Expert tips on how to become fluent

9 Language Experts Share Their Secrets on How to Become Fluent

Expert tips about how to become fluent

Whether you’re studying Spanish, Korean, or Arabic, every language learner dreams of the day when they can easily have fluid conversations in their target language.

But sometimes, achieving this goal can seem so far off in the distance that it becomes discouraging. Need some inspiration? Check out these 9 language experts, from polyglots to presidential translators, and their best advice on how to become fluent.

9 Expert Tips on How to Become Fluent

“Learn Chunks of a Language” – Seonaid Beckwith

Seonaid Beckwith on how to become fluent“I think it’s really helpful to memorize short phrases or chunks of language rather than single words. This lets you sound much more natural when you speak or write, because you don’t make strange combinations of words so much, and you automatically know which preposition or article to use.

It’s also more relaxing because you don’t need to think about every word when you’re speaking – instead you can concentrate on connecting two or three phrases.”

About the Expert

Seonaid Beckwith is an author, English teacher, and the Founder of Perfect English Grammar. She has a Master’s in English and Linguistics from Cambridge University and is very passionate about learning new languages.

“Don’t be Afraid of Failing” – David Recine

David Recine on how to become fluent“My best advice on how to become fluent in a language is to use the language. And by this, I mean use your second language freely, naturally, and without fear of failure. Don’t wait until you think you’re fluent enough to use the language well.

You can’t actually become fluent unless you start using your second language from the beginning of your studies. Anytime you learn new words and phrases, go out and use the new language in conversation, text messages, and so on.

Don’t worry if you aren’t understood, or if you don’t understand what people say in reply; the first step toward real communication is to try to use what you’ve learned and see what happens.”

About the Expert

David Recine has worked as a language teacher since 2007. He has a Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and works as the TOEFL and IELTS expert for Magoosh. He’s also currently studying Korean!

“Follow 6 Important Steps” – Iñaki Hernández-Lasa

Iñaki Hernández-Lasa on how to become fluentLearning a language takes effort and commitment. It is a slow process whereby simple language structures and vocabulary gradually expand. There are a number of important elements to bear in mind when deciding to embark into learning a new language:

1. Immerse yourself – Make sure that you jump into very basic structures and vocabulary from the very outset. Social interaction, progress, and sharing experiences with other people and native speakers of the language is critical.

2. Set small goals – You will not be able to master the subjunctive after a week. Start slowly, with gradual steps, and set clear objectives in mind: short term, medium term, long term.

3. Get friends and family behind you – It is very important that you receive support and acknowledgment for your continued efforts.

4. Try not to use your mother tongue during classes – Once you progress into a more advanced level, rather than using your mother tongue, use descriptions to define terms if you don’t know them in the language you are learning.

5. Read and listen – Nowadays the possibilities are endless compared to many years ago – the Internet, online films, programs, eBooks, documentaries. Start with something that you like. If you are into nature, watch nature documentaries in that language.

6. Visit the country – I firmly believe that for someone to be fully bilingual, they also need to be fully bi-cultural. It is very important not only to speak the language, but also to follow the rules and customs of the country.”

About the Expert

Iñaki Hernández-Lasa has 24 years of experience in the localization industry and currently works at Sajan. He has a Master’s in Translation Studies and previously worked as the Official Translator of Speeches for former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

“Practice Using the Language” – Judith Meyer

Judith Meyer on how to become fluent“Attitude often makes all the difference. Many people study a language and wait for the day when they will finally have to use the language. That is wrong. The idea of using the language you’re studying should make you giddy with excitement, to the point that you go out of your way to create occasions to use the language.

For example, if you live near two supermarkets and one of them has a Mexican cashier, it should be the obvious choice to go to that supermarket, so that you might speak a few sentences of Spanish. The cashier probably also speaks English, but who cares, you’re on a mission – use every minute you can wring out of the day.”  

About the Expert

Judith Meyer is a computational linguist who speaks 13 languages. She’s the founder of LearnYu, the author of numerous language books, and is currently on the team over at Amikumu – an app that helps you find language partners near you.

