How to Learn a Language in 100 Days

For many years I studied French at school, and even though I got good grades and went on to study French at college when I actually tried to speak the language to a native speaker I just couldn’t. So what went so wrong with my learning?

The fact is that we are not taught languages in an ideal way at school. Often pupils study languages for only a couple of hours-per-week with a non-native tutor without an accent. Sadly some teachers think that grammar exercises will simply be enough to learn a language!

In addition to this pupils learn in large groups so the language is not tailored to suit their individual preferences. Teachers also tend to overly criticize mistakes – I hate to break it to you, but those big red crosses on schoolwork were not kisses from the teacher!

Most importantly no one is actually engaging in meaningful conversation with each other. Ironically if that were to happen the teacher would send you out for talking!   If you want to learn a new language, well, you actually have to practice by speaking it and making mistakes in order to progress.

So it took me years to learn French in school and I still could not have a conversation with a native speaker. However, since leaving school I am learning languages, such as Spanish and Mandarin Chinese and having real, but basic conversations with native speakers within only a few months, but how?

The 100 Day Language Plan

Even Impossible says “I’m Possible“. To be able to have at least a 15-minute conversation with a native speaker of your target language in just 90 days you need to be prepared to focus, practice and have a plan. I tend to focus on 90 days in 3 separate stages.

Image result for even impossible says i'm possible

Stage 1: Days 1-30


The first thirty days are critical to planning and getting to grips with learning a new language. Ensure you document these stages by recording your progress. I spend the first 7 days thinking about what my current level was and goal setting. You need to immerse yourself as fully as possible. I recommend getting a personal tutor and some language exchange partners. To start with the schedule in at least 2-3 lessons per week.

For my first lesson, I learned the most important phrases… “I don’t speak Spanish“, “How do you say… in Spanish” and “Please can you write this down for me“. You’re going to start encountering a lot of words and phrases that you don’t know, both with your private tutor, and when you practice languages on your own. Enter these words into Anki, a journal or write them on paper flashcards to help you remember them. For me, the first month is all about vocabulary building.

  • Days 1-7 FIND A TUTOR or two and then schedule them in!
  • Plan for the first 30 days and factor in things like holidays and time spent with family.
  • Set up any social media sites you have in preparation for language learning, check out my blog on how to do this, here
  • Join our supportive and encouraging language learning community on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Go to the library and rent out some language learning resources!
  • Have a look to see if there are any MOOCS available in your target language.
  • Check out the links that I have used (listed at the end of this blog).

Stage 2: Days 31-60


After your first month, it’s time to focus on exposing yourself to the language as much as possible. After a month of personal tutoring, you’ll have the ability to have short basic conversations. However, I do find it is around day 30 when my motivation levels start to dip. So remind yourself why you are learning this language. You might consider doing a course or attending a meetup group in the local community in addition to your personal tutor and language exchange partners. Be careful of slipping into English. Try to make it a rule to speak only in your target language. Now is the time to start finding language partners. Check out  Hello Talk App and Couch-Surfing to find people who speak your target language. Attempt to spend at least 45 minutes every day practicing your language. At this point, because you have a basic grasp of the language spend more time socializing with new friends and learning about their culture.You should start trying to think in the new language. I tend to go over what I have learned that day and have found by doing this I start to sometimes even dream in my target language!

  • Review your last 30 days, what worked well, what didn’t? What do you need to study more of? Then plan for the next 30 days! I call this the RLP stage – Review, Learn and Plan.
  • Schedule tutorials and DO the homework they set! Really does make a difference.
  • If you have not done so within the first 30 days ensure you find some language exchange buddies NOW! Make sure you do some equal speaking time in their target language too.
  • ‘Flash Chats’! The Hello Talk app is fabulous for this. 5 – 10 minute verbal or written chats on random subjects. I try to aim for at least 1-2 flash chats every other day from day 60.

Stage 3: Days 61-100


By day 60, you should be in a good position to speak your language. You just simply need to keep practicing. Have deeper conversations with your tutors and language partners. Continue studying new words every day and practicing the ones you’ve already learned.Watch movies, read blogs and books in your target language.  If you need to, turn on the subtitles. Don’t worry if you have trouble because understanding a movie can be more difficult than having a conversation. It’s pretty amazing what you can achieve within 100 days of intense focus. If you don’t believe me then check out these amazing videos from the Add 1 Community.

