6 Steps To Listen Your Way To A Better Accent In Any Language

better accent listen

Accent is one of the most difficult skills to master as a language learner. Even if you can pronounce most words correctly in your target language, it's still not easy to sound natural or ‘native-like' when you speak. But there is something you can do to change that … listen.

In this guest post from my polyglot friend Fiel Sahir, you'll find out how listening practice can help you to improve your accent in the language you're learning.

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

I hope you enjoy the post!

Over to Fiel…

One of the joys of life is to trick people into thinking you’re a native speaker of another language, even if it’s just for five minutes.

It’s one of those things that if you achieve it, makes you feel like you've earned a degree. Sort of like getting that special sticker each day in kindergarten–it’s something to be proud of.

A very common question posed in language learning circles is this: Man, he/she’s got a flawless accent! How does he/she do it?

Maybe you’ve watched videos of Luca Lampariello or Vladimir Skultety who are known for their native-like accents in multiple languages.

It’s the one thing everyone dreams about, but very, very few people really have. It’s really easy to walk away discouraged.

When someone’s been learning French for three months, while you’ve been learning it for three years, it’s really frustrating when they have a better accent than you! It’s tempting to dismiss it as talent and give up.

But here’s the secret: they used a superpower learned over time. One that you can learn too!

You can listen your way to a better accent!

Don’t believe me?

Remember how you learned as a baby?

Well actually, you probably don't. But here’s what happened:

You started off barely being able to pronounce words and spoke in your very own baby language. Meanwhile every day at home you were exposed to hours and hours of listening in your language.

Immersion at it’s finest.language immersion

Fast forward 5-10 years later. You learned to have a flawless accent in your native language, didn’t you?

Yep, you did.

How did that happen? Tons and tons of listening.

Leveling Up During Your Commute

As a high schooler, my commute was a daily total of two hours roundtrip. None of my friends lived in my neighborhood, so my bus rides were always in solitude. But I did have one thing…

My iPod.

This was a time when iTalki was taking its first steps and Yahoo Answers was your best hope for language help. So you can imagine how scarce resources were compared to the present. I was learning French at the time, and I scoured– literally – scoured the internet for resources. I stumbled on FrenchPod and downloaded their lessons onto my MP3 player.

The lessons were real and entertaining. They gave you pizza but made sure you had your salad as well. Figuratively speaking…

Since I knew that I wouldn’t be traveling to France anytime soon, I began wondering, how could I travel to France without leaving my bedroom?

This led to hours spent watching French cinema, dubbed and or subtitled on my dreaded commute. I was a big fan of Asterix and Tintin, as any good French boy would be. It’s a pity nobody knows who they are in the US…

That’s Too Much Work. Passive Listening Is Better!

What if I told you that if you played classical guitar on the radio every day for a year, you could become a great musician.

You could sue me for being full of crap and you’d be right! OR You would give me a deathly stare and say, really now…?

The same thing goes for learning languages and accents. If you could learn a language just by listening, the world would already be a better place wouldn’t it?

We often want the language facility of a grown educated adult and forget the hours of schooling, reading, and listening they went through to achieve that level of competence.

How Do I Listen Step By Step?

Language learners know that listening is really important, but they aren’t really taught how to do it.

Some believe in passive listening, some believe that listening is an end all.

Let me ask you something:

Imagine yourself in a field full of butterflies. In your sheer excitement, you swing your net left and right missing butterflies constantly.

Your friend alongside you decides to focus on one at a time, and at the end of the outing has jars full of them. You can’t help but be jealous.

A net is only good if you know how to use it.

In order to do achieve visible results, we must come ready with questions to focus our ears. So here’s a few to get you started.

Rhythm & Flowrhythm in languages

How fast or slow do native speakers speak? Where do they pause?

Feel the ups and downs as they speak.

Think of the speed of Spanish, the punching rhythm of German, or the melodic patterns of Brazilian Portuguese.

For example, stress placement in languages like English is essential. Think of words like photo and photography. Or present (as in gift) and present (as in perform).

Here are some more crazy examples:

English is CRAZY!

Words can change meaning not only because of their letters but also because of how they're pronounced. And how you pronounce a word can tell people how “native” (or not) you sound.

Tonetone language

How do you feel when you listen to another language? Do the people speaking it “sound angrier” or “softer” than in your native language? What’s the feeling that listening to this language gives you?

Having an idea of how it feels to your ears will help you sound more and more like a native speaker.

Maybe speaking in one language or accent makes you feel or sound smart, while another one brings out a fiery personality you didn’t know you had.

Pay attention to these little details, because these things are what influence how you sound overall in that language.

Fillers & Liaisons

These are the million dollar questions to a better accent! Instead of asking, “How can I sound like a native speaker?” Instead ask, “How does Nadia speak?”

Imitate a certain person and observe. (How do you think actors get the job done?)

