The Secret to Learning Languages

by The Runaway Guide on August 26, 2012

English has become the language of commerce throughout the world. As a result, you can generally find at least a few people who speak English anywhere you go. Despite this, if you’re planning on traveling the world, it is still a great idea to learn another language.

Knowing a second language not only allows you to communicate with millions of more people but it also gives you a chance to really understand the culture in which you are traveling through. Even just a little bit of local language skills can go a long way. If you’re a serious budget backpacker or runaway trying to hitchhike, you can avoid getting dropped off in somewhere like Timbuktu. When you’re at the market, if you know local numbers, it will help you negotiate a lower price.

Though it depends where you want to go, the languages that I have found most useful around the world are French, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. These languages boast the largest number of speakers worldwide and are not limited to their respective countries of origin. However, you don’t have to learn any of these if you don’t want to. If the language doesn’t excite you, be sure to pick one that does.

As a speaker of four languages, Norwegian, French, Japanese, and of course English, I will teach you the secret methods that I have found most effective in learning a new language.

The Secret

Ok, are you ready? Just like the book says, all you have to do is envision what you want and it will come. So, simply envision yourself speaking another language and eventually you will be able to. Now here’s my part of the secret. Yes envision but also have a few drinks before you try speaking. For example, if you’re learning Spanish, shots of tequila work great. For Russian, you can’t beat Russian vodka.  Alright, I’m just messing with you.

The truth is, and this is kind of a bummer, but there is no easy way to learn a language. Some people learn languages quicker than others, but everyone can. The true secret to learning languages is serious motivation, constant practice and dedication.

There is no secret…just mutha-f**kin hard work.

To begin, you have to get really stoked about the language you want to learn. Not only excited about the language but also the people, the countries where they speak it and of course the culture. You have to be totally in love with everything about the language in order to really learn it.

Language Learning Resources

The most effective way to begin learning is through a traditional course. Though courses can be expensive, they help lay an important foundation in terms of grammar, pronunciation, and vocab. That isn’t to say you can’t teach yourself this, but taking a course will truly give you a solid framework by which you can later supplement with self study.

There are countless self study resources available for both auditory and visual learners. However, whichever kind of learner you are, using a combination of the two is most effective.

One of the best audio programs is Pimsleur. If you just want to become a strong conversational speaker, then Pimsleur is the way to go. It consists of 90 half hour lessons that teach you pronunciation, and everyday conversation. It is truly one of the best programs available. Though it is expensive, if you are willing to commit to the program, it is definitely worth it. For those of you not averse to piracy, it is easily found as a torrent.

Another self study program that compliments Pimsleur beautifully is the Teach Yourself series. These books not only get you speaking but also reading and writing. It teaches you vocab first and then has you read short dialogues forcing you to recall that vocab. It helps you to better understand the grammar that Pimsluer can often leave you confused about. It is a set up that is very effective. It can be bought at most book stores for around 40$.

One final self study resource that combines audio and visual learning techniques flawlessly and promotes long term language acquisition is On their site, you can choose from essential vocab lists depending on your level. Although they specialize in Japanese, you can find any language you want. First you study the vocab in sets of five or ten words, then the computer tests you on that vocab in such a way as to force you to remember. It is system that was developed by Japanese linguistic experts. Although it used to be free, it is now around 10$ a month, but you can give it a go with their free trail month before you commit.

Passive Learning

When you’re not actively cramming your brains with new words and phrases, you can and should still learn passively. Watch movies, tv shows, or listen to music in the language. This will help you with pronunciation, word recognition, and even subconsciously teach you new words. Additionally, though this sounds a bit crazy, have fake conversations with yourself in the language. You can do this anywhere without anyone knowing and it will help keep you on your toes and from getting rusty.


The secret to learning a new language is ultimately motivation and taking full advantage of the resources listed above. It takes months of dedicated study to be able to speak well and even years to become really fluent. However, if you do stick it out, there is nothing as gratifying and impressive to locals as speaking their language. It opens up a range of new opportunities and allows you to truly thrive in a foreign culture. Once you do achieve a conversational level, then you can utilize shots of tequila or vodka as confidence boosters.

Good luck and multi-lingual travels,

ps. If you have any language learning tips be sure to comment below.

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