The fastest way to learn a new language: 9 top tips

November 10, 2023

Interested in studying a new language, but need to make progress quickly?

It’s always the way, isn’t it? Whether it’s for a job interview, an exam, a holiday or a family member visiting, all of a sudden there’s a deadline. You want to reach a decent level of fluency, fast – and you’re up against it.

Now, we wish there was a way for you to snap your fingers and coast your way to fluency in record time. The fact of the matter is, we all know the learning process doesn’t quite work like that. 

But fear not: we have discovered a range of tips and tricks to help speed up learning a language. By taking a few strategic shortcuts, you’d be surprised by how quickly your language skills will develop.

Before we dive into our tips, there are two time-based questions you should consider:

  • The level of fluency you want to reach
  • How often you’re committed to learning, and for how long

How long does it take to learn a language?

“Learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint.” In your pursuit of speed, you need to understand how long you’ll be in the race for proficiency.

After all, with every language you choose to study, there’ll always be new things you can learn or areas you can improve on. There’s technically no ‘finish line’ when it comes to learning a language. You can learn and practise one or more languages for the rest of your life. So when it comes to trying to learn a language quickly, it’s important to decide what level you’re aiming for.

Based on that objective, you’ll have an idea of what shortcuts you should, or shouldn’t, take.

Is one hour a day enough to learn a language?

Another time-based factor you should consider at the start of your learning journey is how much time you have to learn each day.

We’re often asked questions like:

  • “How long should I study a language for each day?”
  • “Should I learn every day?”

In order to achieve speed, aim for consistency. Learn in manageable chunks, as part of a learning plan you can stick with.

Now that you have an idea of how long you need to study for, and how much studying you’ll do in that time period, let’s move on to our top study hacks:

9 tips to learn languages in an effective way

1. Plan your way to the end goal

Learning a new language in the quickest and easiest way possible is just like driving: if you don’t know exactly where you want to go, you’ll never be able to power full speed ahead and get there.

If you’re in a hurry (which, if you’re reading this post, you might well be!) you’ll probably already know the reason why you’re learning. Keep this reason front of mind when defining your goal.

We’ve touched on time, now it’s time to work on a plan. Build a schedule that works backwards from your ‘deadline’ date, helping you to jump from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in the time you’ve got.

While this might seem overboard or ‘extra’ to some, you’re going to have to trust us here. 

At Busuu, we know from experience that those who use our Study Plan feature – a nifty tool that organises your studying time for you, based on your goal preferences – are five times (yes, five!) more likely to meet their objectives.

So we can tell you with confidence that if your ‘do or die’ plan is foolproof, success will follow.

Looking for the quickest way to learn a language effectively? Learning with Busuu is four times more efficient than studying a language at university.

2. Learn in a way that suits you

Our next top tip for you is about how exactly you’ll learn a foreign language best. Because when you’ve got a lot to achieve in a tight timeframe, there is no point trialling learning methods that will slow you down. You’ll want to jumpstart your efforts with the fastest method for you.

As to finding your method? It’s all about being mindful of your personality traits. Understanding your tendencies will play a huge part in how successful you’ll be.

If you want to understand your own patterns of behaviour, Busuu’s expert insights on learning styles, inspired by Myers-Briggs personality types, is a great place to start.

3. Memorise the right vocabulary

Vocabulary is every time-pressed language learner’s worst nightmare. 

And with good reason. 

At times, memorising the never-ending list of words and phrases you’ve been told you’ll ‘need’ can feel like the most time-consuming part of your learning journey.

But we’ll let you in on a secret: when it comes to understanding and speaking the language, some words are much, much more important to learn than others. 

According to a study performed by Sublingual, by learning around 2,000 of the most common words in a language you’ll understand 80% of any text. 

That’s a huge amount less than the 8,000 words some experts claim you’ll need to learn to be fully self-sufficient in a foreign country (C1 level). 

So when it comes to learning new words, learn faster by learning less: follow courses that focus on those absolute must-learn words, you can speed through the essentials at lightning speed.

And don’t just go learn them once: the key to retaining words is revision, revision, and more revision. At Busuu, we know this all too well. In fact, we created an AI-powered Vocabulary Trainer in our app to ensure our learners would never forget the words they learn again. 