Notice as well that native speakers never speak fully like your textbook. EVER. In fact, a native speaker often has to really try to sound like that.

Even fancy professors in academia.

It’s also not enough to just know the words that are in the dictionary. You need to know what’s outside of it too!

Dictionaries will never catch up with the times! Blame musicians and the media for inventing new ways of speaking, but there you have it.

Pay attention to what native speakers add or drop whenever they’re speaking. In French, they often drop “ne” when negating.

In Spanish, whenever two vowels are together, one is dropped.

In Indonesian, the letter ‘e' is often omitted after the letter ‘s' when spoken unless an emphasis is made:

Every language has its filler words. As much as one may not like them, they are essential to sounding like a native speaker.

[Tweet “Refuse to speak like a textbook, because textbooks don’t speak.”]

Listening Is A Habitlistening

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Will Durant

As great as all the ideas above are, they won’t amount to anything if you do them once and never again.

Reading this article will have been a complete waste of time.

Here’s the truth: listening is a habit and needs to be cultivated as such.

Let’s take a step back.

Instead of thinking in terms of good accent or bad accent, let’s change things a bit. We often feel accents are simply some things we can never change. So let’s substitute accent with the word habit.

Each person’s mouth is shaped and has gone through the language equivalent of Olympic training in order to sound “native” in their own language.

No one was born automatically able to play the guitar or violin. It’s a cultivated habit.

You have to train your hand muscles to do something new, just like babies have to keep babbling in order to learn to pronounce words!

Habits are IMPORTANT.

Think of it this way: in order to learn a new habit, you have to get rid of the old one (or replace it.)

Same goes for accents!

Forget what’s natural to you because a new language calls for a new way of pronouncing things. Obviously, it’s not an on and off switch, but with practice, your “habit” will be stable enough that you can change without thinking.

6 Top Rules To Implant Your New Accent Habit

Even with the ideas above, a change of mindset is important so you can make outstanding progress with your accent:

1. Refuse To Tolerate Mistakes

I mean, absolutely refuse. What I often do is complain about how difficult grammar is and just hope that one day I’ll wake up with perfect sentences.

Mentally resolve you’re not going to let yourself keep making them. When you do, just catch yourself and remember that it’s a part of the process, but correct yourself as you go.

2. Exaggerate your vowels and consonants.

Intentionally trying to pronounce things differently will tell your brain that you’re trying to get rid of a habit! If not, your mouth will eventually slip back into the way it’s used to pronouncing words.

Just like how a person’s voice is only loud in a quiet setting as compared to when at a rock concert. Once you learn to over-enunciate, you’ll be able to adjust for how you’re supposed to sound.

3. Actively want it, you can’t just hope it into existence.

You’ve gotta want it. I can’t practice for you. Not much more to say on this front. Take some time to meditate on that.

4. Record Yourself To Hear Your Mistakes!

Many times, musicians practice in their room and come out feeling horrible, but when they play for peers, the result can often be unexpected. Same thing goes with accents, sometimes we actually think we sound worse than we are, or vice versa.

Listening to recordings of yourself allows you to get a real perspective on what you actually sound like to others.

There are tons of other techniques that musicians use to improve their playing that can be useful for you as a language learner. They aren’t all mentioned in this article, but in fact, Olly and I had a conversation addressing how musicians learn languages and the secrets we use, which you can watch below.

Alternatively, you can check out the audio version of the conversation on the I Will Teach You A Language Podcast.

These ideas will help you improve your language learning, guaranteed.

5. Learn Songs That Natives Listen To

Songs are one of the best ways to grab real vocabulary and practice forming your new habit and mouth shape.

6. Fight For Feedback And Use It

Correcting people isn’t an activity people enjoy, but asking natives to gently point out your mistakes will show you things you never realized. Sure, native speakers can’t always explain grammar, but they can instinctively tell you how something is said and if there’s anything “foreign” in your vocabulary.

Pair Listening With Conversations

There are so many factors that go into molding your mouth to produce a better accent. We’ve discussed what we should listen for and how we should listen. From tone to rhythm, passive versus active listening, it’s a lot to take in.

But rather than being overwhelmed, think about the one thing you can do to get started, say recording yourself. Spend just 15 minutes a day recording yourself and analyzing the results afterward.

Developing a great accent is one of the most difficult aspects of language learning. But as you saw from Luca Lampariello and Vladimir Skultety above, it’s possible! They found ways to practice with a strong growth mindset.

They and many other language learners from around the globe draw from multiple resources to mold and produce a great accent.

What if there were a resource out there that helped address all of these needs in one place?

There's nothing better than real conversations.

Olly realized conversation is what makes the world go round and is something that language learners are lacking.

While learning Cantonese, he was frustrated with the lack of resources he could learn from. So he decided to create his own resources that featured real Cantonese conversations.

Rather than have people eternally looking for good conversational material, he decided he wanted to share this idea with the world and created conversations for six other languages as well (Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish). You can check them out here.

