Category Archives: #learnenglish

10 Ways to Learn a New Language Faster

I learned a new language at the age of 50, and here are some strategies from language experts that have helped me speak Spanish with hundreds of native speakers in various countries.

1. Learn a new language the same way you learned your first language:

  • Listen to native speakers often and for long periods of time.
  • Watch how they communicate.
  • Imitate what they say and how they say it, which may require using your face muscles, mouth and tongue in new ways to produce some new sounds so that you can be better understood.

2. Listen to content that is interesting and at your level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced).

3. Be happy, relaxed, and curious while learning, and be comfortable not understanding everything that you hear. Focus on understanding the general meaning of what is said, and not so much on understanding every word.

4. You should spend time every day learning if you want to learn fast, even if it is for only 15 minutes. If you go for days or weeks without contacting the language, your progress will slow to a crawl.

5. Ask native speakers for help, and in particular you should know how to say in your new language:

  • “Excuse me …”
  • “How could I (find/do/go to, etc.) …?”
  • “What is this?”
  • “How do you say …?”
  • “I don’t understand.”

6. Learn the 100 most common words in the language, then the 500 most common words, and by the time you learn the 1000 most common words you’ll understand 75% of daily conversations.

7. Speak from the first day you start learning a new language, and be willing to make many mistakes every day for the rest of your life communicating in your new language. Be creative and say things any way that you can, because having to say things in a roundabout way is both normal and essential.

8. Use all of your senses to learn the language by connecting words with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch. Have fun learning a new language!

9. In order to move from beginner to intermediate and then to an advanced level, you must develop the ability to speak using expressions of time and mood – past, present, future, and conditional verb tenses, and in some languages the subjunctive mood.

  • Beginners speak in the present tense, and learn to speak about the past and the future as they progress.
  • Intermediate speakers are much more comfortable speaking about the past, present, and future. They also learn to speak using conditional phrases that any native speaker uses commonly, for example: “I would keep doing things the way they have always been done, but I have an idea …” Another example: “If I were you, I would learn a new language because …”
  • Advanced speakers use various expressions of time and mood, and when they can do this like a native speaker, they speak like a native speaker speaks. The word “fluent” is hard to define, and I choose to believe that I have been speaking “fluently” since I reached intermediate level (which many people can reach in 3-6 months, but which took me a few years).

10. Find language coaches and teachers who (1) work at understanding you, (2) don’t correct every mistake you make, (3) demonstrate how to say things correctly, and (4) use words you understand or can learn.

It’s never too late to learn a new language, and not only is it good exercise for the mind, but it will enable you to discover and enjoy more places and people.

IMPORTANT! Chris Lonsdale’s insightful TEDx video is the inspiration behind much of this content, together with strategies that I have gleaned from various other sources as well as from my own experience teaching English as a second language. Watch the video of Chris at

4 Requirements for Learning English as an Adult

On Monday, February 8th, we started the English program here in Marinilla, Colombia. About 70 people gathered in the local theater to hear my presentation of the program.

I started by telling the audience that after 4 years of high school French and 1 year of college French, I could speak very little French. Moreover, within a year I forgot everything that I had learned because I never used the language. As a result, I spent the next 30 years believing that I couldn’t learn a second language, although I always wished that I could … meanwhile, I continued to envy and admire people who could speak more than one language.

Then I told my audience of adults that everything changed when I started learning Spanish at the age of 48, and this caught their attention because almost everyone appeared to be younger than 48. I explained that since I learned a second language later in life, that they could too. Moreover, I told them that I have been teaching English for several years, and that I specialize in teaching English to adult native speakers of Spanish. Everyone seemed excited.

Then I explained the following 4 requirements for learning English as an adult:

  • MAKE MISTAKES – You have to be willing to make mistakes. This is very important to the process, and you cannot learn how to speak English without making many mistakes.
  • BELIEVE – You have to believe that you can speak English. But even more than believing that you “can” speak English, you have to believe that you already speak English. Tell everyone, “I speak English.” Visualize yourself speaking English … at some point you’ll stop translating everything in your head and start thinking in English.
  • INVEST TIME – For the next 3 months, you have to spend 2-3 hours every day studying and practicing English. If you don’t have that much time, you have to make time … and to do that, you may have to sacrifice something else in your life (e.g. television, sleep, etc.).
  • WORK – During your 2-3 hours of daily English studies, you have to work. If your mind is not tired after three hours of studies, you are not working.

The first two requirements were well received … the second two requirements, not so much. So I explained to them that I am not a magician that can magically teach them English, and I also told them that there is no magic pill for learning any language. If there were a magic pill, I would take it. As a result, if you want to learn a second language you must be willing to put in the time and effort it takes … coupled of course with belief in yourself and the willingness to make a lot of mistakes.

Fellow volunteer teachers who I have recruited to help me include sixty-something Bob from the U.S. who has been travelling the world for 10 years … Cameron from Holland, and fresh out of high school … Colombian native Emilson, a young guy who is eager to show his fellow Colombians that they can do it … and new recruit, Santiago, another young Colombian who can show the way. Currently we have 4 classes every day Monday through Friday, consisting of both a beginner and intermediate class from 8:00 to 9:00 AM and from 6:00 to 7:00 PM. I am teaching all the “intermediate” students, and the other teachers are teaming up to teach the beginners. Currently we are averaging about 80 students a day, evenly spit between the morning and evening classes. Often several students will linger long after class talking with each other and wanting to learn more, which means that we have to ask them to leave because other groups want to use the rooms and/or the facility is closing.

By the way, since I assumed that most of the people who were at the municipal theater on opening night knew little or no English, I decided to speak in Spanish and without using notes for virtually the entire 40-minute presentation. You, too, can learn to speak another language.

Mejor Inglés – Better English

Inglés conversacional creará muchas oportunidades para ustedes. Sin embargo, los hispanohablantes se encuentran en desventaja competitiva porque la gente de otros países son capaces de hablar inglés mucho mejor que los hispanohablantes. Aquí hay un enlace a mi curso gratuito en titulado, “Los tiempos verbales de inglés para hispanohablantes,” ¡Los tiempos verbales son la clave para mejorar su ingles!

Conversational English will create many opportunities for you. However, Spanish speakers are at a competitive disadvantage because people in other countries are able to speak English much better than Spanish speakers. Here is a link to my free course in entitled, “English Verb Tenses for Spanish Speakers,” Verb tenses are the key to improving your English!