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How do you learn a language?

June 22, 2012

This sounds like a very simple question and it is one that I am asked regularly.  The short answer is…it takes continuous study and plenty of practice.  The methods involved in learning a language though can vary.  Even for me, there have been different ways in which I have learnt different languages.

Why change tactic?

Well, the way I learn languages depends on what I am learning the language for and to what level I need to speak it.  I couldn’t answer the question about how I have studied languages in one post, so I will need to break that up and explore it in future posts.

If your goal is to get to a high level of fluency in a language, then this post and accompanying video are for you.  :)

Meet Jordan Chark

I had the pleasure of talking to Jordan Chark, a young Canadian who decided at the tender age of 13 to learn Icelandic.  He taught himself the language over three years in Canada and was noticed by the Icelandic media after a video his made on YouTube went viral on the Icelandic corner of the Internet:

Following his appearances in newspapers and TV on the island, he went over to Reykjavik to take his relationship with the language to the next level.

In this chat we had together, we discuss his journey and we talk about the challenges faced by people learning languages, especially smaller world languages, outside the country where it is spoken.  I hope you enjoy it:

Interested in learning Icelandic?

Jordan shared this wonderful resource with me:

Please do let me know what else you might like me to ask Jordan in our next chat together.  I’d also love to hear about your language experiences.

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From → General, Learners

10 Comments
  1. Great post. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to watch the video interview – it said it was unavailable. I look forward to reading your future posts on the methods you use for language learning.

  2. I think it’s fabulous how you encourage multilingualism Richard! This kid is awesome and deserves the spotlight.

    • Totally agree, Ryan. What he decided to do at 13 with Icelandic and what he went onto achieve with his passion for the language is absolutely outstanding. It is certainly an example to emulate. :)

  3. stibbshoo permalink

    Here’s a link to an interview he did with an Icelandic news channel:
    http://www.visir.is/section/MEDIA99&fileid=VTVF8A4C3BC-F517-4AA8-8A43-BA5758487C9A

    It’s all in Icelandic, of course.

    • Thanks for taking the time to find and post this here too. This link was posted to my Facebook page and a couple of days later I was in contact with Jordan. Amazing, eh? As soon we were in touch I knew I had to share his story in English with the community. He really is quite inspirational. :)

  4. Mike permalink

    In addition to my own language learning articles I can share with you the following kinds of resources for learning English, German and with tips suitable for learning many other languages on one’s own:

    1. I’ve prepared a list of the most helpful websites and publications (textbooks, etc) that include:

    a) tips/advice for successful learning of English and many languages;

    b) aids (audio, video, study books, etc) for learning all language aspects and skills: phonetics, grammar, vocabulary, listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing, including a list of good language courses.

    2. My own English language learning guide prepared from Internet resources with complete information package. The links for the guide contain highly useful tips/advice and materials for learners of English (as well as other languages) and can serve as a free and valuable guide for them.

    3. I’ve also gleaned some very helpful articles for both learners and teachers of ESL/EFL from extensive exploration on the Internet that you and many users of your site may be interested in. In particular I discovered and I am especially interested in articles on learning and teaching English grammar, on second language acquisition, on the role and impact of one’s native language when learning and using ESL/EFL, on the issue of translation in learning and practicing ESL/EFL, on learning and practicing various aspects of English, on development of four language skills (listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing), on valuable ESL/EFL resources, tips and advice.

  5. Hey Richard, How are you doing? I’m sure you’re asked this a lot. Everyone I hangout with are from different countries, Russia, Mexico, Ecuador, Japan, China. When I’m with my Spanish speaking friends for the most part I can understand and speak with them, I know the sentence structures and how to conjugate correctly. Sometimes while talking I’ll run into words that I don’t know though. About a month ago I took this cactustest: http://www.cactuslanguage.com/en/book/levels.php and scored a C1 level. At what point do you believe someone can “speak” a language fluently? I know your Spanish is amazing, but do you still run into words you don’t know ever?

    The complete opposite is for Russian haha the vocabulary is easier to understand, and the cases are very confusing (I’m hoping a class this spring will help with that) :D Thank you for reading!

  6. binahmed permalink

    Thank you for this wonderful blog and wish to explain to us how you learned all these languages ​​at the earliest

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