All the ideas in this post go hand in hand with Conversations. By combining the new high-quality listening material Olly has created with the tips I've shared here you'll be on the path to having a great accent in no time.

Until then, keep listening!

About the author:

fiel sahirA breaker of every stereotype one can give (except that he loves rice and wears glasses), Indonesian-American Fiel Sahir is the author of Between3worlds.com hailing from New York City.

He passionately teaches empathy through cultural exploration and conversation. A classical guitarist by trade, he is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Classical Guitar performance in Düsseldorf, Germany.

He is also the Director of Int’l Outreach and Partnerships for Polyglot Indonesia. You can contact him directly via fiel [at] between3worlds.com and get a conversation started.

Do you want to improve your accent or listening skills? Which of the tips from this post will you use to help you do it? Let us know in the comments!

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Beth Hobson says:
26 Apr 2014 21:26

For me, a new language means being able to truly learn about all the incredible people around me. To be able to connect, to discover their stories, their hopes and the little things that make them tick. This is what motivates me on the days where it feels like I’m just not getting ahead at all. Because before I leave this incredible country I am in, I want to be able to say that not only did I see the country, but I got to know the people as well.


Olly Richards says:
27 Apr 2014 08:31

Hi Beth, what a great summary. What you wrote here really resonated with me, because I share the same motivations, especially at those times when I’m actually living in the country whose language I’m trying to learn.

I think, here, you touch on something profound. You say: “To be able to connect, to discover their stories, their hopes and the little things that make them tick.” Ultimately, why should we care about the language itself? That is, most of us aren’t learning the language for the language’s sake. Any language exists fundamentally in order to be able to communicate, to understand, to belong to a community, and that’s why having a motivation such as yours – to belong – can be the strongest of all.

If you’ve got that, and you let that be your guiding purpose, I find that those tricks our mind plays on us, saying “why aren’t you making much progress?” just stop becoming so relevant. Take a walk outside, talk to some people, learn something about them, take a genuine interest… you’ll find the words you need to express yourself somehow.

Kevin Johnsrude says:
27 Apr 2014 21:35

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”

Kevin Richardson says:
28 Apr 2014 10:24

When I go scuba diving,I feel so fortunate at getting a short glimpse of another world. My heart yearns to stay down there. Becoming fluent in a language is like being able to breath underwater. I’m listening to the Emiliana Torrini song “Sea People”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIkLS6WRBc4

Olly Richards says:
28 Apr 2014 10:36

I like that one, Kevin! I’ve often thought I have a different personality in other languages. But a soul? Maybe!

Olly Richards says:
28 Apr 2014 10:37

What a great metaphor!

Melanie Murrish says:
29 Apr 2014 09:33

Delicious! I also think it will help me be my authentic self-nobody knows me in that foreign language/country so I don’t have to fake anything! Deep, I know, but that’s how I feel.

Olly Richards says:
29 Apr 2014 15:08

Melanie, I’ve had that feeling before – in a way you have the opportunity to “start over” in a new language. In the early stages especially it can be great because you just discover new words and different psyches to express yourself with. However, I’ve also found that the better I get in a language, the more I start to revert to my true personality! Boring old me… 🙂

Melanie Murrish says:
30 Apr 2014 13:23

Damn! Well, I better enjoy it while it lasts.

Olly Richards says:
30 Apr 2014 15:18

That’s just me, though!! I hope you will prove me wrong! 😉

Meelike Eenpuu-Villup says:
4 May 2014 14:33

I live in Holland and although Dutch people are friendly, it is really difficult to get to know them better if you don´t speak the language. You are basically judged by how well you speak Dutch (not how good person you are). If you don´t speak Dutch not at all then you can be someone they know but that is it. You never can be a really close friend with them. And it is an issue for me. Because I like to socialize and I need lot of close friends around me (because I have moved a lot and all good friends are somewhere else) but I rarely have such friends in Holland. Because my Dutch still sucks and I prefer English to be able express myself.

Mostafa says:
4 May 2014 14:51

Thank you Sir, for the real and practical advice.

Sena says:
4 May 2014 23:19

Okay, first let me tell you this, you are a very inspirational person, when i give up learning i always read language blogs. I especially like to learn phrases in that language. People make jokes in their language and when i start to understand them, it is the most beautiful thing in the world, i can get even the word tricks, also make few of them. And i am from Turkey, even in my country every part speaks in different dialects and learning them is also enjoyable. It is a long enyojable journey and you have fun while you are on the way!

Olly Richards says:
5 May 2014 18:06

Mostafa, you’re very welcome!

Olly Richards says:
5 May 2014 18:08

Hi Meelike. It’s interesting because a lot of people make the same complaint about English people when they move to England 🙂 I’m like you, I think. I need people around me to interact with in order to be motivated to learn. Sometimes that “spark” can come from just one person though, so it’s worth persisting! 🙂

Olly Richards says:
5 May 2014 18:09

Hi Sena and thanks for the compliment! I appreciate your passion for languages!