4. Dive headfirst into immersion

You’ll have heard it all before: the top tip of the millennium is that you’ll learn a new language more quickly if you spend time abroad; date and fall in love with a native speaker; watch, read and listen to things in the native language.

It’s all true. By exposing yourself to real-world, real-life native speakers your chances of learning a language fast will skyrocket.

While many may not have the luxury of dropping everything and gallivanting around the globe, there are still tons of ways to improve your language skills from right where you are.

Whether it’s reading online news articles in your target language, watching foreign films with subtitles, or kicking back with your favourite novel in translation, there are tons of ways to immerse yourself in a language without stepping outside your front door.

At Busuu, we offer conversation practice with native speakers in our app, alongside online language tutoring with professional teachers.

5. Fall in love with the culture

Having said all that, immersing yourself takes drive. Perseverance. Willing.

And the one sure way to awaken all these motivating qualities inside you is love.

Sounds cheesy, right? But you’d be shocked by the lengths you’d be prepared to go to study a language effectively and quickly when you’ve got that all-important love hormone oxytocin coursing through your body. 

It explains why everyone says fall in love with a native speaker, doesn’t it? If pure romance doesn’t inspire motivation, nothing else will!

But worry not: falling for someone isn’t the only thing that’ll propel you forward when the road to fluency gets bumpy. Getting to know the ins and outs of the culture and finding something that alights a fiery zest for life inside will do the trick, too. Think anything from listening to Spanish songs to learning about the traditions of Oktoberfest.

6. Focus only on the grammar essentials

Ah, the dreaded ‘g’ word. Grammar.

While it’s undoubtedly important in the long run, mastering the finer, more niggly points can often turn into the impossible pursuit of perfection. And no one has time for perfection when if you’re on a deadline!

Often mastering the mastering fundamentals, as opposed to head-scratchers like the Spanish subjunctive and German pronouns – i.e., word order, basic tenses and so on – are enough to structure decent sentences. 

Remember: when you’re trying to master a language in the fastest way possible, understanding and being understood trumps being perfect.

And for those of you still compelled to embark on a quest to grammar perfection? We applaud your stamina, and we know you’ll thank yourself in the long run. In fact, we’d like to help: in our app, we’ve built a Grammar Review feature to help champions of detail just like you master the pernickety bits.

7.  Make lots of mistakes

It goes without saying that, once you’ve got going, the secret weapon in any speedy endeavour is practice. Lots and lots of it. The more of it you get and the more mistakes you make, the more you’ll improve.

But when it comes to learning a new language, this is often easier said than done. Because let’s face it: practising with a native or highly proficient speaker can be pretty daunting. 

But when you’re if you’re looking for the fastest way to learn another language, blurting out a bunch of unpolished words gets you a lot further than waiting for the right ones to come.

Once you’ve put something out in the open, you can get a conversation going. The sense of achievement you’ll get from managing to hold your own in a real-life situation will remind you what you have to gain from keeping going. 

Plus, the more you try, the more you’ll hear, which will give you a real feel for the phrases and sayings that’ll give you that authentic edge.

8. Make more friends

Yup, you’ve guessed it: if practising with one native speaker gives you a leg up, when you’re pressed for time, meeting, befriending and spending time chatting to lots of native speakers will give you a huge advantage.

Not only will you continue to boost your confidence, but you’ll develop even more motivation to power through your learning. 

9. Imitate and keep learning

Now that you’ve surrounded yourself with native or advanced speakers (nice job, by the way!), make sure you use your social hours effectively by studying and imitating how they speak, from their accent to their intonation.

While we’re not saying you should become a parrot, imitation in context is a powerful tool: yes, it’s considered the deepest form of flattery, but it’s also an effective way to pick up a language in record time! 

You’re up: see how quickly you can learn

So there you have it: we’ve imparted all our insider’s knowledge on the fastest way to learn a language. You know everything there is to know about becoming a budding linguist on a tight schedule. 

Now it’s up to you. Go forth, learn lots, and let us know how you get on! 

Start your speedy journey to fluency with Busuu today.

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