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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

Elisa Polese

Second Edition – 2020 www.speakfromdayonewithelisa.com


HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

TIPS ON HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE


The tips I share here come from almost 20 years of a) my own experience in learning foreign languages; b) my
experience in teaching different language combinations to people from around the world; c) language exchanges;
d) discussions with thousands of language learners about learning strategies.

I have learned 24 languages in total – 14 to a teaching standard. All of this is led by my passion for understanding how
languages work, communicating with people, and experiencing other cultures and mentalities.

I was not raised bilingual and, other than French, I began to speak all of my languages from the age of 20 onwards.
My language method varies depending on the language studied, but these tips correspond to all of the languages
I have learned to an advanced and upper-intermediate level (C2-B2 of the Common European Framework of
Reference for Languages).

My tips have already worked for hundreds of people and are designed to help you boost your skills for your
favourite foreign language(s).

I hope you enjoy my language learning tips and try out my learning strategies!

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

1 Spend at least 5 minutes a day practising the language(s) you want to learn

Many people think that in order to learn a language,


we must study for several hours a day. Of course,
the more (quality) input, the quicker you will learn a
language. However, if you don’t have much time
in your day-to-day but you would like to learn a
language, I really believe that it’s better to study
for five minutes a day than two hours every two
weeks (or even less frequently).

Studying a little bit every day will:


a) help you remember what you learn (everyone feels frustrated when they open a book after two weeks and
can’t remember much of what they previously learned!);
b) help your brain make connections between the different bits of the language you have learned;
c) keep you motivated: if you only study every two weeks, you won’t see much progress, and this will demotivate
you.

Why don’t you try to learn a language for a short period of time every day for 30 days and see the results?

If you want, you can also book a language mentoring or coaching session with me during which you can ask
questions about language learning and language learning methods, study routines and resources and/or we can
discuss topics/learning tactics that interest you (how to optimise your language learning path, create and stick
to your language study routine, maximise results within your deadline, reach your language goals, etc. More
information on this here.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

2 Make sure you practise the skill you want to improve

if your aim is to be able to speak a language within a short period of time, spending
the whole time reading will not really help you when you want to have a conversation.
There are productive activities (speaking and writing) that help you produce
the language, and there are passive activities (listening and reading) that help
you understand the language. Focus more on what’s useful for you and for your
goals. A language is a system, so everything you learn is useful in the end. If you
really enjoy reading, please keep doing it.

Just remember to mix in some productive activities


if your aim is to speak with people. Understanding
lots but not being able to say much can be very
frustrating.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

3 Distinguish between accuracy and fluency

When we do grammar exercises, or when we say that we want others to correct every single mistake we make, we
are focusing on accuracy.
When we just speak (and make mistakes according to our current level), we are training fluency.
Both are useful and how much we should focus on one or the other depends on our goal (speaking with friends,
passing a written or oral exam, etc.).
What we often forget is that there are two different types of abilities and each should be trained separately. Have
you ever tried to learn something (for example a sport) and your friend or instructor told you so many things that
you couldn’t even remember them, let alone apply all of them at the same time? Concentrate on one skill at a time.
You will see more results if you alternate between working on grammar topics and vocabulary (if possible,
in an interactive and fun way) and sessions where you just use what you know.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

4 Have fun with the language

Each of us is unique and enjoys different things (or similar things in


a different way or with a different goal). If you do things you enjoy, you
are much more likely to keep doing them. The same applies to language
learning. If you use a book you don’t enjoy, speak or read about things
which don’t interest you, or watch or listen to things you find boring, you
are much more likely to give up before you’ve learned the language you
wanted to learn so much. Do what you love! If you really enjoy singing,
please sing! If you love reading, please do so. If you love series, watch
them, and so on.
Languages are systems, so each
part of the language is connected to the rest and every little thing you learn
will make sense in the end. As long as you don’t expect to understand
everything straight away, you can start having fun with the language right
now! Of course, depending on our knowledge of and level in a language,
certain activities will suit us better. However, carrying out a boring activity at
the right level in a language will not
increase our chances of sticking to
our language learning. What’s more,
activities that are more advanced
than our level but that we find
interesting can be very beneficial if approached in the right way. For
example, you can watch a series and the more episodes you watch the
more you will understand. Or, you can read a book you really wanted to
read, look up very few words and still be able to follow the story. You may
not pick up on all the nuances, but you will understand more and more with
each page turn. More on that in the next tip.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