Andrea Ljutic says:
7 Jul 2014 07:39

Thank you for this one, it’s just what I need it, because after 3 years
of learning I found myself stuck with my turkish and really really
frustrated…but just imagining what it could be like, being fluent
wooow thank you :)))

Olly Richards says:
7 Jul 2014 13:01

Hi Andrea, that’s great to hear you found some inspiration. It all starts there – we just need the energy to carry on!

Linda Hjarnø Petersen says:
29 Aug 2014 11:47

I really want to learn Korean.
I think it’s such a beautiful language and the culture is absolutely amazing. I love everything about South Korea.

me says:
29 Aug 2014 21:46

Very very well! I love learning new languages, it’s such a wonderful thing! Now I can fluent speak chinese and italian, and at school I’m learning french and gernany too. My english is not perfect, I’m improving it, but I haven’t so much time, as school is starting. But I’m very very motivated, and I’m sure in the few future I will start learning another beautiful language, maybe completely different from mine, but I don’t know yet! Love englishh

Olly Richards says:
30 Aug 2014 12:33

There are two South Koreans sitting next to me as I read your comment 🙂

Olly Richards says:
30 Aug 2014 12:33

Good job! 🙂

rory ogorman says:
24 Sep 2014 11:04

I found my passion for learning foreign languages to be my exit route from a severe stammer/stutter which I endured into my late 30s…To have a speech impediment is perhaps the most debilitating and excruciating social handicap one can have, trust me !!…Yet when I was studying Russian at school in London as a boy, I realised that I spoke fluently and without interruption..

Wow!, what a marvellous surprise. I found my true self through the Russian language and loved it !!…Eventually I studied in Russia and obtained a degree in the language – all due to my true passion for this beautiful language. Now I study Arabic and see no end to diving in and enjoying the richness of speech and expression!…Thank you Olly for your inspirational articles. They mean a great deal.

Olly Richards says:
24 Sep 2014 15:29

Hi Rory. What a wonderful story! I love hearing how learning languages can impact on so many areas of our lives, often in the most unexpected ways. It’s also fascinating what you say about finding your true self in Russian – I wonder, did you find that you had a very different personality in Russian (as opposed to your mother tongue)?

Nate says:
24 Sep 2014 22:39

it has already been worth it and i am only halfway there. thanks for the great article!

Ross says:
26 Sep 2014 18:03

For me, language learning is all about growing in empathy and love for people, and I like the quote Kevin gave. I have heard another really good one “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela

Olly Richards says:
6 Oct 2014 12:16

That’s brilliant, Ross. Thanks for sharing!

Olly Richards says:
6 Oct 2014 12:17

Good luck for the second half, Nate! It only gets easier from here!

Afnan Linjawi says:
14 Jan 2015 04:51

The most motivated of men I met in my life always start their stories with, “My girlfriend dumped me, so instead I went on to do this great thing!”. Interesting!
I personally learn languages so I never have anyone think I am not an intelligent person because I suck at maths! That’s my initial motivation!

Lou Gallo says:
11 Feb 2015 11:49

I have definitely felt this moment of listening and talking with people without realizing I did it in another language : ten years ago with English in Australia, and a few years ago with Arabic. And it happens a lot that I pick up a book, in one language or the other, read it and put it down, but not being able to remember afterwards exactly in what language I read it in. This is when I really feel I’ve reached my “fluency” goal. And this is what makes me think it’s doable in all of these other languages I want to learn, and accept all the hard work (even if mst of the time it’s just fun) that comes with it.
It’s like having a superpower but it became so natural that you forgot you had it.

Olly Richards says:
11 Feb 2015 14:06

That’s nice and original, Afnan – I like it! 🙂

Olly Richards says:
11 Feb 2015 14:07

I love that description, Lou… it’s what we’re all aiming for! One of my favourite quotes is: “You don’t learn a language, you get used to it” and what you’ve described is exactly that!

Jo Ruiz says:
25 Feb 2015 17:20

Wow! I reaaly admire your high level of motivation and passion for learning languages and love for adventure. I can imagine how exciting is knowing other languages, places and cultures.
It’s important to keep it up, no matter how hard could be sometimes.
I wish I could have a strong motivation and passion while learning languages but they go on and off.
I admire you, Olly. I hope you never give up to this wonderful passion for languages and adventure.

Olly Richards says:
27 Feb 2015 16:06

Thanks Jo, I’ll keep it up as long as I can! 🙂

AdeNike says:
10 Mar 2015 11:03

It means utmost freedom in communication. No restraint whatsoever.

Olly Richards says:
10 Mar 2015 12:50

That’s great. Same for me.