“Immerse Yourself” – Sean Hopwood

Sean Hopwood on how to become fluent“I believe that the best way to learn a language is to totally immerse yourself in it and one way of doing that is by listening to their local music. If you want to learn Spanish, start listening to Flamenco, Salsa, or other Spanish music.

If you want to learn Mandarin, start listening to Chinese music. Music puts you and your brain into a state of passion and receptivity. Therefore, listening to the music while translating the lyrics will help you learn faster.”

About the Expert

Sean Hopwood is the President of Day Translations. He is a polyglot, speaking four languages, and he founded Day Translations out of his immense passion for languages and cultures. Sean is currently working on learning three more languages!

SEE ALSO: 5 Common Mistakes New Language Learners Make

“Stay Committed Daily” – Kristoffer Broholm

Kristoffer Broholm on how to become fluent“Learning a language is a wonderful experience and a great way to experience the world, make new friends, and discover other cultures. However, it’s also a long and strenuous process of studying and learning that many people find very difficult.

In order to successfully learn a language, you have to commit to hundreds and maybe thousands of hours of studying to get where you want to be. You can’t give up after a few weeks because the initial buzz has worn off. Keep going, do something every day, and I’m sure you’ll find yourself progressing much faster than you’d imagine.

Once you’ve got a solid daily routine (15-60 minutes) then I’d suggest looking into tactics and strategies to take your learning to the next level. But make sure the routine is there first, as nothing happens without a solid habit. Enjoy the journey – it’s a great one!”

About the Expert

Kristoffer Broholm is the Founder of Actual Fluency. He’s interviewed over 100 successful language learners on the Actual Fluency Podcast and he speaks six languages to various degrees.

“Understand That it’s a Process” – Laura Lawless

Laura Lawless on how to become fluent“It’s important to understand that fluency is a gradual process. You won’t wake up one day and suddenly be fluent – you’ll get closer in fits and starts, and eventually you’ll realize you’re fluent without knowing exactly when it happened.

So my best advice is to not worry about fluency: just study and practice every day, in a variety of ways – verb drills, reading novels, watching movies, and talking to people. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel with the language, and that will eventually turn into fluency.

But don’t wait until then to visit a country where the language is spoken – there’s nothing more motivating than using however much or little you know right now in real-life situations.”

About the Expert

Laura K. Lawless is the Founder of Lawless French and has been a language teacher for 18 years. She’s an expert in French linguistics and has authored several books, including Intermediate French for Dummies.

“Interact with Native Speakers” – John Elkhoury

John Elkhoury on how to become fluent“I believe the best way to become fluent in a language is to interact with natives when you’re abroad, and to form lasting friendships. I know it might be daunting to speak with others, but there’s no substitute to a good conversation in a foreign language.

I also see a lot of benefit for those who listen to music, watch films, and read the news in their foreign language. All of these things have colloquial speech and they’re a low-pressure way to improve your skills. I still listen to a ton of French music to help myself!

Over time your skills improve and your confidence grows. It’s a long process, but once the journey is complete, it’s very rewarding.”

About the Expert

John Elkhoury founded FrenchCrazy out of his fascination of the French language and culture. He majored in French at Penn State, worked as a teacher in France, and enjoys traveling to the country annually.  

“Enjoy the Journey” – Conor Clyne

Conor Clyne on how to become fluent“Learning a language is a long-term undertaking with many obstacles along the way. Maintaining motivation and being consistent is key but more importantly, enjoy the journey, savor overcoming its trials and tribulations, and reaching your goal will be all the more rewarding when it ultimately comes.”

About the Expert

Conor Clyne speaks over 10 languages including French, Italian, German, Russian, Portuguese and Spanish. He has a YouTube channel and website, Language Tsar, where he shares methods to help people learn languages for travel.

Put these nine tips into action and you’ll be on your way to fluency faster than you thought possible. Above all, remember to make learning your target language fun – as it should be!

Try joining an interactive group class for a fun, online learning experience. Watch movies and listen to music, all in your target language. Becoming fluent is a process – but it is worth it!

How long does it take to learn a language

How Long Does it Take to Learn a Language? Find Out Here.

