how to learn a language

Hey, how’s it going?

My name’s Olly Richards. I’m the founder of I Will Teach You A Language and I speak 8 languages.

If you’ve ever asked yourself:

  • What’s the best way to become fluent in a foreign language?
  • How come some people  learn languages so easily but I can’t?
  • How can I learn when I’m so busy?
  • How can I work language learning around my family life?
  • How can I learn to understand native speakers?
  • Which books or courses are good?

Or if you just have a passion for learning a foreign language but don’t know how…

…you’ve found the right place! Sign up to my mailing list and I’ll send you all my best stuff by email, starting with my free memory improvement course, so you can more easily memorise vocabulary in the language you’re learning:

benny-lewis-circle“Olly’s advice on language learning is the real deal, and I recommend you pay attention to what he has to say!”

Benny Lewis, Fluent in 3 Months

How I Will Help You

Did those questions above resonate with you?

That’s because I know what you’re struggling with, and what’s holding you back. After working with thousands of language learners, I’ve come to see first-hand what stops people becoming fluent in a foreign language, and what can be done to fix it.

Everything on this website is aimed at one thing: showing you how to study effectively and make the best use of your time.

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Putting my Portuguese into action with friends in Brazil

One of the keys to learning a language quickly is developing the right mindset.

And as you start to dive into the articles on this website you will find that I talk about mindset a lot. The reason is that the difference between making no progress, and making progress so fast you won’t believe, often comes down to making a few small changes in your approach to language learning.

The difficulty is, unless you’ve learnt many languages before, how do you know what changes to make, and what to focus on?

That’s where I come in.

In order to learn a language quickly and efficiently, knowing what to focus on, how to study, and how to make the best use of your limited time is really what it’s all about.

I’ll show you the techniques I’ve used to learn eight languages, and how you can do it too. Enter your details below, and we can get started:

Olly presenting at a language teaching conference

Olly presenting at an international conference on language teaching in the UK

I started learning languages when I was 19 years old and working in a cafe  in London.

I really wanted to learn French and Italian so I could start to chat with all the cool people I was working with. But I really had no idea how to do it 🙂

My desire to learn kept me going, and over the next few years, I started experimenting with more and more languages. I never spent all that much time studying languages (I’m a musician, so I preferred to be playing music 🙂 ), but I did figure out ways to start speaking a foreign language quickly, in a way that doesn’t require much studying in the traditional sense.

I spent time in France, Brazil and Argentina, and later on, in Japan, learning the languages as I went.

One of the curious side effects of travelling a lot was realising that you don’t need to travel to learn a foreign language. In fact, when I learn new languages these days, I do most of the hard work at home. I learnt Spanish, Portuguese and Cantonese, for example, without setting a foot in the respective countries.

With experience, it gets so much easier. And that’s why I’m so excited to have you here and to have the opportunity to put my experience to work and help you learn another language – without the stress!

If that sounds like a plan, then why not get started with my free memory course. I’ll teach you the techniques I use to quickly grow my vocabulary in any language…

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  • Speak English Today

    Hi Olly, I am an English teacher and developing an online brand to teach English. This article should not only be mandatory for every language learner, but also for every teacher@

    Language centers think I’m strange because I think like you. Ever hear that?

    It’s quite common to read about immersion and “the best way”, but not easy for students, me included, now learning Vietnamese (difficult), to really ask ourselves the questions your asking.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your ;stuff;

    Good Luck and Thanks

    • Hey, thanks for your comment. Yes… I hear it all the time! 🙂 Languages ultimately can’t be taught, they can only be learnt. So, for me, the only purpose of teaching should be to encourage self-awareness and a commitment to better independent learning. Glad you liked the post, and look forward to hearing from you again!

  • Lizzy

    I’ve just browsed your site and signed on because you have nailed it in naming every language problem I’ve ever had. I have been living abroad for more than 20 years and only in the last few – after an endless series of failing absolute beginner courses – abandoned all hope of ever connecting with anyone. It’s been a perpetual Catch-22. I’ll never learn the language if I don’t practice and I can’t practice because I never learn/remember enough to put it to use. Of course over the years it’s all snowballed into a full-blown phobia with mental blocks and avoidance.
    However, I see a glimmer of hope in some techniques you propose (I like the 3 second approach). It’s time to give it all another shot.

    • Hi Lizzy, thanks for stopping by and for your comment! You’re exactly right in the Catch-22 analogy – there comes a point when a “feel the fear and do it anyway” approach is the only way forward! I’m here to help you every step of the way, so just let me know whenever you get stuck!

  • AnEnglishmanInNorway

    I just found the Italian Short Stories For Beginners audio, and bought it (from Audible). I agree with you 100% about learning through extensive reading, which is something I did when I moved from UK to Norway 35 years ago, and also when I spent 15 months in Italy. I started with children’s books, and worked up until I could read light literature for adults (crime, action, etc). Then the words just flowed past and my passive vocabulary became quite significant. I am now trying to revive my Italian, which is good enough to read authors like Ken Follett, but I don’t speak it actively. I use DuoLingo, 10 minutes a day, so I get some listening and speaking, but what I really need is extensive listening, for example as I walk to work. So … Short Stories is great, but definitely simpler than what I *could* understand if it was spoken as clearly as your audio. Do you know of a good source of Italian audio books? I can’t seem to find anything sensible anywhere?

    • Hi. Finding good material is the hardest thing of all! I’m afraid I don’t have any good book recommendations for you, but when I’m ready to listen to more extensive things I usually go for SBS Radio – they have tonnes of great, accessible material: http://www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/yourlanguage/italian/

  • charles bolzan

    hey olly você têm algum conselho para que está aprendendo dois idiomas ao mesmo tempo no meu caso espanhol e inglês , você já fez isso?

  • Cfl

    Hi Olly,

    Do you know of any good one-on-one teachers in Phuket? I’m going there for a couple of weeks in March with my Thai GF and would like to put some serious effort into learning Thai.

    I have enjoyed reading the material on your site. I learned to speak, read and write Portuguese fluently as an adult, something of which I am enormously proud. I had a Lebanese partner for several years and tried to learn Arabic but found it very daunting since it is so far from English or the Romance languages (notwithstanding the Arabic influence on Portuguese). I did find I could understand quite a bit after a few years and could follow the gist of a conversation. I’m hoping I can make some headway with Thai. I am finding the tonal aspect of it very hard, and I’m wondering if this is because my ears are so attuned to European languages.


    • Hi John. It’s certainly true that “distance” from English has an enormous impact on the learning curve. I’ve found it’s largely a question of time, whereby your brain just learns to process information in a different way. Portuguese is very close to English, and transfers quite well. (I had a similar experience to you learning it.)

      As it happens, I have a Thai lesson in about 30 minutes, so I’ll ask my teacher and let you know what she says! Failing that, please join my Facebook group, as you might pick up some tips from Thai speakers there : http://facebook.com/groups/fluencymastermind

      • I just spoke to my teacher, and unfortunately she doesn’t know anyone in Phuket – sorry! Try the Facebook group.

  • Mary Jane Flores

    Hi Olly! Hope I could meet you someday, I’ll teach you Filipino but in return you’ll teach me the 7 languages you know. lol. TBH, you’re amazing! 😉

  • micksmi

    Hi Olly, Your posts are very motivational, and thats exactly what I need for studying foreign languages. Im a computer programmer so picking up computer languages is infinitely easier for me than pick up human languages. Its always a battle to find good resources and I found a great source of subtitle information in 62 languages so I created a language quiz website http://sublearning.com There is about 1500 combinations of languages to quiz in. Hope this can help others. Mick