Emily Oliveira says:
4 May 2015 13:57

“Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

By reading this very convenient article I realized that maybe I’m not alone neither “special”, that even if my motivation also began out of spite like in your story, is was mostly so I could prove to myself that I could overcome this huge mountain that is learning German as an adult. And for a benefit that I had not predicted, I am getting to learn about a completely different culture and being able to really appreciate all the idiosyncrasies of my Brazilian origins.

Adam Fifield says:
16 May 2015 00:19

I couldn’t agree more! You HAVE to have an answer to the “why” of learning a language that is personalized.

And I’d add that the best thing you can do for yourself along the way is to learn to recognize and celebrate moments when you can see your progress – the little points at which the “what would it mean to you…?” have become, in some small way, “What does it mean to you?”

Kelison Araújo says:
23 May 2015 00:55

I doesn’t mean money, good job to me. It’s beyond. I stated now, and I really want to be a polyglot, because it’s something that I love so much. I want it to be part of my life, my history. I know that my english is not so good, but I hope you got it right.

Victor Saavedra says:
26 May 2015 05:49

For me, be fluent in English means that I’ve finally completed a long, very long career studies, one of my biggest pending issues. Furthermore, it also means access to one great part of human culture, something that I would very much like.

Deb Dabb Lander says:
27 May 2015 18:15

To wake up fluent in Spanish will be “the titties”! I’ve been trying for at least 4 years to get fluent enough to have a spontaneous conversation and I just can’t seem to get over the hump. I need to learn to think in Spanish instead of constantly translating, but that light has yet to go on.

Deb Dabb Lander says:
27 May 2015 18:17

This is where I want to be!!

Lau Rel says:
4 Jun 2015 14:34

It means finally feeling like a a whole Canadian instead of just the Anglo Canadian I was before. It means achieving more than I nor anyone else who knew me ever thought that I could attain. It means the possibility to learn another language. It means a strong future as a teacher in my own country.

Dian Williams says:
16 Jun 2015 23:29

In my head I’m already there! I think about what I would be doing at any certain time of day or activity. I imagine the conversations. More and more I have words in Mandarin in those conversations. I started learning myself about 6 months ago, and can understand by reading the best. However I have started talking now and that helps a lot. My plan is to go to live in China for at least a year. My target move is the end of 2015! To stay motivated I read about different communities and websites for shareing language for a room. This gives me ideas about what different people are like and how individuals live. So I get more of life to imagine. Thanks for sharing your experience with me. Dian

Hajar Mekaoui says:
29 Jun 2015 22:37

Learning a new language with motivation and passion,it really make you doing things that you’ll can’t believe it;however,motivation and passion play a large role in Learning a language.If you have both motivation and passion,you’ll get the language that you want quickly.

Jan says:
3 Sep 2015 14:21

I would feel that I had achieved a skill that would widen my horizons and open the gate to other languages. After all I did it once so I could do it again – right?

Br. Paul M. Nguyen, OMV says:
10 Sep 2015 01:49

You’re so right about identifying that passion that will motivate language-learning. For me, it broadens my horizons to embrace other people by first coming into contact with other cultures through language. My comprehension of another person’s language allows me to express myself, but more importantly, to make the other person comfortable to share the deep meanings and desires of the heart, knowing that what is shared will be received and honored. In a word, communion!

Wagner Rodrigues says:
10 Sep 2015 15:40

Eu me sinto muito animado e feliz em aprender inglês, sei que é difícil mas eu vou conseguir. Thanks Olly.

Nina says:
16 Oct 2015 21:16

It means speaking with my distant cousins, connecting with them on a deeper level, then discovering a little bit of France, and ultimately, making it a part of what I do for living.

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:48

That’s such a strong, powerful motivator!

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:49

Legal… eu tambem sei que voce vai ter muito sucesso!

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:50

I love this… broadening our own horizons… connecting with people… it’s what it’s all about! 🙂

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:50

Absolutely! The first foreign language is always the hardest! 🙂

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:51

Hi Dian… what a great goal! Let us know when you finally make it to China!

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:51

Hi Lau, I love what you say about achieving more than other people thought you could. That motivates me too!

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:52

That, and lots of practice! Are you having regular conversations with native speakers, Deb?

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:52

You’ll get there soon, Victor…. your English is already very good!

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:52

I love your motivation, Kelison… good luck!

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:53

Yes… I love this! Personally, I’m increasingly trying to get smaller, achievable goals for myself, specifically so I can revel in those moments of actually achieving them!

Olly Richards says:
5 Nov 2015 12:54

That’s wonderful. Isn’t it great how we constantly discover new things about ourselves when we’re learning a new language?

Deb Dabb Lander says:
5 Nov 2015 14:44

Sí. Estoy en México ahora y estamos asistir clases de español. I’m still struggling with all of the information I’m receiving and how to make it make sense.

Álex Luna Cortés says:
19 Nov 2015 16:00

My native language is Spanish and I’ve been learning English for one year and I understood your post :D, I’m motivated for learn English but I don’t have passion for another language, first, I want to master English later… portuguese (maybe), anyway English is awesome and maybe I’ll start another language soon, but I’m not sure which language.

