m not going to be flippant, I’m going to leave it to Blindside to comment on the uncomfortable position that some of those missionaries may find themselves in (sorry about the split infinitive).