Firstly, you need to decide what language you're learning. If you haven't picked your language yet then read this page as it gives lots of ideas on what language might suit you. Once you've chosen the language you're learning you're good to go!
The first step is to get yourself over to the Kick Start Languages Youtube channel and subscribe. From the 6th January to the middle of March 2019 I am running a 10 week course where a new video will be released each Sunday which will explain what skills you need to learn in that week. If you learn the things I'm asking you to learn in the week I'm asking you to learn them by the time you reach the end of the course you will be conversational in the language you are learning. It's that simple! Although the course should work for all languages and is designed so that I tell you what to learn each week and you decide how to learn it I have also set up bespoke pages for Spanish, French, German, Italian and Dutch learners to help guide you through the course in even more detail as the vast majority of you will be learning one of these languages and I know lots of people like to have specific resources to work with. As time goes on I will provide this type of help with other languages but it really isn't a big deal because you can find your own resources really easily on YouTube once you know what you should be learning (and I'll tell you that in my YouTube course).
It's worth pointing out, yet again, that this course will only work if you have actually turned language learning into a 25 minute a day habit! This is the hard part because most people can't keep this type of habit going. If you have struggled with habit formation in the past please, please, please read this section of the website and get hold of some books to help you form positive habits! They are the key to this mission!
That's basically it!
The rest of this page is dedicated to helping you to think more deeply about various aspects of your language learning and what you want to get out of the course so please feel free to skip it if you are happy with what's been said so far! The main key is getting onto the YouTube channel and subscribing as everything will be explained there!
Extra things to consider:
If you want to know more about how the course will work then check out my previous blog which sets out how and why this course will work. Similarly, as I said before, if you don't know how you can possibly dedicate 25 minutes a day to language learning or make it a habit in your life then read this guide to habit formation.
As my course will be only be telling you what to learn you are the one who will need to decide how best you want to learn it. This is a huge plus as far as I'm concerned because everybody learns differently and the last thing that you need is to be told that you 'have to' do 'x, y and z' in a certain way to get good at a language. This just isn't the case unless you define 'x, y and z' as practice consistently! However, whilst I am giving you total flexibility on the way you learn the content that will make you conversational in 10 weeks I am also very aware that lots of people new to language learning will want specific guidance on this. To this end, I will be giving lots of tips and advice on Youtube as to what resources will help you in you to kick start your language learning journey. Feel free to ignore these if you already know how you learn but but I hope they will be very useful for people who aren't sure where to start.
Personally, as I will explain in my course, I highly recommend that your first and most important port of call for your learning is Youtube. I have learnt so, so, so much from the tube of you and it blows my mind that this is a free resource. However, it can be quite overwhelming looking for relevant videos so I have created a Pinterest page which has loads of great language learning videos from Youtube all in one place. This will save you hours of time scrolling through Youtube itself sifting through mountains of sometimes dubiously valuable content looking for the absolute nuggets of language learning gold it so often contains. If you find a great video that isn't on my Pinterest page post it on my Facebook page and I'll add it to the collection if I reckon it will be of use to other learners. As well as learning from Youtube I would highly recommend getting hold of a great beginners guide to the language you are learning. If you are learning French, Spanish, German or Italian and only want to buy one product get yourself a copy of the relevant Benny Lewis' 'Language Hacking' course. It is a superb place to start because Benny helps you to focus on learning things you will actually need to know when you first start speaking a language rather than beginning with the bizarre phrases ("The lion is in the garden" was on page 4 of one Dutch guide I own!) that some beginners guides contain. Once you have a guide and an internet connection you are ready to absolutely smash it. However, before you embark on this journey it is worth bearing in mind whether you want to focus more on speaking and listening or reading and writing?
If you want to speak the language you want to get involved in speaking and listening from day one. If you want read and write the language you are better off reading and writing from day one. You can chop and change later with ease but this is a really important issue. Personally, I've always been much more motivated by speaking and listening whereas some of my friends, particularly my mate Jonno (the author of this awesome blog), have focused on reading and writing. Unsurprisingly, I can now speak German far, far better than I can read it and significantly better than Jonno can but he can read German far, far better than I can and when he does speak his speech has a lot less natural flow but also a lot less grammatical mistakes than mine. So the choice is yours. However, it is worth noting that Jonno and I have both been doing multiple languages at once so if either of us had focused on one language we'd probably be really good at both aspects by now because once you've got one nailed it's easy to switch to the other because your brain is already used to the language. What we've done, on the contrary, is simply move onto another language meaning we haven't smashed the other skill yet.
