Can I learn a foreign language…. in my sleep?

While some people find they have an aptitude for picking things up quickly, there is no magic formula, nor is there a quick fix approach to learning a new language.  Think about it, how long did it take you to master the language you are currently fluent in?

Developing proficiency depends on many factors; one of the most important is the difficulty of the language.

Languages fall into categories of difficulty and complexity.  The so-called “romance” languages, such as French and Spanish, are considered to be the least difficult to learn, while Arabic, Japanese, Chinese and Korean are among the most difficult. Languages such as Russian and Albanian are not as difficult as Arabic, but they require many more hours of instruction.

Let’s take the complexity of learning Chinese for example.  You naturally are used to looking at the compilation of letters to form words in the English language.  When studying Chinese you have to train your brain to associate a symbol, other than a letter, within context to derive the correct verbiage.  And as if that were not difficult enough now add in the many different dialects and pronunciations throughout a single country!

It is far from impossible to gain a full grasp on learning languages outside of your current natural tongue.  Prepare yourself in advance to minimize the frustration that many people feel when they tackle this challenge.  Give yourself ample time to study and build your proficiency up.  The number of hours of instruction required has a direct effect on the level of proficiency a student attains and the tasks that he or she is able to perform in the target language.

In all cases, it takes hundreds of hours to reach true proficiency in any language.  Keep in mind when you were a very small child you did not arrive in this world speaking as you do today!

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