You may have tried to learn a language in the past and concluded that you were simply not a gifted linguist. Perhaps you have memories of your language study at school when after a few years you dropped it, concluding that you were simply incapable of learning a foreign language. Both of these reasonings are false. You can learn a foreign language if you avoid these four mistakes.

  1. Don't think that it is going to be quick. It is not going to be quick. Even studying intensively the easiest languages will take about four months full time work to attain a level where one can keep up a conversation. I always thought that I could not learn a foreign language but after having studied diligently for seven months I was teaching university in Indonesia. My first semester went OK but I gave the students a few good laughs with my mistakes.
  2. Don't think that it won't take hard work. Learning a language takes plenty of hard work. You need to do a lot of repetition, memorize a lot of vocabulary, and a lot of speaking practice. I almost wore out an Indonesian dictionary looking up words, some for the third and fourth time.
  3. Don't think that it will come naturally. Foreign languages don't come naturally - they're foreign. That's why most foreigners speak with an accent, because even knowing the right words, native pronunciations do not come to us. The very musical will often have less difficulty with their accent, as will children who hear the sounds before their native language is firmly cemented in their brain - they both have a wider range of sounds that they can hear and imitate. Most languages have different word orders than we use in English, so you can not simply translate a string of words from one language to another, you need to learn different patterns of speech.
  4. Don't think a few minutes invested per day will be enough, unless you have years to learn the language. There are a few gifted people out there who can learn a language without apparent effort. However, for most it will require an investment of energy and to learn a language, and even the really gifted continue to learn new things for many years. One of the reasons I failed to learn Spanish is that I only spent about 30 minutes a day before getting bored. When I went to language school to learn Portuguese I was spending four to six hours a day in class and then another couple of hours studying. I learned Portuguese because I put the time into it.

There is no royal road to language learning, and it is not always a bundle of laughs (except for people listening to you make mistakes), but it is rewarding and very possible to the average person who wants to learn. You do not even need an intensive course or an expensive program to make great progress.