Sometimes I think it´s kind of offending to native speakers

Sometimes I think its kind of offending to native speakers of a language, when language learners (I’m not talking about here on LingQ, but here and there on the web etc.) makes this x-month (sometimes even weeks) to fluency, or Near-native level within a year-plan. I have been there myself, but nowadays I’m more humble to the fact, that any language I try to “master” is more than words, methods and grammar. Most native speakers has used her/his language all their life, in every situation, from saying farwell to a beloved grandma to when they for the first time pointed on a cloud and really tried (and formed their lips in a complete new way) to ask what its called. The list just goes on and on, decades after decades in a native speakers life. So when someone then going to “hack” their language and be “native-like” in a year or so, or when someone is really upset, because they can´t understand the spoken language perfectly after 10 month of “hard” studying, thats kind of arrogant, isn’t it?
Or if using a metaphore. It’s like looking at a work of Velázquez, and say “Well, Im going to hack this painting, run some frequency-calculations and then I will paint like this within two years (and I want a money back-guarantee)”.

I get what you mean, but many people, would never get started if they didn’t have this hope that it is possible to learn a language well in a small amount of time. Many people think the opposite, that is takes years, and so they never get started in the first place. I think once you get up and going, you realize that any language is so much more than they expected, that there are some many shades and aspects to it and revise their priorities. There is a boasting element to many language learners, too but let’s not get started ! What prompted this consideration if I may ask ?

My point maybe is, that a language simply can’t be reduced to a anki deck and a handful of language apps. You have to live with it for a long time. If you do it by using real literature, podcasts, or speaking on skype/ frequently visiting the country where the language is spoken etc. (Probably a combo of all those things). I’m not against flashcards or such, but thats just a finess of the language learning process, the hard-core work takes place in the meeting with people in real life situations, where things you say and hear actually matters (or feels meaningsful as Steve use to say it.) or when reading a book that really overtakes you, and a dozen more examples. And those things takes time, and should take time, because it’s (hopefully) also fun/rewarding.

By the way, I agree with you Elfgal, and no, I dont know really what promted my consideration (:

Pity, I was hoping in some harmless linguistic gossip ! :wink:

Great post, and I agree wholeheartedly. I can understand that maybe some people want to get a jumpstart on a language, and learn just enough to get by. To each their own, I guess, but let’s not confuse “getting by” with actually “learning” a language.

It entails a lot of hard tedious work. According to Bernd S. Kamps, author of “The Word Brain”, it takes anywhere from 1000 to 2000 hours of study to learn a language. How can anyone fit that in three months?

The concept of fluency is tricky, too. I can’t say I’m really a fluent speaker of any of the languages I’ve studied, except English, since I’ve never ever spoken to anyone in any of them. I’m a fluent reader in all of them, though, which is mostly why I study them, to read.

Your painting metaphor reminds me of a story a painter friend of mine likes to tell. Whenever anyone asks him how long it took him to paint a certain picture (probably because they think the time it takes to finish a painting has some influence on the price), he replies: “It took me 20 years to paint this in an hour”.


They say that English is the most widely spoken second language in the world. It’s one of the few with more non-native than native speakers. But from my perspective as a native speaker, those courses don’t bother me at all. I shrug my shoulders and smile like you would at a child pretending to be a fireman. “Sure, go ahead and spend your money. I’ll see you in six months…”

The thing is, you don’t need a lifetime of experience to function in a second language. For short term visitors, a few phrases, hand gestures, and profuse smiles and apologies will take you a long way. if a 90-day course gives you the confidence to visit my country, then welcome! and enjoy your stay. And if you’re planning a longer stay, well, you’ll find out how little you know soon enough.

It is kind of irritating, though, when language learners start arguing about grammar and usage. I don’t care what your textbook says, this is how people actually speak…

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“It took me 20 years to paint this in an hour”

I like that. I may steal it for use with my writing clients.

For languages (and with writing, painting, etc.) I think you really have to enjoy the journey. The gap between “getting by” and “native fluency” is so large that you really have to find the process itself interesting and valuable. You might be able to study for three months before a trip on pure willpower, but beyond that…

I don’t see why it should be offensive for native speakers when a learner says something about x-months till near-native fluency. Maybe it is annoying to other learners who have been learning the langauge for 10x-months and are still struggling.

Where I live in Vienna, I have many times heard nonsense stories from people who speak C1 or C2 English about how they learned it all. The stories usually go along the lines of ‘I only knew two or three words when I was 19, and then I spent two weeks travelling around Canada and that is where I learned all my English’. The moral of these stories is usually that if people just go around chatting in their target language, they will learn it in a short amount of time. I find these stories a bit annoying, but certainly not offensive.