How long does it take to learn a language

These days, almost everyone has an excellent reason to learn a language. International business, cross-cultural friendships, and multi-country travel have made language proficiency a common goal.

Many people on the path to fluency find themselves asking, “How long does it take to learn a language?” In this blog post, we’ll share some interesting statistics, but also a few reasons why there might not be a clear-cut answer.

How Long Does it Take to Learn a Language?

What the Experts Say

First, let’s take a look at the statistics. The U.S. Foreign Service Institute conducted a study to determine the answer. The result: the key factor in determining how long it will take you to learn is how different your target language is from your native language.

For languages like French, Spanish, and Italian, which are among the most similar to English, it will take between 575-600 hours to achieve a level of “General professional proficiency.” On the other end of the spectrum, languages like Arabic and Japanese will take around 2,200 hours.

While these numbers might seem intimidating, they are actually completely within reach with the right tools, plan, and some determination!

Factors that Affect Language Learning

While the statistics above are helpful references, the fact is that the speed of your language acquisition is affected by a number of factors. Language learning is highly personal based on your previous knowledge, your learning style, your preferences (group classes, individual lessons, online, or in-person), and more.

Here are some of the main factors that will affect how long it takes you to learn a language.

Your Learning Style

Some students learn quicker than others, either because they’re on a timeline or, they might just be better at striking up conversations with native speakers. Other students prefer to study at a slower pace, attending weekly classes and completing homework in between. And of course, every student’s level of motivation and determination is different.

Your Experience With Languages

Are you already bilingual? If so, you’re probably already familiar with how to study a new language, and it will come more naturally to you. Bonus points if you’re learning a language that’s in the same “family” or category of languages.

For example, if you already know Spanish, then French and Italian will be easier for you. If you already know Hebrew, then Arabic will be much more familiar.

Method of Learning

For as many reasons as there are to learn a language, there are easily as many ways to learn a language. Language learning methods are exponentially growing, and that’s a good thing!

The method you choose can greatly affect your pace of learning. If you choose an in-person, intensive course, you’ll make rapid progress. On the other hand, less frequent group classes or simply using a language learning app will likely take longer to yield the same result.

SEE ALSO: How to Make Learning a Language Easier and Faster

Amount of Time Spent

Language learning takes practice. The more time you’re able to dedicate to it, the quicker you’ll learn. Keep in mind that language learning doesn’t only occur in the classroom. You’ll also need time for practice exercises or homework, listening to audio recordings or music, watching videos, and interacting with speakers of the language through immersion or travel.

The Language You’re Learning

As noted above, the language you’re learning can be the difference between 24 weeks and 88 weeks of language instruction to reach the same level of proficiency. While it’s not the only thing you should take into consideration, it’s an important fact to consider when choosing a language to learn.

Now, Here’s the Fastest Way to Learn a Language…

Now that you know approximately how long it will take you to learn a language, here are a few tips to further minimize the time you’ll spend on the path to fluency. We’ll also share some things to avoid that will actually prolong your language learning.

Tips & Tricks to Learn Faster

  • Be Consistent – Create a regular schedule for study time, and stick to it! Languages require constant reinforcement, so to progress faster, don’t let your study time slide.
  • Find the Right Teacher – Choosing a teacher who understands your unique learning style makes a big difference.
  • Stay Motivated – Remind yourself why you’re learning the language often, and keep it in your mind as you work toward your goal.
  • Have Some Variety – Instead of just sticking to your textbook, embrace the variety of opportunities there are to practice your language – including movies, music, and apps!
  • Plan Ahead – With a clear plan right from the get-go, you’ll be able to avoid distraction or forgetfulness in your study sessions.

What NOT To Do

  • On and Off Language Learning – Many language learners lose momentum in their learning because they start and stop too often. Don’t let that be you! Commit to your language study and you won’t regret it.
  • Neglecting Homework or Practice – Lessons or classes will greatly aid your learning, but don’t forget to do your homework! Regular practice outside of class is essential to make quicker progress.
  • Getting Stuck in Beginner’s Land – Hesitation is a common feeling among beginners, but in order to advance, you can’t be afraid to strike up conversations with native speakers, speak up in class, or look for other opportunities to engage in your target language.

