Why is the term “language hacks” a misnomer?
Plenty of things labelled “language hacks” are great advice — this is not a case against using them.
The term tends to encompass several distinct things, including effective study exercises, marginally helpful tricks, useful advice, and powerful foundational principles.
In addition, the term “language hacks” implies to a general audience that they can learn a language quickly and easily by simply “hacking a language”, which would in turn imply they are taking advantage of something within the language itself.
To achieve mastery your brain requires thousands of hours of input. You cannot hack your way around this requirement.
You absolutely can learn faster and more effectively by following a few principles. These principles are derived from our collective knowledge of how to learn effectively in any domain, applied to language learning.
They let you learn faster and choose your objectives more intelligently. For that reason, the term “principle” is used throughout our guides.
You could comfortably call most of what you read in our posts “hacks”, but that would not leave you with any more clarity over what “hacking” really is. Using the “principle” framework, the learner better grasps what is required of them and why it is recommended to do something a certain way.
Should I read if my goal is conversation?
In these posts we discuss the importance of engaging with lots of content, often written. Why then should you engage with written content if your goal is to speak? Reading is a good way to encounter new vocabulary or grammar and focus on learning it.
In addition, the written form is a good simulation of the spoken language, containing most of the same grammar and vocabulary.
You need to spend a lot of time with the language, but learners often can’t engage directly with their goal — perhaps there are no speakers around — so it can be helpful to use a substitute.
Principles of recommended language learning approach
• Work towards your goals — practice whatever tasks you are learning the language for
• Keep up your motivation — find ways to stay interested in the language
• Spend as much time as you can with your language — Time is the key determiner of how fast you learn
• Trust the process — learning can be a slow process, so sometimes you need to trust that you will progress with time
• 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your study — find the most effective activities and biggest weaknesses and focus on them
• Push yourself — constantly challenge yourself by moving on to harder resources