5 Don’t forget the benefits of passive learning

Have you ever listened to something in a language and not understood where a word started or finished? This is
completely normal. Our brain has to get used to a) how words (and which words) are pronounced together; b)
rhythm and intonation; c) hear/distinguish the words we already know; d) make sense of the other words that we
don’t know according to the context. All of this can be improved with passive listening.
Another example: if you watch a series or read a book, there will be words that are repeated many times (even
when you don’t know a certain word, you usually notice when it’s repeated several times). The words that are
repeated are important (either in general or in the context of your series or book).
You can learn words just by paying attention to what you hear (even if you don’t understand much at the beginning).
In the same way, you can revise/reinforce words you have already learned in a much more useful way than just
reading a list: words in context are the best for training our brains because they will be linked to a situation and
you will know when to use them.
When you listen to a large amount of information, your brain automatically starts to understand more.
If you didn’t understand much before, the first thing that will happen is that you will start to distinguish where a
word starts or ends. Therefore, if you learn a little bit every day, you will see how your brain “magically” starts to
understand more and more.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

6 Treat yourself kindly: your mental state is the path to success

As adults, we often forget that we were all students once. We can perform normally in our daily lives but when
it comes to speaking a new language, we feel as if we know nothing, and that is frustrating. We expect to know
everything, and we may even get angry at ourselves for not remembering words or for not performing as we had
hoped.
Bear in mind that you are in a learning phase and as such you simply cannot know or remember everything.
Learning is a beautiful experience, forcing us to leave our comfort zone, but in a very rewarding way. When we are
stressed, we can’t think clearly: how can we perform well if we treat ourselves worse than we would treat a
friend? Our mental state matters. Be open to learning, treat yourself kindly and be aware that this is a path
we all have to and have had to go through in order to improve and grow.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

7 Use different channels

By using different channels (watching, listening, reading, writing), you will see words and structures in
different contexts. This will help you to a) remember things better (different stimuli, different senses); b) build
connections between different things you learn; c) revise vocabulary and grammar structures just by being
exposed to them; d) learn (automatically/unconsciously) which words and structures can be used in each
context. Try out each channel and take the best out of them!

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

8 Build your routine

Motivation is what makes us start, but habit is what keeps us going.


Even people who hate routine perform most of their daily activities out of habit and in an almost automatic way:
eating at a certain time, taking a shower, brushing their teeth, talking while driving, taking the same route to work,
etc.
When you build your routine, things that once seemed difficult become effortless. Even if something seemed
difficult to start with, after just a few days of repeating the activity, you will be doing it automatically with almost no
effort at all. And, the longer you stick to your routine, the more your brain will be craving it.
Build your routine for language learning: decide on a time to sit down and study your language – any time that suits.
Choose a time when you are least likely to be interrupted. Decide on a doable amount of time to start with: five to
fifteen minutes will do. If we really want to learn, we can always find five minutes in the day!
This can be your core learning: if you stick to it, you will improve no matter what.
However, when you start to see some improvement, you will most likely study more because you enjoy it and find
it interesting. Even then, stick to your routine: starting at the same time, and spending the same amount of time as
before. Any extra practice is a bonus.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

9 Set a reachable and defined goal: step approach vs mountain

Setting reachable goals is important. Have you ever set a goal that you couldn’t keep up with and you preferred to
let the stress go? This is what happens to many people, not only in the language learning field.
A good way to approach this may be to have a vision (your ultimate goal and why), whilst working on concrete
goals. If these goals are still quite big, then think in terms of steps. Take things one step at a time and you will
definitely be closer to your goal.
Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves and want too much, too soon. This is a quote I really like: “If you think
your destination is far away, start and think about it when you are already walking”. Don’t look at the
mountain in front of you, concentrate on the small steps which will take you closer to what you want to achieve.
Even the furthest goal is just a matter of steps away.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

10 Adjust the method to your learning style and concentrate on what matters to you

Build your own learning method taking into account these important factors: a) focus (focus on what matters to you
in terms of useful vocabulary and structures, interesting material and activities, and skills you want to improve); b)
input (regular practice from different channels); c) quality time (quality time means practising for just five minutes
but doing the things that you find most useful, and without distractions); d) mental state (embrace learning, have
fun with the language, be kind to yourself); e) goal setting (create your vision, set your goals and define small
steps that you will be able to follow).