To sum up I’d like to ask you what was your third language and what was your motivation for learn it?

Take care

Cirkeline says:
26 Nov 2015 20:06

I like that idea:

I close my eyes and I see myself waking up in the morning, speaking fluent Arabic.
I walk out in the streets and I stop at a street vendor to buy a snack

and a drink without needing any hand movements or pointing, I just casually, as anyone else in the line, order what I want, exchange a few pleasantries with the seller before I pay and continue on my walk…
I will greet the people passing in the street without being nervous that they will start a conversation, I will be glad if they do 🙂
I will end this happy day by meeting with my friends at the local cafeteria and
discuss politics and the world around us without being dependent on them to
stop in the heat of the discussion to translate for me… Yes, it is a great idea
to dream like this, now it is straight back to my language books 🙂 Thank you.

Kimberly Baker says:
7 Dec 2015 15:19

It means I could actually have a conversation with my daughter in laws parents. It also means I could do a better job teaching English to my Chinese students, because I would have the ability to help them understand what I’m teaching in both languages.

Olly Richards says:
8 Dec 2015 09:13

That’s fantastic! There’s no stronger motivator that to connect with the people around us… especially when they’re family! Best of luck!

Olly Richards says:
8 Dec 2015 09:14

What a wonderful account of your ideal state! 🙂 I like the fact you focus on simple daily things… ordering food, chatting with your friends etc. This should give you a clear idea where to focus your studying!

Olly Richards says:
8 Dec 2015 09:15

Hi Alex, my third language was Italian. My motivation to learn it was the people I met in the cafe in London. I made friends with them and really wanted to visit them in Italy!

Olly Richards says:
8 Dec 2015 09:15

Agreed! 🙂

Olly Richards says:
8 Dec 2015 09:16

In your classes, do you “learn/study”, or do you spend lots of time speaking? What I’m getting at is that it’s important to balance out your study time with time spent actually speaking (chatting) with real people. Conversation partners can be great for that!

Kayjulia says:
9 Jan 2016 01:56

I have decided to live the rest of my life in Mexico it is a commitment. I have to understand the culture and mores of the country and that starts with the language. I have studied, briefly at two schools to improve my spanish and now I’m going to another for a longer period of time to hopefully get to the next level where I can communicate in a natural manner and understand my neighbors better. I am excited to begin class!

Annie says:
24 Jan 2016 15:44

Ahh, becoming fluent in a foreign language means so much to me. I feel sort of trapped by my monolingualism, as if a great part of the world (the non-English speaking part) has been closed off to me. So in that sense, it would mean a greater sense of freedom. It would also mean a greater sense of faith in myself and my ability to succeed when I put my mind to something. I’ve spent a large portion of my (albeit short) life feeling as if I’ll never be able to do things just because I can’t do them now, so by learning a foreign language, in fact, by the progress I’ve made so far, I am proving to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. This mindset is actually paying off in other areas of my life too, and I have language learning to thank for inspiring me.

Olly Richards says:
25 Jan 2016 09:09

Self-confidence, faith, freedom… it’s no wonder there are so many benefits to learning languages, and why so many people love doing it! I love your passion, and I have no doubt you will achieve everything you set out to!

Olly Richards says:
25 Jan 2016 09:10

That’s so cool… best of luck, and remember to enjoy every minute!

Olly Richards says:
6 Aug 2016 15:14

Good on you!

Danny Logan says:
15 Aug 2016 18:11

I’m very near-sighted – 20/400. Without glasses I couldn’t recognize my best friend from across the room. I have to have my glasses to see the world around me.
And that’s what languages are to me. They help me to see more, to see farther, and see the world more clearly.

Olly Richards says:
16 Aug 2016 01:55

Thanks for sharing Danny.

Sally A Logan says:
20 Aug 2016 18:01

Our son lives in Germany with his girlfriend and their two boys, 7 years and 18 months. The 7 year old has been bilingual since he started to talk and the baby will be the same.
Although they would prefer us to talk to the boys in English, it is so frustrating when we are with the future in-laws and cannot join in the conversations.
I would so love to be fluent by the time they get married next April, and become a true participant in the proceedings.

Maya Bačić Njegovan says:
21 Aug 2016 00:02

Its quite a hard question, as I dont know the answer. I guess for me, being one of the young generations, Ive grown up in a fractured world, countries separated, bordered off, wars and ongoing feuds with each other, when once we were all one. However it was even worse a little longer ago, so once I learnt how bad it was previously, I was surprised how it has improved so much, and made me feel very grateful. At a very young age it inspired me to want to connect people again, and rid the unnecessary hate towards each other. In addition to our ever growing technology, it made me think “Well if they did it before, surely we can keep it up” . Raised bilingually in the beautiful multicultural Sydney, learning 3 languages in high school and 3 self teaching at home, I find calm and happiness in being able to hear new worlds, important pieces of culture, roll off my tongue so easily, as a reward from my hard work. Its really hard to explain, but Im sure you understand. Peace, love and happy learning everyone! – Maya

Olly Richards says:
21 Aug 2016 07:15

Thanks so much for sharing. Hopefully, just being aware of this question and reflecting on it will be useful for us all!