How do you get involved with speaking and listening or reading and writing from day one? Well, if you're doing my speaking approach get onto Youtube (or my Pinterest page) and search for music with dual translations. The site is full of it. I particularly love the Disney songs because they are designed for kids so the language is quite simple and if you ever start a second or third language it allows you to do direct comparisons! I now know most of the songs from Moana in about five languages and I've written here about why I love this film so much! However, regardless of what precise content you pick just start listening to some music in the language you're learning. The key is not to try to learn anything at all to begin with. Just focus on listening to the ebb and flow of the voice. It is critical that you listen to the same song over and over and over again day after day. This is what most people won't do because it is 'boring'. But you're not most people and it's not boring. This approach will work if you persist but if you don't it won't. It's that simple. On the first couple of days you won't be able to sing anything at all and the words will all seem to jumble into one another. Within a week you will know the flow of the song so well that you'll be able to mumble along. Within two weeks you should almost be able to start to sing along. At that point do something crazy and start listening to it at double speed. This is really counter intuitive but the biggest thing most people say about listening to people from other countries is that they 'speak really quickly'. However, once you know a song really well you can double the speed and still understand quite a bit of it. Plus when you hear people speaking normally it will actually sound slow. This is a tactic I therefore use a lot on all Youtube language learning videos.
Whilst you are playing around with the songs make sure you are following the content of my 10 week course which involves spending the first couple of weeks nailing greetings, the question words, the personal pronouns (I, you, he, she, it etc) and the verbs 'To be' 'To like' 'To dislike' and 'To have'. You can learn pronouns and verbs by rote with enough practice. This is the only bit of 'active grammar learning' I would insist on and you'll be amazed by how many sentences you can make once you know all of this. The '3 minute' series on Youtube is great for greetings and basic phrases and you can find a list of question words on Google and most languages have videos on Youtube if you type in ''language x' question words'. The Easy Languages series on Youtube is also amazing as they duel translate everything. The key is repeating the same things day in day out until they become second nature. I must have watched the Easy Danish series 30 times. That's 28 more than most people could be bothered to. But I now know that video off by heart and that means I have a huge number of questions and answers in Danish lodged in my brain without every consciously trying to learn vast amounts of grammar or vocab. Finally, get more listening practice by watching TV series in the language you are learning. Channel 4 has a huge 'World Drama' section with loads of awesome programmes on it! Sit back and chill and you'll naturally get loads of passive learning done that way. Happy days!
If you want to get good at the reading and writing side of things the best place to start is to get yourself a dual translated book where the language you want to learn is on one side of the page and the other side is English. Here's an excellent English to Spanish example. Again, as with the music example above, don't try to learn anything specific. Read the English page first so you know what the page is about and then just read the foreign text. You may find it useful to put a few phrases into Google to hear what they sound like if you've never heard the language before but just generally don't get too fussed on learning. Just take it in. If you managed to find an audio version in your target language you would actually be onto a winner as you'd then be getting some listening practice too! Result! The other place you might want to consider is the Duolingo website. Whilst I have serious reservations about the app (I think it relies far too much on pattern recognition and as soon as there is a blank space to fill in an answer what seemed really easy is suddenly impossible) the website really puts you through your paces. Plus it has great sections on grammar which I presume would interest you if you were somebody who was more intrigued by translation than speech. Again, you'll also need to get hold of the key greetings and question words to consolidate your learning but that is just a google search away.
Assuming you put in the above tactics into practice and form a daily habit you should get really good at either listening to or reading your language within a few weeks. These are the passive skills and it is awesome to build them. However, it is actually just as easy to build the active skills. If you want to write practice writing sentences that are in the books you're reading and then after a couple of weeks try to vary the content or context and check on Google whether it was right. If you want to speak then take advantage of a very cool fact. Thinking and talking are identical in terms of the brain pathways they use. If you think 'I am hungry' the same pathways in your brain light up as if you say 'I am hungry'. As a result, if you develop a habit of thinking in your target language when you come to speak it words will just tumble out of your mouth in a way you never thought was possible. The first phrase I would focus on learning is 'I speak ...'. Google it and listen to Google say it and then try and find somebody saying it on Youtube. Copy it. Say it again and again. Then think it again and again and again. Whenever you're bored loop it in your head. This is really cool because it gives you a great sentence and it also means that you are priming your brain to believe that you already speak the language! Cunning! Other phrases to learn are 'Hi, my name is...' 'Nice to meet you' and 'I'm learning your language'. As the weeks go by try and think more and more in the language you're learning and actively abandon English in certain contexts like counting. Only count in the language you're learning. Within a couple of months you should be ready to start describing your activities in your head as you're doing them eg 'I'm walking into the kitchen. I'm a bit cold'. You'll think it's nuts to begin with but it will help you so, so much. All of this thinking means you will do far less word for word translation when you have your first conversations. You'll also be able to have conversations with people in their language the first time you actually speak the language because as far as your brain has been concerned you've been speaking it for as long as you've been thinking it! If you don't believe me just try it. You've got nothing to lose!