Focusing on the right things will help you make faster progress, look back with satisfaction at all you have
learned and keep you motivated.
Unless you are at an advanced level of language learning, you don’t need to learn all the words, structures and
expressions you find in books or textbooks. You need words which you find useful and which help you to talk about
your life, because this is normally what we talk about when we meet people.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

Try out my learning strategies


Online lessons
Online courses
Language coaching

I hope you have found my tips useful and are going to try out my learning strategies.
Above all, I wish you lots of success and fun with your language learning path!

Over the past 20 years I have developed my own learning and teaching method. It works
very well and I have helped thousands of people reach their language goals.
If you want to try out my method, which I always adapt to your needs, preferences and goals.
Here are some of the most popular options:

1) Interested in multiple languages and want to learn them in an efficient way without mixing them up?
You could:
a) read my book “How to become fluent in multiple languages” (available on Amazon in both English and Italian),
for more information click here.
b) book a multilingual lesson with me.
If you want to see my videos on learning multiple languages at the same time, you can visit my YouTube channel
“PassionForLanguages”.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

2) Would you like to start speaking Italian in no time?

Have a look at my “Smart Italian for busy people” digital course.

• Learn only useful words


• Learn the perfect pronunciation
• Study as little as 7 to 15 minutes a day
• 30 downloadable audio lessons with full transcript
• Grammar summary and word lists
• Speaking exercises
• Free extra learning material
• Lifetime access to the community
• FREEBIE: Weekly online group classes with me!

You can even try it out through my Italian starter kit!

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

3) Do you speak Spanish and would like to learn German?


With my video course “Smart German for busy people para hispanohablantes, nivel 1”, you go
from 0 to A2 in 45 days! More than 55 videos will teach you everything you need to know at
this level to start speaking German from the first day. On top of that you can participate in the
Smart German for busy people community (closed FB group) and interact with me and other
German learners of your level! You will find tasks/questions for each day of the course and I
will correct them. I also post nice resources to keep you motivated. Furthermore, you can participate in the live
weekly group classes with me to boost your learning and meet other learners like you.
• Do you already speak some German and want to reach the next level? Check out my video course “Smart
German for busy people para hispanohablantes, nivel 2”.
• Are you about to move to Germany and want to be able to carry out daily tasks like making calls, buying
groceries and clothes, talking to the doctor, talking about yourself and your life, and interacting with locals
without doing a full course? Have a look at “Survival kit de alemán”.

4) Do you speak English and would like to learn German?


• Check out my video course “Smart German for busy people for English speakers” - you go from 0 to A2 in 45
days! More than 55 videos will teach you everything you need to know at this level to start speaking German
from the first day.
• On top of that you can participate in the Smart German for busy people community (closed FB group) and
interact with me and other German learners of your level! You will find tasks/questions for each day of the
course and I will correct them.
• I also post nice resources to keep you motivated. Furthermore, you can participate in the live weekly group
classes with me to boost your learning and meet other learners like you.

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HOW TO LEARN ANY LANGUAGE IN 10 TIPS

5) Do you want to improve your study routine, study efficiently and reach your language goals within a
short time frame?
You can book a language mentoring or coaching session with me during which you can ask questions about
language learning and language learning methods, study routines and resources and/or we can discuss topics/
learning tactics that interest you (e.g. how to optimise your language learning path, create and stick to your
language study routine, maximise results within your deadline, reach your language goals, etc.) More information
on this here.
You can do a language challenge, 100% tailored to your needs. For more information, click here.

Follow me on YouTube

Passion Smart Italian Smart German


for for for
Languages busy people busy people

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