The “offending -part” is not about the goal itself, its if that is suppose to happen without living your life (or at least part of it) in the target language, just doing it with SRS-methods and grammar books. I think LingQ is a great solution, when it enable the learner to access real native content. For example, I can live my “reading books”-life in my target language or read/ listen to the news of the world, in that language. Then I become a real user of the language, and in some way I’m starting to contribute to the language itself. Every language needs a lot of consumer of its “products” so to speak. But that isn’t a 10-month journey to reach a comfortable level. Sometimes the goal is “I just want to reach a smalltalk-level” in language-x". Why would native speakers wants to do smalltalk, with a empty shell. Of course, its important, and also very rewarding to talk to language learners of your own mother toungue, in the middle of their process to learn the language, but you can’t really reach a true understanding of the language (and everything that follows) without doing, at least partly, what native speakers doing in that language. You can then only reach a sort of “understand order” and " give order" -level, and that is probably just fine, for most learners, It’s enough to make connections and also etablish a foundation, from which you can then build upon. Now come on, give me two more roses, and I’m done here (:

Maybe here is an example.
This guy wanted to learn chinese to a native level, in two years. He then, with his “language-hacking-skills” claims he learned it “to fluency” inside six month, and getting to native level “little more than that”. Of course he also says that anyone can learn how to draw in 5 days.
There is this idiom “Blood, sweat and tears”, maybe you can “hack” your way around the sweat-part, but you also need, in my opinion, the other two, to reach a native-level (or to learn even the basics in drawing).

You can indeed “learn” a language in 6 months IF you’re an experienced language learner with good habits, a healthy mind and body, and good materials. Native level in two years is feasible IF you work UNBELIEVABLY hard and have a lot of time to put into it. But all of that only goes for languages that are in the same branch as yours, IMO. You can go from zero to hero from English to French, for example, in two years, but I sincerely doubt the same is true for English to Chinese. Patience and perseverance are key.

Well, I understand where such arrogance can be derived from but your complaint is a bit elitist. Everything these days is revolved around shortcuts and trying to get things done in the shortest amount of time even if it means sloppiness.

I’m in college studying chemistry and it insults me when people want the easy way to learn chemistry and physics rather than take time to learn how concepts are derived but they’d rather memorize it from the page and put it on a flash card (if any of you take science classes, this is truly the lazy and inefficient way of learning).

If I find someone on the street trying to show genuine effort and respect towards X hobby (doesn’t matter if it’s language learning or not), does it really matter what got them there?

I wouldn’t be offended as a native English speaker at 21 days to English. As a Spanish learner I’d be upset at 21 days to Spanish. I have been working at Spanish for years.


I have been speaking English for 30 years, I still am uncomfortable in some situations and contexts. Perhaps the term “native” should be replaced with something better?

“Native level in two years is feasible IF you work UNBELIEVABLY hard and have a lot of time to put into it.”

That idea only works well in a vacuum. There are no people out there like that. Maybe one or two people, but 99% that try to be native level in two years usually fail. It’s just past reality. People have work, relationship issues, have kids, or find another distracting interest.

What I’m saying is, you’re right; if you really work hard and focus, you can be fluent in x number of years, but reality can be pain in the neck.

I’ve seen the “native” thing many places on Linq and until now I haven’t been able to define it in my mind. Sometimes it refers to a speaker speaking in his mother tongue and other times it is a learner who has become native level fluent. I guess a mother tongue speaker is an indigenous speaker?

Okay. I watched his video. “Blah, blah, blah…” Where does he demonstrate his “native” Mandarin skills he acquired in “a little more than 6 months”? Couldn’t even say “xiexie” at the end? How’s that convincing?

Also, my Cantonese isn’t great, but I can understand a lot and I have Mandarin. I don’t, however, understand ANY Vietnamese when I hear it, or read it. So I have no idea what he’s talking about Vietnamese being 30% Mandarin and 30% Cantonese. That sounds like a very ignorant statement.

I don’t think his level in Mandarin would surprise me but now it has been a few decades for him. For the average person very dedicated to learning Mandarin, I don’t think you’ll ever reach “native”. Even Mark Rosewell, aka “Dashan”, one of the best, still has a foreign sounding voice to me.

Fluency is one thing, claiming “native” is quite another. Especially in just “a little more than 6 months”, yeah, I’d find that insulting to my intelligence.

Found him speaking Mandarin. I’d give him “fluency”, but I don’t know his definition of “native”. He still has a funny accent to my ear and doesn’t hit every tone. Pretty good, but then again, this is after 30+ years. We’re not hearing him after just over 6 months… I highly doubt he was speaking at this level after 6 months.

C’mon, let’s give him his due credit. He wouldn’t fool me into thinking he is native but this accent, I think is very good, nothing particularly “funny” about it. The tone Nazi might hint to some tones which are off but to me the flow of speech, phrasing and context are more important. He is very good, but after 30 years maybe he should be somewhat better, I dunno.