Olly Richards says:
21 Aug 2016 07:17

Thanks for the comment, Sally! Family reasons are always the most pressing and emotive. You can certainly be conversant in German within 9 months! However, it’s a long-term thing, and I always encourage people to enjoy the ride, as there are always ups and downs along the road of becoming truly fluent. Best of luck!

Ravo Randria says:
22 Aug 2016 15:13

When I was at school, I had this very romantic idea of the British culture, so regardless of the not so innovative teaching methods at school, with sufficient motivation (but I didn’t know it at the time), I became fluent in English.
It was not the case with German, my second language as I didn’t really have any real connection with the country, parat from singing Lider, which I love.
The next language was Spanish but not for Spain but for South America, first because I wanted to visit Peru, but ultimately I ended with Argentina because of tango which I sing and love singing. So I speak Spanish with the accent of el Rio de la Plata. I went to Buenos Aires several times to play tango and met wonderful musicians there that became friends.
Sadly, Spanish put a damp on the Italian language which was my first other latin language. Now I can understand an Italian speaking but for speaking myself, it’s

more like a strange “spanish italian”.
And now I’m on my way to learn Japanese. I love the culture and I know that I truly learn about a country by reading. Here the challenge is great but as I delve more and more in Japanese traditional culture and I discover its literature, I want so much more to be able to understand without problem all those kanjis and their combination.
And I have this feeling that the next step will be Chinese because with the Japanese culture, I found out all that the chinese culture brought to its neighbours.
Olly, I really like the part about your discovery of other countries through your colleagues/friends that worked in the same café. That’s the true richness of life for me : being able to meet so many different people now and be able to relate, exchange ideas and find true friends through another language.

Olly Richards says:
23 Aug 2016 21:50

Really great to hear all your linguistic adventures! Best of luck with Japanese – I’m sure you’ll adore the language!

Vita says:
29 Sep 2016 07:16

For me it’s freedom in many meaning! More people for communication, more information from the world, more abilities life like new country and new job.And abilities to teach my child something more, something useful like new language.

Olly Richards says:
29 Sep 2016 11:56

That’s a beautiful gift to give to a child, for sure! Lovely reply, Vita, thanks!

Jane C says:
20 Oct 2016 02:58

I love reading through these comments, so many things said resonate with me.

I feel as though whenever I make progress in Spanish, I understand a different culture a little bit more, which gives me incredible joy.

Learning a second language in itself requires risks, so I believe I am more likely to take risks in Spanish rather than English.

In addition, as described by so many others here, the state of being able to connect to a culture I wouldn’t otherwise be able to is an aspiration I can’t wait to achieve. I will never forget my first evangelical service in the Dominican Republic, how joyful and full of life the people were. I wanted so badly to understand and be able to sing every word of the songs, understand the sermon, understand the amazing people around me with whom I would soon become close friends. I’m returning this July, and that is one of my biggest daily motivations.

Daniela says:
21 Oct 2016 20:47

Being able to speak a foreign language is a joy that I cannot compare with anything else in this world. I hope I am not exaggerating when I say that, and surely there are dozens of incredibly satisfying things in life (but I do not have children yet, so I hope I’m somehow excused). It gives me the feeling I’m using this amazing tool we have been given, our brain, in the right way. I feel I am celebrating the immense gift of human intelligence. Expanding (not only metaphorically speaking) the horizons of our knowledge is a unique opportunity we can’t afford to miss.

Olly Richards says:
22 Oct 2016 11:46

Really glad you said that, Daniela, I agree with you 100%… although children are pretty cool too 🙂

Olly Richards says:
22 Oct 2016 11:48

I find that when you don’t quite understand what’s being said yet, you focus more on the humanity of a given situation. Almost like a child sees the world – pure joy. When you understand everything, you begin to find the inevitable impurities!

Jackie Smith says:
27 Oct 2016 10:53

To become part of the community in which I live. To laugh with them and understand what makes them tick.

Sylvia May says:
9 Nov 2016 17:29

I grew up with a love of languages that I must have inherited, because my grandma learned Polish from some refugees who lodged with her after the war. They encouraged her to try italian, because, as a musician, she already had some of those words. But quite honestly I just wasn’t very good at them at school. I studied French post-A level, but then life took over. it was 34 years before I came back to French. As a ‘retired’ person, I now teach French and Italian (which I have to an intermediate level), and I am studying Spanish. I don’t know how to describe what language means to me, but I guess I’m just a mad linguist who absolutely loves learning and speaking other languages and love to pass on my own excitement and enthusiam to learners. To know other languages is to feel other cultures in a way you can’t otherwise do.

