400 hours?! It sounds like a lot of hours to get from complete beginner Spanish (A0 level on the CEFR scale) to a professional, working level of Spanish (B2 level on the CEFR scale), but Fluency Corp really knows how to pack in the hours, find hidden 15 minutes here and there, and even learn while you’re half-awake! Okay, so the half-awake thing isn’t really the best solution, but it still keeps your mind in the language, and we’ll show you exactly how.
We’re using Spanish just as the example language throughout this article.
How Do Language Points Work
First, let’s understand the value of activities when learning a second language, and in that way we can gauge which activities we need to focus on. For example, talking with a native speaker for 1 hour would be worth 1 point. That’s because talking with someone in the target language is the best way to get fluent. 1 hour is fully worth the entire hour.
Now, listening to the radio or watching TV would be secondary activities, because you, the learner, are not actually producing any language, and so the synapses in your brain are not firing, and trying, and struggling to make connections. You’re just taking in information and categorizing it, but you’re not producing anything (which is the best way to get fluent). But this is still a good activity, but it’s only worth half a point for every minute. So 1 hour of TV or radio would be counted as only .5 points.
The goal for arriving at a professional level of Spanish is to get to 400 hours – or 400 points (if you’re starting at A0 level).
Then, we come to language learning apps and reading, which are even less valuable as language-learning activities, but still better than not doing anything at all. These activities are worth just a quarter of the time that you do them. So 1 hour of working on an app or reading a book would only be worth .25 points.
This is a helpful way to keep track of getting to your goal. This is why I take 4 hours of Japanese lessons every week with a live instructor online. I know that this is worth the most points. Then I watch 1 hour of TV in Japanese each week, making my total for the week about 4.5 points (or 4.5 hours of activity). Since I know it will take 1200 hours to have a basic fluent level (and I have already done 600 hours), I know that I still have 3 years to go if I stay at this pace.
Now that we know the value of each activity, we can get back to our topic of how to fit language learning into our daily routine, and now we can understand why some activities are weighted differently.
Learning a Second Language in the Morning
What’s your morning routine? Do you roll out of bed, into gym clothes and head out for a run? Do you leap up and jump in the shower? Do you get woken up by children that want to be fed? Whatever your morning routine is, it most definitely is possible to add 15 minutes of language learning into it. And we’re not talking about typing in fill in the blank exercises on an app (lame!). We’re talking about real language acquisition.
Here is what we do at Fluency Corp: put on a podcast in the language while you’re making breakfast, taking a shower, or running around the neighborhood. You might say, but I have no idea what is being said; I’m just a beginner! How in the world does this help me learn a language? Well, this is just a part of the program. Any language learning program must incorporate 2 hours of speaking with a native speaker each week, so this is just a supplement to that. And remember, you also didn’t know English when you were a baby either, but you heard it enough to the point that you did, so don’t be an impatient adult. Just let it happen.
While you’re running, cooking, showering or driving, I want you to try to mimic what the podcast people are saying. Don’t focus so much on understanding what is being said, because that will come, but for now, to keep yourself paying attention, I want you to mimic and try to sound exactly like them. The reason you’re doing this, is so that you can stay concentrated. When we do not know what is being said, we zone out. And that doesn’t get us anywhere. So by mimicking what they are saying, it keeps us keyed in. You only do this for 10 – 15 minutes. Since it’s a challenge, we only do it for a short amount of time.
If you do this every morning, 5 days a week let’s say, that would be roughly 1 hour of listening, which has a value of .5 points.
Total points for the week = .5
Learning a New Language on the Way to Work
Do you commute to work? Do you ride the subway? Do you walk? Well, whatever you do, you can still get in some learning. You can continue with your podcast for 10 minutes, or you can try Pimsleur, or another conversation beginner software. There are also tons on Youtube you can throw on, or even Netflix in Spanish will work. It doesn’t even matter if you listen to the exact same clip or podcast multiple times. Heck, that will probably be even better, because you’ll realize that after listening 3 times, you actually start to understand it a bit. Especially if it’s something you can watch. Doing this on the way to work and on your way home would be another 2 hours a week, which adds another 1 point to the week.
Total points for the week = 1.5
You Have to Speak to a Native Speaker to Get Fluent
If your goal is to work in Spanish someday or live in a Spanish-speaker country with ease, then you’ll have to practice speaking with a native speaker for hundreds of hours. Imagine trying to get really good at the piano, but never actually practicing the piano – it doesn’t work so well, does it? You can just learn the notes on the sheet music for years and then expect to be able to play like Mozart. So make sure you talk with someone for at least 2 hours a week – it can be in person, it can be online. Both are equally effective. I personally do online because it costs less money and it’s super flexible, which I really need for my job.
Make sure you discuss a lot of different topics and ask your instructor to do role play. Pretend you’re doing a job interview, pretend you’re checking in to a hotel for the first time, imagine you’re meeting your friend’s parents, etc. Choose a lot of different scenarios so that you’re truly prepared for real life outside of the classroom setting.
Total points for the week = 3.5
Language Learning with the Family (or Without)
After you’ve spent an hour in traffic getting home, gone to the gym, and started making dinner for the kids (another chance for 15 minutes of a podcast, by the way), you can even do 15 minutes of TV time and have the whole family join in. You might want to see how much Spanish TV watching your family is willing to take. If your kids are younger, then they likely won’t complain much. But your husband or wife might last only about 5 minutes, so if this interferes with family time, then do your Spanish TV-watching on your own time. But, if your family doesn’t mind 5 – 15 minutes of laughing together, trying to figure out what is being said, then enjoy it!
15 minutes X 4 nights a week = 1 hour = .5 points
Total points for the week = 4
As you can see, even though you are doing just 2 hours a week of actual conversation time, there are many ways to double your progress. If you did just 2 hours a week of conversation classes, you would have approximately 100 points at the end of the year, but since you’re putting in extra time, you will actually get to 200 points by the end of the first year. This means that after 2 years you could really be making a lot of strides!
Other Ways to Get in Extra Language Training
- Go to the Mexican restaurant or taco stand near your office and ask a new question each time you go.
- Listen to a book on tape in Spanish that you’ve already read in English.
- Watch Friends in Spanish, or any other TV show that you know well. No subtitles! Or very limited. If you’re reading, then you’re not listening.
- Go to Saturday meetups for language exchanges.
- Find someone online that wants to learn English, and do just 20 minutes of each language a week. This will be extra random conversation. Bring a specific topic each week so that you’re not saying the same introduction pleasantries every time.
- Go to a concert for a band from a Spanish-speaking country. They actually come more often than you think – you just never listen to the Spanish radio to know they’re coming.
- Learn 1 song a month in Spanish. Since it once or twice a week. Teach your family!
- Read a Paco Ardit book – 1 chapter a week.
- Change your navigation to Spanish, and anything else you use daily.
If you or your employees are interested in upping their Spanish game, Fluency Corp would love to walk you through how to do it and provide high quality teachers for your office, for your home or even meet at flexible times online. Always with a live, professional instructor. Contact us on our website or call us at 1-800-401-3159.