#10 Language Learning Hacks

Hack #1 Ambivert mind set

Neither introverts nor extroverts have the natural upper hand. Mastery of any language is a race towards the ambivert mind set.

Practical Tip

Pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses within, and in other language learners. Identify other language learners who are willing to work as a team in order to improve the whole. An introvert could try and participate more, an extrovert could try and listen more.


Hack #2

Creativity begins at Simplicity

Simplicity leads into complexity, and the sum of the parts is referred to as creativity.


Practical Tip

Identify why you want to learn a language. It could be to pass an exam, to make new friends or to travel the world, all are valiant reasons but learning without reason overwhelms the typical learner. If conversational level is the goal then throw away the grammar book, at least initially, and learn key phrases and words that will lead into conversations. A conversation can be as short as a few fleeting seconds or as long as a couple of hours but what they both create is momentum.



Hack #3

Leave I can’t at the door

Language learning can be simplified but it is not easy. There is so much more to learning a language than a new set of words. Languages are communication tools, therefore human interaction is unavoidable. Commit to never giving into the emotion that breeds the words I can’t if you want to ever speak a foreign language.


Practical Tip

We are all masters of the words we acquire. If we don’t use the word I can’t in our native language then we shouldn’t be learning it in our foreign language. In fact for the first few weeks or months experiment with the subtle mind trick of learning only empowering words and phrases.




Hack #4

Leverage Digital

It is almost unforgivable to view language learning as a bricks and mortar business. Embrace digital and learn what is important to you. YouTube can become your classroom, there are lots of other resources out there such as iTalki and Duolingo among others that are up and coming.

Practical Tip

There is sometimes a snobbery among language learners when it comes to using tools like Google Translate, use this to your advantage, two heads are always better than one. A handy hack is to use language sites with instant messaging, copy and paste the same introductory phrases into the chat, the fact that you are messaging different people each time means that there is always a slightly different learning experience, the principle of repetition suddenly becomes a little more colourful.


Hack# 5

Embrace your inner chameleon

There is a well-known saying that you can’t be all things to all people, this doesn’t imply that you can’t listen or be heard by all people.

Practical Tip

There is a huge difference between hearing and listening. Listening to people from all walks of life has numerous benefits. It helps us acquire an understanding of what the word culture means, it gives us different ways of looking at any situation and it gives us the practical benefit of building an extensive vocabulary around many topics.



Hack# 6

Advice is just an opinion in camouflage

Advice sometimes needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. If there are merits to a piece of advice take it on board or test it but never accept it without personal trial and error. Hacks aren’t common because they are never grounded in common sense. There is nothing set in stone to the mind-set of a language hacker other than the fact that they will find a way to become what they set out to become in the most efficient time frame possible.

Practical Tip

Learning Spanish and Italian together often comes with a hazardous warning from fellow language learners. The downside is that words may become mixed up between these romance languages. This may well be a fact but only when it is questioned does the true answer begin to become clear.




Hack# 7

The Power of Association

Association is a highly effective tool for learning any language, indeed it is a tool that is used by Westerners in order to make sense of Chinese, Russian and other languages of a completely different script. When written characters are viewed through a semiotic lens they begin to transform from foreign into familiar. Practical Tip

Association also works in the real world. Situations where words are mispronounced can be transformed from blocked out moments of embarrassment to memories of laughter and joy that stick in the mind centred on the correct variation of the word.


Hack #8

Progression not Perfection

Languages are highly subjective. Never forget that the definition of fluency is the ability to express oneself easily and articulately. This is not entirely dependent on the amount of words you know or use but the quality of them.


Practical Tip

Commit to taking 5-10 minutes out of each day for a period of a week to reflect on what you talked about that day in your native language, then take a note of some of the words that come to mind. At the end of the week start translating these words and prioritise them. A flashcard system such as Anki may prove useful.


Hack #9

Model don’t copy

Pablo Picasso once said that good artists copy but great artists steal. What I think he meant by this was that a reinvention of the wheel is unnecessary. By all means take great ideas from other people but dilute these ideas with your own. Copying will only get us as far as the person we copy, the cost is that along the way we will lose some of our genuineness, uniqueness and general appeal to other people. A language cannot be learned effectively without interaction from lots of other people.

Practical Tip

Type the word polyglot into Google and learn from and model these people.



Hack #10

Make it fun

Language learning is a means to an end. If you discover a way to enjoy the means then, congratulations, you have successfully hacked the system!

Practical Tip

Pick a language because you are drawn to it for the best of reasons, it could be the people, the food, the weather, the culture. When you choose a language based on reasons such as these everything becomes more interesting. When I learned Spanish and Italian I started watching Cristiano Ronaldo and Penelope Cruz interviews immediately, because these people fascinated me in my native language. The meaning behind the words is a lot more important than the words will ever be.


Key Language Hacker Insight

Generalisations and stereotypes are a societal hack, your true personality remains constant and the different personality types transcend international boundaries, this is the single most important insight to keep in mind for a future language hacker.