Principle: Time with the language is the key to how fast you will learn
A lot of people want to know how some others become so accomplished at languages, believing there must be some special technique they are utilising that makes languages come to them faster.
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. A wide variety of techniques work. The overwhelmingly important factor is how much time you can spend with the language each day. Regardless of your technique, the more you practise, the more successful you will be.
Why do some people seem to know lots of languages?
While it is true that learning a language to a high or close-to-native level takes a lot of time, it’s also true that you’ll see a lot of people truthfully claiming to be conversational in many languages.
This happens because language learning progress becomes exponentially slower the more advanced you get. The early stages up until a good conversational level are relatively fast to master. From there the path to ﬂuency is a slow crawl by comparison.
Once the learner has the basics of phonology and grammar down and knows around 2,000 words, they can usually muddle through a conversation with an accommodating native speaker. From there, a bit of practice conversing to build up more comfort and familiarity with the language’s sounds and structure and you can call yourself conversational.
Beyond this point is an ocean of harder words, nuance, idioms, unintuitive grammatical constructs, rapid speech, and many more skills that can only be improved incrementally.
Each new word or idiom is only a tiny fraction of the number known by a native speaker, so the time needed to make a similar leap in your apparent skill level appears to grow exponentially. While you might not need all these forms, idioms, and words to get by, they are part of what comprises ﬂuency.
If you’d like to be conversational in a lot of languages, you can do so without needing any special technique or talent. In fact, much of it is just good language learning as described in our tips here where the learner has fully integrated the principle of “Working towards your goals and focusing heavily on conversational skills”.