5 tips to learn a new language without living abroad

Marc Lou
Marc Lou May 11st, 2022

Among the 1.2 billion people learning a foreign language, only 5.5% (66 million) reside overseas.

Practice makes perfect, certainly.

But if you can't speak to local people, how do you learn effectively while having fun?

Here are 5 tips I used to learn to speak Korean in 3 months while living in France.

I love you written in foreign languages

1. Find a (very) good reason

Have you noticed how fast kids learn new skills?

Last week, I met a 7 years old boy who spoke 4 languages.

A kid learns Spanish in no time because she has to speak to her friend.

Only a few learn new languages for the sake of it. For most of us, it's a bridge.

Find out why you want to speak a foreign language because it's the root of your motivation.

• I want to master English to find a job in a remote company
• I want to learn Korean to speak to my K-pop idol

2. Get immersed

Quote from Edgar Dale about what we remember

You won't master a new language with books. You need to experience it.

Make local friends

Platforms like iTalki connect learners and teachers so it's easy and relatively cheap to get a 101 class.

It's also less formal than a traditional class so you get to speak with a native as if you were living abroad.

If money is an issue, try free apps to chat with locals like Unbordered Foreign Friend Chat

Psst... If you're learning Korean, check out my wife's classes. She'll make you feel comfortable from day 1.

Live like a local, online

Change the language of your phone and laptop to the one you're learning.

You'll pick up new words in no time because you're forced to.

If you want to spice it up, start googling in the new language.

Think like a local

Talk to yourself in a foreign language. You can do it while commuting, taking a shower, or going to bed.

Eventually, you'll end up dreaming in that language.

3. Learn only what's necessary

Your vocabulary should be over 8,000 words if you want to speak a language as well as a native speaker.

But you only need 800 words to hold a basic conversation.

Every language on Anki, a popular flashcard app to learn vocabulary, has a deck of the most spoken words.

The same goes for grammar. You don't need need to know all tenses and exceptions just yet.

Focus on reaching the basic conversation threshold and your skills will grow naturally.

4. Build a daily learning habit

A person tracking habits in a journal

"Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformation" said James Clear in the Atomic Habits book (#1 New York Times bestseller)

If you want to learn fast, you have to show up every day. Your brain remembers more easily what you learned yesterday than last week.

It doesn't mean you should study 4 hours per day. Instead, start small, let's say 2 new words per day.

After a few weeks of consistency, your brain will be wired to perform your daily learning routine automatically.

If you have trouble with procrastination, check out Habits Garden. It's a gamified habit tracker to help you crush your goals.

5. Be fearless

Give me a skateboard, I'll break my wrist. Give a skateboard to a kid, he'll do a trick in no time.

The difference? I'm afraid to fall down.

Don't let your fear hold you back. It's OK to make mistakes, it's OK not to learn as fast as your friend.

Build fake confidence. It will make you a better speaker and you will earn genuine confidence.

Final thoughts

Learning a foreign language is much easier than most would expect.

Once you know why you're doing it, all you need is confidence and commitment.

It's not high school anymore. Nobody cares if you make mistakes.

So, what language are you learning? Ping me on Twitter.

PS: If you want to start tracking your learning habit, use my gamified habit tracker for free!

Discover other posts to fight procrastination, form good habits, break bad ones and live a better life.

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book."