On the Pace of Language Learning

By Ma

There is no doubt that when zealous enough in learning a language, we will probably be fluent in an incredibly short period of time. Suppose you could master any languages within two months, then cumulatively you would be a master of six languages a year later. But we all know language learning is not pure empirical science – it is never proportional to just the time you have spent. The pace of learning, in my opinion, is governed by a number of factors that include (1) relations between one’s mother tongue and his target language; (2) level of fluency you aim to achieve; (3) efforts devoted to your learning process, and (4) level of intimacy with the language.

(1) Relations between one’s mother tongue and his target language

If you are a native Englishman, you will be astonished by how easy it is for you to learn Romanic languages including Spanish and Italian. A Chinese native, in contrast, will be driven crazy by the abstruse grammar and the alien alphabets of English and other European languages. But surprisingly, countless Chinese youtubers whom I see online manage to master an Asian language, particularly Korean, in three months.

It seems to me that those whose native languages are Sino-Tibetan find it more difficult to learn any Indo-European languages. But I am not trying to discourage you from learning them, you should instead pick up the one that most interests you.

(2) Level of Fluency You Aim to Achieve

To achieve an intermediate or even an advance level (depending on how one defines them) of a new language is almost an ideal, given the numerous words and expressions you need to recognize, and the grammar you need to know. Then you will be aware of how unrealistic it is for anyone telling you that you can ‘master a language within two to three months’.

Yet again, I don’t mean that you should flinch from learning it. To muster your courage to take up a language is important, but even more important is to overcome your fear of making mistakes. Even a linguistic talent may either commit some simple errors, or encounter the bottleneck problem. Therefore, just go ahead and make the most of your mistakes along the way.

(3) Efforts Devoted to Your Learning Process

No Pain, no gain. I suppose you won’t think that you would succeed in being a fluent speaker after two months, if you spent only half an hour every week in the language. For any successful learners or polyglots, they devote effectively their time to acquire the fluency. So far, I have heard from other language experts, spending a minimum of one hour every day is a must. An average of two and three hours on the target language is normal. You will then unconsciously become a master, as your persistent efforts finally pay off. The more interest you have in the language, the more efforts you will automatically put in it.

(4) Level of Intimacy with the Language

In the video I shared in the previous entry (See https://learnlangblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/a-hyperpolyglot-a-review-on-an-interview-of-a-translator/), you have probably realized that acquiring the second language is more difficult than its sixth counterpart. Had you been learning languages continuously for years, you would have been more familiar with how to put your hands to a new one. So, the only issue that matters to you is either how to proceed from beginner to intermediate level, or how to maintain the fluency level already established.

However, the most paramount factor that contributes to the language learning pace is the attitude you are going to adopt to your plan. Although it is essential for you to maintain the enthusiasm right the way though, you should never, however, push yourself too hard. Instead of saying that you are, for example, to reach an advanced level of proficiency in French in three months, always adjust your plan until you feel completely comfortable, or confident enough to move on from one chapter to the next one. It would be lovely if you could achieve what you aimed, but you have nothing to lose if you cannot.

After all, if you try your best, I am sure you will make incredibly quick progress. This is at least the attitude I am currently adopting to French learning.

P.S. Do follow our instagram at https://www.instagram.com/learnlangblog/ where we regularly upload some useful language learning flash cards!

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