Language learning is a unique journey for everyone, but by following these suggestions, you should be able to learn faster. The best way to get started today is with the guidance of an experienced language teacher. Learning on your own can yield some progress, but without someone to listen to and correct you, you’ll be making errors you can’t identify on your own.

A competent, qualified teacher can guide you in the right direction and introduce concepts, vocabulary, and grammar at just the right time for you. Check out TakeLessons Live for a month’s worth of free online classes. Get started today and you’ll be speaking your target language before you know it!

Joan BPost Author: Joan B.
Joan B. lives in Carmichael, CA and has been teaching high school Spanish for more than 18 years. A lover of language, she’s studied French, Arabic, and Italian and spent time living in Spain. Learn more about Joan here!
how to be a more interesting person

The Secret to Becoming a More Interesting Person

how to be an interesting person

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of learning a new language. It can slow your brain’s aging and even improve your memory… heck, you might even make more money if you’re bilingual!

But what if your motivation to pick up Spanish, Japanese, or another language isn’t based on the brain boost? What if you just want to understand the sushi terms on your menu, order a round of German beer, or rattle off all the different kinds of French cheese? That’s totally fine to admit. Sounds pretty cool to us, too!

We recently came across this colorful take on reasons to learn a language from our friends at City Speakeasy, and it’s a great look at a few of the more unconventional considerations.

For example, here’s how learning a language can help you be a more interesting person:

Become More Interesting
It’s sad to say, but those who speak English as their first language are considered to be far less motivated to learn another language. Become more approachable, live with vibrancy; you only live once for crying out loud! Bask in the glory of an engaging conversation about French cheese, Italian agriculture, Spanish art. When would you have ever had it otherwise?

Next time you’re out and about, prime yourself for your bilingual future. It gets easier every moment you practice; your words flowing more fluidly with each [mistake]. Order in Spanish during your next taco binge, or snag a ticket for the flick with subtitles you keep talking yourself out of. Finally understand what in God’s name they’re singing about at the opera!

Continue reading the article here.

Readers, why are YOU learning a language? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Photo by Ignacio Bernal

How to Use Tongue Twisters to Practice a Second Language

How to Use Tongue Twisters to Practice a Second LanguageThere’s nothing like a good tongue twister to get your mouth moving! In this article, you’ll learn how to use tongue twisters to improve your pronunciation in any language you’re learning. This is brought to you by our friends at Magoosh


Tongue twisters, as you probably know, are silly poems that use very similar sounds. They’re especially popular with children. Famous American picture books, like Fox in Socks, delight kids with tongue twisters that are hard (but fun) to read out loud.

Many other tongue twisters in the English speaking world are simply part of the culture. Well-known tongue twisters include sentences like, “She sells seashells down by the seashore,” and, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”

Using Tongue Twisters for English

Children like to recite these poems for fun, but they can serve a very real use for people studying English as a second language. For example, the tongue twister above about selling seashells could be especially useful to ESL students, because it contrasts the similar “s” and “sh” sounds in English.

The tongue twister about Peter Piper is a great way to practice English vowels; it puts different sounding vowels between similar-sounding consonants. It also combines vowels with “r,” a vowel-consonant combo that’s common in English but rare in a lot of other languages.

Using Tongue Twisters for Other Languages

Tongue twisters aren’t just for learning English vowels and consonants – they can help you master the vowels and consonants of any language. Korean offers a lot of tongue twisters that focus on consonant repetition and vowel contrast. Korean tongue twisters also frequently contrast two similar sounding family names. This is very useful for students who are learning Korean, because Korean family names are universally one-syllable, and often differ in just one vowel or consonant.

Here’s a good example of a Korean tongue twister, with English translation and phonetic transliteration:

Korean tongue twister:
간장공장 공장장은 강 공장장이고, 된장 공장 공장장은 공장장이다.

English translation:
“The owner of the soy sauce factory is named Gang and the owner of the soybean paste factory is named Jang.”

Phonetic transliteration:
Gan-jang gong-jang gong-jang jang-eun gang gong-jang-jang i-go dwayn-jang gong-jang gong-jang jang-eun Jang gong-jang-jang i-da.


