As we recently covered, language hacking is an alternative way of looking at language learning. Instead of the traditional textbook-and-exercises model, language hacking introduces new ways to learn and start actively using your target language. From daring to speak from day one to using the newest technological tools, language hackers profess to have found a way to get you fluent in your target language in record time.
Although results may vary, here are a few of these “language hacks” that everyone can use in their everyday learning process.
Learn Relevant Language
The biggest problem with traditional language classes is that it’s impossible to customise the lessons to fit everyone. So, you end up learning a lot of vocabulary (and skills) that you do not need or care about. This can really hinder your progress and sap your motivation.
Luckily, if you are taking lessons with a private teacher or learning the language by yourself, focusing on learning relevant vocabulary is easy to do. Learn about things that you are passionate about (like your hobbies or favourite films) and put the words to use in line with your learning goals.
Don’t Forget Your Main Goal
Everybody learns for different reasons. Whether you want to improve your career or read your favourite books in their original language, there are different strategies for achieving those targets. So, keep your main goal in mind when choosing how to create your learning strategy.
Write down the different aspects your desired aim entails and create specific plans on how to achieve each of those mini-goals. For example, if you want to improve your German for business, you probably should focus on your email writing skills, learn your industry slang, and improve your pronunciation. Dissecting the main goal into several smaller ones will also help to make the learning process seem less intimidating.
Actively Use Your Target Language
This, again, depends on your goal. But in any case, start with something small from the very first day of learning the language – begin with making grocery lists and short memos in your target language, read a children’s book to get the ball rolling, or listen to the language on the radio. If speaking is your goal, start speaking to yourself at first.
Start to incorporate your target language into your everyday life so that your brain gets used to processing it and you’ll see quick progress.
Get a Dictionary
Dictionaries are a very good way of sneaking in some language learning when you’re not even thinking about it. Every now and again in your day, think in your target language, and look up any words you don’t know in your dictionary.
While you might enjoy an old-school paper-and-ink book one, there are several great e-options available. You can download an offline dictionary to your smartphone and keep checking it whenever you can’t think of a word. This is especially useful because you will end up focussing on words you need in your everyday life.
Do Limited Immersion
Although the effects of full immersion into a language are well-documented, you can reap some of the benefits with even a limited version. Not everyone can take months off at a time to go live in a country where your target language is spoken but we can make a conscious effort to focus on the language.
Give yourself a specific goal to “half immerse” yourself in your target language for a specific time during a week. Let’s say you need to read 50 pages, listen to 80 minutes of radio or TV, write 4 diary entries of your day, and speak to someone for 20 minutes. Shift your attention depending on your main goal but focus on exposing yourself to the language as much as possible to see quick improvement.
Focus on Not Breaking Your Streak
As you start learning a new language (or even just now), get a calendar that you hang on your wall, set on your desk, or just have it somewhere visible. For every day that you have spent getting a little bit better in your target language, take a red marker and mark the date with a large X. Try to keep the streak of practicing every day going for as long as you can. You will notice that, at first, it seems difficult to not skip a day.
But, the longer you practice, the easier it will become. Just focussing on not breaking the streak and doing something small every day to get better is the only key to successfully building positive habits and seeing long term progress.
These tricks do come in handy, even if they fall short of the miracle cure status they are often hailed as. The most important part to remember when applying language hacks is that not everything will suit your learning style or goals. Just keep setting time aside every day to constantly keep getting a little bit better.