Gavrilo says:
21 Nov 2016 14:18

Honestly, as motivating as this was (and it truly was!) what it makes me wanna do the most is find a job at a café 😀
I think interaction with people is what helps the most, it’s both the biggest reason for and the easiest way to learn a language. Sadly we don’t get a whole lot of tourists where I’m from, but the Internet is a huge help. Thanks for your story, genuinely moving, in more ways than one.

Zuzka Blúzka says:
23 Nov 2016 20:04

Olly, similar to my story. When I lived in England,there was a man and I was into him…But one day he said: “You know it wouldn’t work out…..your English…. of course it wasn’t just that, BUT…..I decided to take classes, passed Cambridge exams,taught children in Mexico and now,back home in Slovakia I’m a professional English teacher and I LOVE my job!
I’m currently learning Spanish and it feels so good……
But now my motivation is to meet you guys at Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava next year!

Olly Richards says:
24 Nov 2016 15:28

That would be so cool! You could also come to Iceland (Polyglot Conference) or Montreal (Language Festival)… lots of options! 🙂

Olly Richards says:
24 Nov 2016 15:28

Thanks Gavrilo, I appreciate your comment!

Olly Richards says:
24 Nov 2016 15:29

Wonderful! That sums it up for me too!

Mary says:
7 Dec 2016 22:27

Very many years ago I lived with a family near Paris where no one spoke English. I had only school French so this was a shock! But before long I began not just to speak but to think in French, not translating (which I am doing in Spanish) and although I’ve lost touch with these people I have not lost my understanding and appreciation of the French language.
I do feel frustrated by my current poor progress in Spanish and your 3 secrets did make so much sense and I’m trying to build these in. I know that I just do not have the ‘feel’ for Spanish that I once had for French but not giving up!

Riina Udras says:
19 Dec 2016 07:21

I love stories. In books, in movies, in music, in art, in people. Learning a language is like opening a new book. As you learn, the story begins to unfold. You discover people, dreams, history, landscapes, food, traditions, beautiful, ugly… Like a blossom opening. Sometimes it gets hard, like reading The Game Of Thrones, where you must take notes to remember who everybody are and why they hate each other. But the story is still enthralling!

Lyfen Chen says:
15 Jan 2017 06:02

I speak several languages, but my best wish is to speak French very well, that’s why I met you online “i will teach you a language” as I search it online for improve my French. but today, I have changed my idea, because I want to learn Japanese. so I think, you are right, for learning a language, we need patient courage and perseverance.

Olly Richards says:
15 Jan 2017 15:13

Indeed! Have you decided to stick with Japanese now?

Lyfen Chen says:
16 Jan 2017 03:33

No, at the moment, I don’t quite motivate, maybe later, as I am busy and i always travel, i just came back from US, next month i am going to another city as well. so that’s a problem for me. do you speak also Japanese?

Lyfen Chen says:
16 Jan 2017 03:44

Today in France, especially in Paris, there are a lot of people who speak English, as in many store, super market, mall etc…further more, its second language is English, so almost the young people do it.

Luke Truman says:
18 Jan 2017 09:39

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Lyfen Chen says:
19 Jan 2017 07:43

I don’t think it’s an easy thing to learn a language, so for me, I have to have time first then, to organize it for having a good studying.

Olly Richards says:
21 Jan 2017 03:37

Indeed! Story is so powerful, captures your imagination, and leads you to study further!

Olly Richards says:
21 Jan 2017 03:38

Haha I love that!

Lyfen Chen says:
21 Jan 2017 09:57

Yes, you are right! but there are other ways for learning a language, not only at a coffee shop, as being a guide or a leader etc.

jkay15 says:
23 Jan 2017 02:26

I have always been a curious soul and I got serious about learning another language when I decided to go back to school. I’m majoring in European History and I kept thinking things like “well, it’d be cool if I knew how to speak Greek/Latin/German” so I could read primary resources. That’s when it hit me “why haven’t I learned?” So, languages to me feels like the key to open doors. Both past and present.

Patrick Maschka says:
23 Jan 2017 03:10

My story is not very interesting, let alone poetic or romantic. I have always felt that people who spoke a language other than mine (English) had some kind of secret code. I felt left out. I learned my first Spanish in 3rd grade, and I still remember most of that (ah, to be a child again), but nothing beyond basic vocabulary. Fast forward to my adannced adult age, and it has remained a life goal to learn another language. I have many opportunities in my work to encounter Spanish-speaking people, so I committed in 2016 to dedicate time every day to learn the language until I was fluent. That was 8 months ago and I am still studying every day, which I will continue until Spanish rolls off my tongue with ease.

Екатерина says:
30 Jan 2017 19:46

I love my native Russian language . It’s beautiful! I also want to be fluent in English. But I don’t imagine what will be able to know several languages. I really like Italian.

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