Other tongue twisters can cover features more specific than vowels or consonants – features that may not exist in all languages. For instance, tonal languages can have tone-based tongue twisters where the pitch of the syllables change but the consonants and vowels remain virtually the same. Highly tonal languages include Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Hmong. Here’s a particularly good tongue twister for practicing tonal speech in Hmong:

Hmong tongue twister: 
Lub luv luj luj lug lawm.

English translation:
“The big car already came.”

Phonetic transliteration (without the actual tones):
Loo loo loo loo loo la-oo.

Here’s a video tutorial with proper tonal reading of the sentence.


Those were just a few examples of pronunciation tongue twisters. On the web, you can find tongue twisters in just about any language you’d like to study, focusing on nearly any kind of sound you need to practice.

Two of the best international tongue twister portals found on the web are the ones from Omniglot’s world language encyclopedia, and the 1st International Collection of Tongue Twisters on Uebersetzung Translation Service’s website. If you’re taking language lessons, be sure to also ask your tutor about language-learning tongue twisters.


This post was written by David Recine, ESL and TOEFL expert at Magoosh. You can learn more about the TOEFL in Magoosh’s What is the TOEFL? infographic.



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The Secret Method for Learning Any Language: Rhythm

The Secret Method for Learning Any LanguageInterested in learning a new language quickly? Want it to be fun? You’ve come to the right place! In this article, you’ll read about a simple yet little-known method for making any language easier to learn…


It takes a long time to learn a new language. You can spend over 250 hours studying a language and only reach minimum proficiency. Some of the more complex languages, like Japanese and Arabic, can require twice as much studying compared to, say Spanish or French.

If you don’t have much time to learn a new language, you may be asking, “Where are the shortcuts? How can I learn quicker?” You’re about to find out, because we have your answers! And the good news? This language learning method is easy to understand. And the VERY good news? It’s fun!

Ready to learn the secret method? Let’s jump right into it!


What’s the Method?

It’s simple: keep a steady beat. If you can’t quite keep a steady beat, don’t worry – you don’t have to be a drummer to learn this technique. In fact, you don’t need to know anything about rhythm at all; our brains automatically operate by rhythms all the time!

Being able to keep a beat is directly correlated to having a healthy brain. It helps to achieve and maintain focus, clarity, and creativity. You see, accurate beat-keeping activates hearing as well as movement. When your brain synchronizes the two, it creates neural pathways that lead to better cognitive development. Don’t believe us? Just watch.

Why is This Useful?

You already speak in rhythms. Just for fun, recite this sentence aloud: “Who told you about my cat?” Those seven syllables are spoken with a very distinct rhythm. Did you think about it much? No – that’s because you already learned the rhythm associated with speaking English.

By learning how a language’s syllables are spoken, you’ll be able to recognize speech patterns much easier. Processing new information about your desired language will be simpler once you recognize patterns. This applies to reading and writing just as much as speaking.


The Science Behind It

This language learning method isn’t just a bunch of nonsense; it’s supported by countless hours of scientific research. One study in particular outlines exactly what we’re trying to explain.

The Study

In 2013, the director of Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, Nina Kraus, conducted an experiment to further explore the link between rhythmic abilities and language skills. She published an academic paper with her findings, alongside co-author Adam Tierney.

Here’s an overview of Nina’s experiment:

To investigate the relationship between beat-keeping and auditory processing, 124 Chicago high school students visited Kraus’ lab and were given two tests. In the first, they were asked to listen to a metronome and tap their finger along to it on a special tapping pad. Tapping accuracy was computed based on how closely their taps aligned in time to the tick-tock of the metronome.

– Wendy Leopold, The Importance of Keeping a Beat


The Data

The data collected from the 124 students was analyzed through statistical tests to see if a quantitative connection between rhythm and language learning truly existed.

The rhythms were measured by the students’ fingers tapping on an electronic pad, but what information was collected from the students’ brains?

In a “brainwave test,” the students were fitted with electrodes measuring the consistency of their brain response to a repeated syllable. Across the population, the more accurate the adolescents were at tapping along to the beat, the more consistent their brain response was to the speech syllable.

