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"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."

Col 3:23

Learn a Language Fast

When you have a look at the huge variety of foreign language learning materials on the market today, it's hard to decide what method is best. Which book or books should I buy? Do I need one book for general grammar, another for verbs? How about CDs? Should I get a complete set of them, or will a few suffice? And how many college courses will be sufficient for me to really be able to learn to speak the language more or less fluently? Before you get started, it's only natural to want to know the very best - that is, the quickest, most efficient, and most economical - way to learn a language. Read on, because I am going to tell it to you straight.

You may be a bit surprised by some of the things I say, for they don't necessarily correspond to convention, or to any preconceived ideas you probably have - you know, like the idea that you should take a good four years of intense college courses if you want to really master a language.

Well, even that won't do it: when you finish those courses, you'll still have to spend some time in a country where your target language is spoken if you want to achieve real fluency. That's the bad news. The good news is that you don't have to take all those courses, nor wait for years to attain your goal.

And what I say isn't mere theory: it's what I myself did when I learned Spanish. Okay, I did have two basic courses in college, 101 and 102, but I can't say I learned much, since I wasn't terribly motivated. A couple of years later, however, I took a trip south of the border and fell in love with a Mexican beauty there.

Now that gave me motivation! I was only there for about a week, during which time I could hardly talk to her at all (those two courses I had had a couple of years earlier having had little effect). That was at spring break, and I planned to return as soon as the summer holidays began. That gave me about two months to prepare. Here's what I did... As soon as I got back to the States, I got a good basic book for learning Spanish.

What are the characteristics of a "good basic book"? (In this article, I'm using Spanish as an example, though the advice would apply equally to any language you may want to learn.) In my opinion, a good book is one that: - teaches you the essentials of grammar, and doesn't try to fill your head with grammatical fine points that you'll practically never need.

For instance, it'll teach you the verb forms: past, present, future; present and past subjunctive (necessary in Spanish). It will not necessarily go into the future subjunctive (since this form is never used any more). Preferably, it will be divided into small chapters. This way, it will be easier to plan how much to do every week/month. - gives you exercises with which you can practice that grammar, and will include an answer key in the back. (No, not so that you can cheat, but so that after doing the exercises, you can immediately see if and where you went wrong.)
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