Starting a new language can be daunting.
With all of the competing priorities in our lives, it’s hard to find time for anything new.
Plus, so many unknowns can cause fear and frustration:
- How long will it take to “sound good?”
- When will my conversations stop sucking?
At the same time, there are so many language learning resources out there, you’ll likely suffer from information overload.
So how do you get the greatest return on investment in a short period of time?
According to guru Josh Kaufman, you can a good start on learning anything in just 20 hours!
The theory goes: In just 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice, you can go from knowing nothing to performing noticeably well very quickly – in almost any domain.
Because the first 20 hours are where the greatest margin for improvement lies. And where you can build a strong foundation for future learning.
Twenty hours may not seem like much when it comes to learning a language, but I’m living proof. I saw success in roughly the same period of time in my own mission to learn Italian.
In his TEDx Talk, Kaufman details four steps you can apply to learning any skill (in this case, language learning) fast:
1. Deconstruct Your Skill
This means finding the most important things to practice first.
At The Mimic Method, learning a language starts with the sounds.
This gives you a huge advantage for two reasons:
1) Starting with the sounds gives your listening comprehension an immediate boost, so you never have that “I just can’t understand native speakers when they talk” problem.
2) When you start talking to native speakers, you’ll have a good accent. They won’t switch to English or dumb down their language to talk to you (which is awesome sauce).
To deconstruct your target language, I recommend following:
2. Learn Enough to Self-Correct
At first, you’re likely to slip up – and that’s OK.
Making mistakes helps us learn, as long as we get feedback and keep trying.
But if you don’t know when you’re making mistakes, that hinders progress.
Here are a few way you can learn to self-correct better:
3. Remove Barriers to Learning
This means turning off the TV, turning off your phone, and blocking out time to actually learn.
There are a million things that can get in the way of you sitting down and doing the deliberate, focused practice we talked about earlier.
I recommend using heyfocus.com to identify and remove what distracts me from focusing on language learning.
The more intense you can make it, the faster your brain will adapt, and the closer you will be to stringing together comfortable, fluent speech.
4. Practice At Least 20 Hours
“Eighty percent of success in life is showing up.” – Woody Allen
This is where it all comes together.
The first 3 steps mean nothing unless you actually practice.
So before you begin learning, ask yourself why you want to learn this language in the first place.
Do you want to learn a language to communicate with others? For travel? To experience another culture?
Whatever it is, find your reason, and return to it often. Once you’re clear on your motivation, there are a variety of tools to help keep you accountable.
After all, 20 hours amounts to just 40 minutes of deliberate practice a day for a month.
What are you waiting for?