The takeaway from this: the more accurate the students kept a beat, the easier time they had registering speech syllables. Now we’re onto something! Let’s take a look at the experiment’s results and see if the data confirms or denies Nina’s hypothesis.


The Results

The students that tapped more accurately to the beat were classified by the term “low tapping variability.” In this case, the less variability in the tapping, the better. Nina’s official research paper tells us the end result:

We find that the ability to tap consistently to a beat relates to the consistency of the auditory brainstem response to sound, a measure that has also been linked to reading ability (Hornickel and Kraus, 2013) and phonological awareness, the explicit knowledge of the components of spoken language… Furthermore, the increase in response consistency was linked to improvements in language skills.

–  Adam Tierney and Nina Kraus, The Ability to Move to a Beat…


Eureka! The scientific connection is real! Nina’s study proves that rhythmic accuracy and speech patterns are indeed connected. Let’s use this discovery for your advantage.


How You Can Apply This Method

Now that you know the method, let’s apply it to your actual studies. Keep in mind, this language learning method is not meant to replace any other study techniques; think of it as a supplement, not a routine. Just add this method to your list of tips and tricks for learning a new language!

Where should you begin? First, you need to practice your rhythm with a metronome. A metronome will make sure that you have the most accurate time-keeping possible. Here are a few you can choose from:

Free Metronomes

You can’t go wrong with any of these metronomes. Each one loads fast and provides exactly what you need to practice your rhythms. If you want a more mobile-friendly metronome, there are plenty of apps you can download for free. Once you choose one, get ready to practice with it!

How to Practice the Beat

Fortunately, this doesn’t take much explaining. All you have to do is pick a short sound to say aloud, preferably one with a vowel and a consonant. Once you pick a sound, all you need to do is recite it along with the metronome.

Try saying “bup” at the exact same time the metronome beeps. Keep saying it until you feel like you’re completely in-sync with the beat. You shouldn’t even hear the metronome beep if you’re reciting your sounds exactly with the tempo. Once you get eight beats in a row (accurately), try changing the tempo.

In order to get a well-rounded practice session, you should increase and decrease the tempo as you go. This way, you can practice rhythmic accuracy at any speed. This will help you speak your new language slow or fast, depending on your needs. Spend a few minutes playing around with this.

How to Practice the Language

Once you feel comfortable with your rhythmic accuracy, now you can apply this method to your new language of interest. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Write a sentence in your desired language (you can use a translator).
  2. Break down each word into separate syllables.
  3. Recite each syllable with the metronome beeps.

It may feel funny at first, but you’ll get more used to it as you practice. After you recite an entire sentence in your new language, syllable by syllable with the metronome, your mouth should feel more comfortable speaking it. With this language learning method in the back of your mind as you study, you’ll be more aware of syllables and patterns in the dialect. Thus, you’ll be able to read, write, and speak with greater ease.


Other Brain-Boosting Techniques

But wait, there’s more! Keeping a steady beat isn’t the only language learning tip you need to keep in mind. A good balance of nutrition, sleep, and exercise can take your studies to the next level. Let’s find out about a little of each:


Certain foods are brilliant for brain development. You don’t need to overhaul your current diet if you want to learn a new language, but you should try adding these foods into your daily mix: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, and dark chocolate.


It’s important for our brains to receive proper rest, especially when we’re learning new skills. Without deep sleep (REM cycles), we aren’t able to learn and retain as much information. Sleep can even affect your voice, which may put you off from practicing speech altogether.


A healthy body makes for a healthy mind. Even just 30 minutes of light exercise per day can help your brain out! Not to mention, you’ll sleep better with regular exercise.


Congratulations! You now have the game-winning combo for learning any language you want. Of course, there’s much more to learning a language than breaking sentences down into syllables. Schedule a lesson with private language teacher and you’ll learn tons of invaluable tips and tricks that you won’t find anywhere else.

If cost is the only thing holding you back, take a look at our budget breakdown article and see which learning style works best for you. Personal tutoring may seem like a hefty investment, but realistically it’s the best option for learning a new language, in terms of speed and proficiency. We’ll see you next time for some more language learning methods!


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