  • Review, learn and plan (RLP).
  • Start to prepare for having a 15-minute chat with a native. What topic would you like to talk about?
  • Will you do another 3 months in the current target language and maybe achieve B2 or if you are  B2 move on to C level? Maybe even tackle another language?
  • Have FUN, learning a language does not have to be boring. It can be rewarding and can increase your social network as well as look good on your CV.

The Resources I Used:

Please note many of the resources listed here are low cost or even FREE!

BOOKS

Fluent in 3 Months, Benny Lewis

Language Hacking: Spanish, Benny Lewis

YOUTUBE

Language Transfer

Tio Spanish

Easy Languages

APPS

Duolingo

Hello Chinese

Hello Talk

Memrise

Anki

WEBSITES

Add 1 Challenge – Supportive community and lots of wonderful resources.

Facebook! – How to use Social Media to Learn a Language. 

BBC Languages 

Utalk 

Italki – Pay per lesson or buy packages for professional tutors. You can find language exchange partners for free on here.

Best wishes with your language learning. Let me know how you get on or if you have any advice please post below or on our Facebook or Twitter Page.


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How to use Social Media for Language Learning

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A majority of people use social media sites so why not use them more productivity to meet goals.

Firstly set your language settings to your target language on social media and your mobile, but I would not recommend this for complete beginners and also ensure you know how to get back to the language settings should you need too.

Facebook

Firstly post that you are learning a new language. Not only will this help with accountability, but you may also find that you have some potential study buddies or language exchange partners on hand too! Secondly, make the most of customising your news feeds to aid in language learning. For example:

  • ‘Like’ several pages that are in your target language, comment and like the posts.
  • Start posting some items that are in your target language.

Twitter

Make a tweet in your target language keeping in mind that you have a 140 character limit, and see if your pupils can strike up a conversation with you. Impose a non-English only reply and retweet rule.

YouTube

Make some vlogs speaking about hobbies, thoughts or opinions on topical news stories, but speaking only in a foreign language. You don’t have to make it public, but hearing yourself speak the language is not only a good way to document progress, but also hear the areas you need to focus on.

Pinterest/Instagram

Take some pictures of prompt cards, post-it notes or even objects with their description in another language and ‘pin’ them on your boards or give them the Instagram treatment! You could even look for photos of the country or infographics on your target language.

Tumblr

Dedicate it entirely to publishing content in the language you teach. Show your pupils why you love the language and inspire them to do the same. Ask them to write something, however small, and post it for the whole world to admire.

Other

There are many other sites that could be used too. It is finding those that best suit you and your learning style. I would recommend checking out:

  • Future Learn, Coursera or EdX to see if they are offering any FREE courses in your target language.
  • There is also a course by a fab lady called Lindsay that will help you to get the best out of using Social Media for language learning. The course costs about $50 and details can be found here. http://www.lindsaydoeslanguages.com/sms

Also, don’t forget to…

If using a PC or MAC make use of your desktop! I have optimized mine for language learning. My background is the British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet. I have direct shortcuts to Memrise,  Duolingo and Language Transfer. I also have sticky notes with the key phrases/words I am currently learning. Plus a shortcut to my language learning file.

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You can follow me here:

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Want to be more positively productive in your language learning? Check out the  Positively Productive Project

 

How Diet and Nutrition Can Impact Language Learning Ability

You may be thinking what has your diet and nutrition got to do with Language learning? At Language Learners Journal our focus is on a more holistic approach to learning and this means looking at the bigger picture and thinking about other areas that might be impacting on our ability to learn. One of these areas just happens to diet and nutrition!

Have you noticed when you are hungry you might get a little grumpy and struggle to focus? If your car is low on fuel it might run a little sluggish. You would top it up with fuel to make it work more efficiently again. If it completely ran out it will just stop! Let’s apply this to your brain. Food is fuel. It gives you energy. If you don’t have sufficient energy levels your brain will not be able to properly process new information. Instincts will kick in to find food. Conversely, if you put the wrong type of fuel in your car it will not work properly. The same applies to your brain. If you eat rubbish it will not work properly!

