Don’t want to waste 6 months learning a language? Avoid these “beginner tips”

Chris Eubanks
6 min readNov 23, 2023
AI image generated by Dezco with the author’s prompt

A great journey is always counterintuitive. If the beginner advice really worked, everyone would be speaking Mandarin, Finnish, and Spanish. Why do so many give up? Why doesn’t the specific knowledge from people who actually learned the language trickle down to the masses?

My theory is that people are comfortable with familiarity, and they tend to gravitate towards familiar processes that they grew up with in school. But the familiar processes are slow, and don’t effectively capture real spoken speech. The processes that really work are so counterintuitive, people tend to not trust them, because they take a lot of faith at the beginning.

Read more: This efficient language learning process took me a year to figure out

Here are the most common “beginner tips” that will have you spinning in circles rather than making any real progress.

Buy a textbook

Think critically here. At what point in time are you listening to real native speakers? At what point in time are you speaking the language? With a textbook, you are doing zero of these things. People who learn through the textbook approach become quite effective readers and writers, but have a very difficult time understanding the spoken language. Real spoken speech is very sloppy and words are often shortened or mumbled. In real life, friends talk over each other, crack jokes, and change the subject rapidly. The textbook will not bridge this gap in understanding. For this, you need to watch podcasts and reality shows. You need to listen to the most chaotic speech possible (with subtitles at the beginning) to master the spoken language.

Take a course

Group courses only move as fast as the slowest students. A highly motivated learner such as yourself will become frustrated when you break into conversation groups, and your classmate can still barely speak. Or when students interrupt the flow of the lesson with questions that could have been asked privately when the lesson is over. Some people learn languages because they “have to” or their job requires it. Typically these students are not going to go above and beyond to acquire…

--

--

Chris Eubanks

Language learner. Rapidly learning the Finnish language. Follow me for specific knowledge that can't be found anywhere else on the Internet.