A simple yet powerful philosophy to learn any language

We all begin learning a language with a desire to one day speak effortlessly in that language, and some of us even dream of becoming fluent.

We all know that getting to this level of accomplishment takes time. A whole lot of time.

We also know that we should study often, practice out loud and revise notes. But what if it were more simple than that?

In his book, ‘The Slight Edge’, Jeff Olsen reveals a way to change the small and seemingly meaningless decisions you make every day, in such a way that it affects your entire attitude towards life. These decisions or choices are easy to do – but just as easy not to do.


Applying the following principles to learning a language will, slowly but surely, get you to where you want to be:

1. Show up: Read, speak, listen or write in the language you’re learning – every day. Read something new, practice pronunciation, listen to a native recording or write a new word over and over until it sinks in. You can do this in ten minutes – five if you really wanted to. Intentions are great, but they don’t get you results. What’s five minutes of your day? Easy to do, but just as easy not to do…

2. Be consistent: Ten minutes of reading every two weeks entertain you, but it’s not going to make you fluent. Start by dedicating ten minutes of your morning for a week, and compound that until it becomes a habit. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re not making massive progress – consistency is the key here.

3. Alter your attitude: surround yourself with people who are positive and encourage language learning, as it will have a massive impact on the attitude you apply to your study. If you think of those ten minutes as a burden, you will subconsciously feel okay about skipping a day or two – which is okay – but over time, it will lead you off the success path. If you think of those ten minutes as an opportunity, you may even spend longer than those ten minutes as a natural interest, as for most of us, it’s not that we are not interested, we just ‘don’t have enough time’, or, ‘are too tired’ by the end of the day. But once we’re there, doing the action, day after day, we begin to build a person track records that propels us forward with momentum from the previous day’s dedication.

4. Be in it for the long haul: This one can vary depending on the situation. A native English speaker living in South America will learn a lot faster than a native English speaker who studies once a week in an English-speaking country. Regardless of the time it takes, a language will always need revisiting, especially if you want to achieve fluency. Choosing to study for 10 minutes every day can become mundane, but persisting through those mundane activities, you are creating a very real disciple that will last a lifetime.

5. Believe you can get there: Do you envision yourself speaking with ease and precision? With confidence and fluency? Your ten-minute dedication will eventually be challenged when you go on holiday, encounter a stressful time in life or come up against an obstacle that leaves you asking, ‘Do I have time or energy for this?’. 10 minutes of study is easy to do – but it’s just as easy not to do. Pushing through and maintaining your level of commitment will make you feel better at the end of the day, and it will bring you closer to your goals. Remember, progress, not perfection.

6. Be willing to pay the price: Yep, this is the hard part. This means getting up earlier or choosing study over that new episode – or even worse, snapping out of that habitual, pointless scrolling on social media to sit down and complete your ten minutes. These things are easy to, but when your mood takes over and hits the snooze button, indulges in that serious or keeps you glued to the screen, you remember it’s just as easy not to do. Remember, one night every so often isn’t going to throw you off that path to fluency, but consistency in either direction is going to take it’s unsuspecting toll.

7. Keep your word: Even when no one is watching. This means doing your ten minutes every day, even if no one notices, or gives you praise for doing so. Keep the promise to yourself and owe it to yourself to further your progress by continually reading, speaking, listening or writing. Because when you reach that point of fluency, the people who never noticed your day-in, day-out commitment will say, ‘Wow, how did you get this good?’.

Try applying these principles to your learning and see what happens. Remember, all it takes is 10 minutes a day, every day with excitement, and continue to that even when the going gets tough or temptations are high – and keep your word. See just how quickly those actions compound into real, noticeable results.

As always, please get in touch if you would like help with learning one of the eight languages we offer here at The Language Academy. Call us on (07) 5578 6838 or email study@thelanguageacademy.com.au to find out more.


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