Our modern-day eating habits have a tendency to be loaded with sugars, caffeine, chemicals, and fizzy drinks.  After the sugar or caffeine rush is over you will start feeling rather tired, unfocused, a little shakey and maybe even a little sick! Studies have shown that students that have healthier lifestyles, for example, a more balanced diet along with good sleep hygiene, regular exercise, and increased water intake have improved focus, attention, memory,  and are better able to manage their moods. All important things if you want to learn a new language!

According to the Society for Neuroscience,  a diet that has high levels of saturated fats can impair learning and memory especially when consumed by children. One of the theories that explain the link between saturated fats and brain power in the research paper is the effects of glucose and sugars in higher-fat foods. You can get glucose from carbohydrates, and while glucose is essential for energy, foods that are too high in glucose can actually cause the body’s energy levels to suddenly drop. This will impact upon one’s ability to focus, process and digest new information.
Deficiencies in iron, Vitamin B, E, and Zinc are also scientifically known to impact upon cognitive functioning, energy and concentration levels. So if you are feeling very low in energy and unable to focus it may be worth increasing foods that contain these.

Increased Cognitive Functioning

Studies have shown that healthier diets are associated with increased cognitive functioning which leads to improved memory formation, focus. increased attention span. This all leads to better performance in exams. However, researchers have also discovered that children who are malnourished had problems with vision, fine motor skills and even struggled with language skills!

Malnourished children […] were found to have delays in vision, fine motors skills, language skills and personal-social skills.

Researchers Margaret Lahey and Shari Rosen 

Here are my top 10 brain-boosting nutritional tips. I believe that it is vital to ensure a healthy and balanced diet when learning new things, especially languages. For a start, it helps with focus, concentration, memory, mood, energy and even our motivational levels.

10 Brain-Boosting Nutritional Tips for Language Learners

1. If you are able to then try not to study on an empty stomach and ensure you have some water.

2. Keep a food, sleep and exercise diary to monitor what is happening. Often until we see it written down we aren’t really aware of the patterns and habits we form.

3. To promote healthy eating and brain function eat smaller healthier meals and snacks every three to four hours. Studies show that after just thirty minutes, feelings of fatigue and stress drop after a nutritious snack or meal. Healthy levels of glucose can boost energy levels and improve their focus.

4. Ensure your breakfast is high in protein. So have eggs, milk, and cheese. You can also get protein from nuts, pulses, and soya. Higher protein and lower carbohydrates can help enhance concentration levels.

5. Healthy meals and snacks should consist of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, nuts, and eggs. Also, specific vitamins and minerals can be incorporated to improve memory. Invest in foods that are rich in lecithins, such as peanuts, soybeans, and wheat germ. Potassium also aids in energy and brain functioning and can be derived from oranges, bananas, apricots, avocados, melons, peaches,  nectarines, but it doesn’t just have to be fruit, fish, carrot juice, beans and sweet potatoes also contain potassium!

6. Cook with olive oil – it is rich in Polys, which are powerful brain protective antioxidants!

7. Fish such as salmon contains omega, but if you are not liking fish you can get omega 3 from walnuts and flaxseed.

8. Ensure you are getting the minimum of 7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Remember Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants. Blueberries along with omega 3 help maintain the general health of brain cells. It also helps stimulate the growth of brain cells in the hippocampus region of the brain. Therefore helping with memory formation.

9. Suffering from poor memory and finding it difficult to pay attention? Increase your vitamin B1 intake. So wholegrain, such as brown rice and bran. Broccoli, mushrooms, nuts, and seeds (unless you have allergies).

10. Most importantly ensure you are drinking enough water every day. Water really is a forgotten nutrient! Water makes up over two-thirds of our bodies. A mere 2% decline in water can have serious implications on own brain health, such as poor short-term memory, confusion, poor concentration and difficulty focusing.  Dehydration is also one of the most common causes of fatigue.

Remember a well-balanced diet with an active lifestyle and good sleep hygiene will really help your brain, to process new information more efficiently and allow better storage conditions for memory. So follow these tips and get the most out of your next study session.

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If you are worried about your diet or feel you might have an intolerance or food allergy please seek professional advice from a doctor or medical professional. You can also check out the NHS – Live Well for professional information, apps and tools to help you get healthier.

Have a question? Comment below or post on social media. 


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