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Language learning principles

Principles are the basic underlying rules and ideas that enable you to be an effective language learner. They are how you should approach language learning and are the biggest difference between ordinary beginners and experienced language learners. Many of the points here you will sometimes hear called “language hacks”, however this is somewhat of a misnomer.

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. 

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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 these tips. You could comfortably call most of what you read here “hacks”, but that would not leave the reader 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.

These tips collect principles from around the world to save you the trial-and-error learning that a lot of other language learners had to go through.

There are lots of principles to cover, but we won’t list them all in one place to prevent you from getting overloaded. While a principle may be placed under a certain section where it is most relevant, it will also apply to other aspects of your learning.

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