As you may know, I am attempting to learn Spanish in preparation for my trip to Colombia. I have really been working hard at it during the last 2 weeks… trying to avoid things that slow me down, and often studying over an hour a day.
Now, if you think about it, an hour a day consistently is a really hard thing to do. It requires significant discipline.
I mean, if you worked out hard at the gym for an hour a day consistently, you could drop your body fat to below 10% and be totally ripped.
Yet how many people actually do this?
Or how many people do something that requires a similar level of commitment every day?
Answer: probably less than 10%.
So, if you are one of the 90% of people who never set a goal and achieve it with dedicated perseverance, you will not achieve fluency in 6 months. You will not even get close. Just forget it. You might as well go bury your head in the ground and eat dirt.
What you should realize is that learning a language is a major undertaking that requires daily effort. It requires continuous trial & error, significant periods of undivided attention, and a boatload of patience.
Most people cannot stay with something consistently. Only a small percentage will follow through with their goals… I’m not saying that no one does it. I’m just saying for every 1 person I know who has followed through with something, I know 9 who haven’t followed through– or worse yet, haven’t attempted anything.
So, one of the things you must realize is that it is imperative to do something every day that relates to the overall goal. I recommend a minimum 30 minutes per day if you want to make any progress at all. And you need to keep this up for at least 6 months.
The Irish Polyglot
Now, perhaps you’ve heard of a blog called Fluent In 3 Months. Using his language hacking methods, Benny claims that you can be conversational in your target language within 3 months. And, I agree with him. If you hack the language by speaking it for 2-4 hours per day like a language enthusiast, you can do it in 3 months.
Seriously, you can… If you’re really passionate about your target language, then go for it. Try doing 2+ hours per day along the lines that Benny recommends and you probably will succeed, if you are consistent.
But, my question is, how many people can or will suddenly go from zero hours per day in a foreign language to 2+ hours per day over night?
…AND keep it up for 3 months?
If you can do this, you are either a) a full time traveler or b) an extremely disciplined person.
If you are a full time traveler, I am happy to read your blog.
If you are an extremely disciplined person, I would love to come meet you. You are Master Yoda and I’d like to become your apprentice.
But the fact is that most of us are neither of these two things. Adding 2 hours per day in a target language is a very tough act to follow. Again– some can do it. Anyone could do it. But most won’t. That’s why I want to give you an idea of how long it has taken me.
I have mainly worked with the Pimsleur language series, as well as LiveMocha and multiple Skype conversations with native Spanish speakers. I have averaged a solid hour per day for the past 90 days, and yet I am nowhere near fluency.
Though I am not where I started, as far as basic fluency goes (by that I mean instantly understanding Spanish TV, newspapers, websites, music, and other native Speakers in everyday conversations), I am probably only half way there.
Now, I presume that the speed at which you can learn a certain language might be different from language to language. And, if you are already multilingual you could probably pick up a new language faster than one who is picking up their first foreign language. And, of course, if you find yourself in the country with the target language, things can move a lot faster.
But if you are seriously thinking about fluency, and you cannot practice 2 hours a day or more, and you are not in the country that utilizes the target language, you need to plan on a minimum of 6 months to learn any new language.