How to Learn a Second Language in Your Bedroom

Learn a Second Language in Your Bedroom

Learning Russian taught me how to effectively learn a second language. I’m now using this method to learn German in my bedroom. I’ve been studying for 15 months and I’m about 6 months from being fluent. While this method doesn’t bring fluency as fast as living in country and chatting with native speakers every day,  it works no matter where you live and it’s inexpensive.

Key Points

  • Study every single day. Failing that, a bare minimum of five days a week. The benefits of studying 30 minutes a day heavily outweigh that of 10 hours just one day a week.
  • In larger cities Couch Surfing and MeetUp offer events where you can connect with native speakers. I’m currently not attending these events for German, however, I attended them regularly when I was learning Russian.
  • Learning a language can take years. Embrace the process, celebrate small victories and know that you’ll get there eventually.
  • There are some really cool language learning channels on YouTube

    There are some fascinating characters in the language learning community. Luca has a great YouTube channel, as does Benny. Tim Ferriss has also released an excellent guide.

My Learning Process

  1. Find an online translation dictionary that has high quality pronunciations in your target language. For German I use Linguee. They have other languages as well, I’m not sure about pronunciation quality. If you can’t tell which is best, ask a native speaker.
  2. Learn as many pronouns as possible. I start by memorizing I, she, he, they, you, your, his, her, their, it, etc. This can be harder than it sounds because you have no ear for the language. You’ll be surprised how many times you can forget a simple sound.
  3. Begin listening to the language every day. I’ve found that Spotify has awesome playlists for German. YouTube is also good, as are live stream radio shows from that country. These are easiest to find by typing in the capital city + radio. For example, “Berlin talk radio“.
  4. Find a Skype tutor. The website Preply is the best choice, I’ve used it to find my Russian and German tutors, both of whom are excellent. For German I pay $14 a lesson, twice a week, which adds up to about $120 a month (my Russian tutor only cost $6 a lesson). That’s a steal compared to a paying for a college class. Also, it’s more effective. With a Skype tutor it’s 1 on 1 and the lessons are catered to your needs.
  5. Keep notes during the lesson. While me and my teacher are speaking I write down each new word. Over the next couple of days I’ll review these words in the following manner. I type them into the German dictionary and listen to the pronunciation multiple times, mimicking it. Then I’ll write down the word in my notebook along with examples of the word used in context. I often spend as much as 5 minutes working with a single word.
    *In my notebook I write solely in German, I don’t write an English translation next to the word. Instead, when I review the words 90% of the time I can figure out the meaning based on the context sentences I wrote. I find that that writing only in the target language creates a more immersive experience. 
  6. Input all new words into Anki. This is a flashcard App that I use to review the words. After I’ve written down all my words into my notebook, I input them into Anki.
  7. Write a sentence or two for each new words. This is the third time I’m looking at my list of new words in the space of a couple of days. It can be somewhat repetitive but that’s the point! The more you review your words, the more you remember them. I take all my new words and write sentences with them in Google Docs. At the start of each lesson my tutor reviews these sentences and corrects any mistakes I’ve made.
  8. Repeat this process. This is my entire strategy for learning a language. It can be done anywhere in the world, so long as you have a good internet connection. Of course hanging out in country and chatting with native speakers it the fastest way to learn. However, if that’s not possible then this is a viable alternative.

Dealing with Deficiencies 

I was able to learn Russian in 13 months because I lived in Country. However, that’s not necessary

The major pitfall of this approach is that your speaking ability tends to be weaker. You’ll be spending a majority of your time writing, reading and listening to the language, not speaking it. To compensate for this it’s essential to try and speak as much as possible during your Skype lessons and to practice the language whenever you can.

Planning a trip to the country is always smart, especially if you can live there for a few months. In most places this can be done for a surprisingly small amount of money, which is a topic I cover in my article: How Much Money do you Need to Travel Abroad?

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