What if it is possible to gain fluency in a language in only three months?
What if it is possible to do this without spending any money?
What if it is possible to do this without leaving your home country?
What if I told you that not only is it possible, but there are people out there who are achieving the seemingly impossible goal of becoming fluent in a foreign language in three months?
There is a whole movement of people out there who are learning languages in three months, and today we are going to reveal their secrets for how they learn languages so quickly without spending thousands of dollars in courses.
Living Proof That It’s Possible
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Benny Lewis is a man from Ireland who grew up only speaking English. He studied German in school but by the time he graduated he was still unable to hold a conversation in German. As is common with many language learning programs he spent a lot of time studying grammar and neglected the spoken part of the language. Despite knowing all of the correct situations to use “die, der and das” he was unable to actually use them in conversation, and eventually he gave up on learning German.
Excited about the opportunity to immerse himself in a new culture and learn a new language, Benny took an internship opportunity in Spain after graduating. After 6 months of living in Spain, he was hardly better at Spanish than he was before he left. All of Benny’s coworkers and friends spoke English, and it was all too easy for Benny to stay inside an English speaking bubble. He had tried learning Spanish in a variety of ways – group classes, online programs and by attempting to read the Lord of the Rings in Spanish – but all of this studying didn’t bring him any closer to Spanish fluency.
One day Benny had an epiphany. He realized that if he was ever going to learn how to speak Spanish, he needed to stop studying Spanish and start speaking it. You see, despite living in Spain for 6 months he was still afraid to actually speak it with Spaniards. Saying even basic things like “hola” and “gracias” was a challenge him, and he rarely attempted to speak anything more complex than that.
After months of making excuses as to why Spanish was difficult, that he wasn’t good at languages, and that it wasn’t his destiny to learn Spanish, Benny made an important decision. November 1, 2003 is forever marked in Benny’s mind as the day that he stopped speaking English and the day he started speaking Spanish. Everything changed after that day. From then on he spoke Spanish every opportunity that he had. He didn’t let bad grammar, poor pronunciation and a lack of vocabulary prevent him from speaking; he continued on until eventually he became fluent in Spanish.
Since learning Spanish, Benny has taken on many other language missions usually with the goal of achieving fluency in three months. He is fluent in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Irish, he is currently studying American Sign Language, Dutch and Mandarin Chinese. He has also studied Thai, Czech, Quechua, Klingon, Tagalog, Hungarian and Turkish. Benny blogs about his language learning missions on his website, Fluentin3months.com. (by the way, Benny has stated that Brazil is his favorite country and wrote a great article documenting his love for Brazil.)
What is Fluency?
Before we go any further, its important that we define what fluency is. If you ask 10 different people this question, you are likely to get 10 different answers, so its important that we are all are working with the same definition in order to understand Benny’s work.
Benny’s Definition of fluency:
“My own definition of fluency is something along the lines of not hesitating when speaking, getting your point across with very few mistakes and understanding when spoken to, without slowing down the conversation when with a group of otherwise native speakers. I consider fluency to be about 90-95% “perfect.”
What’s important about Benny’s definition is that fluency doesn’t mean perfection, it doesn’t mean having a native-like accent, and it doesn’t mean being able to have intense philosophical debates in that language. Fluency simply means the ability to understand and to be understood by the people that you are talking to.
How to Get Fluent in Three Months
“A language is not this kind of thing that you test for, that you can either be right or wrong, its not a black or white thing. It’s how human beings talk to one another.”
Benny believes and demonstrates that to get fluent quickly, you need to focus on speaking from day one and get as much exposure to the language as possible. Talking with native speakers is important because it allows you to get real time feedback and to gain confidence that you can really speak the language. The only way to progress in a language is by speaking and speaking a lot.
When Benny goes to a new country, the first thing that he does when he goes to that country is he starts to use that language. Even with no prior exposure to the language before arriving, he goes out and starts to communicate. He uses a phrase book to learn basic phrases and pronunciation, and he uses them immediately.
The most important thing you can do when learning a new language is to stop speaking your native language as much as possible. Once Benny made the decision to stop speaking English his Spanish abilities improved tremendously. Nowadays a self imposed English ban is an essential part of every language mission he undertakes. By continuing to speak in your native language, especially when you could be speaking your target language, you are only hurting yourself and delaying your progress.
Another aspect of Benny’s philosophy is to create missions that require you to go out and use a specific part of the language. Come up with specific goals that you want to achieve, learn the vocabulary needed to complete the mission and go out and accomplish it. Some mission examples might be getting a haircut, buying and activating a SIM card, teaching your friend how to make cookies from scratch or asking a girl on a date.
Becoming Fluent in Your Home Country
You don’t actually need to leave your home country in order to become fluent in a language and native sounding accent. One thing that we stress here at Real Life English is the importance of making a lifestyle out of English or any other language that you’re learning. You need to find ways to incorporate the language into your life as much as possible, through music, podcasts, TV shows and real life encounters with other speakers of the language.
Benny has written extensively on tips and tricks that you can do in your home country to find native speakers to practice with. Benny is a strong believer in Couchsurfing, which is a social network that connects travelers with locals who are willing to host them. Benny uses Couchsurfing to host guests from all over the world in order to maintain his various language abilities.
With resources like Couchsurfing it is possible to gain fluency in several languages without ever leaving home.
My Fluent in 3 Months Story
When I came to Brazil for the first time last year I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese, I did however speak Spanish, having studied it in school and spent the last few months traveling around Latin America. When I looked at written Portuguese before coming to Brazil, I thought that the two languages were close enough to be able to speak Spanish and be understood. Very quickly, however, I realized that the pronunciation of the two languages is very different, and that I was going to have to learn Portuguese.
After two months of following Benny’s advice I went from speaking Portunhol, to Portuguese, and considered myself fluent by the above definition. The pronunciation of my R’s still needed work, I wasn’t sure how to use the subjunctive verb tense and my vocabulary was pretty weak, but none of that stopped me from being able to proficiently communicate with Brazilians.
I’ve met several foreigners who are fluent in Spanish but haven’t been able to transfer their knowledge over to Portuguese. Many make the mistake of assuming that since the languages are so closely related that they don’t need to bother improving because Brazilians are going to understand them anyway. While it is acceptable to speak Spanish while you are a beginner, it is culturally insensitive to continue speaking Spanish, or even a thick Portunhol, to Brazilians months after you first move to the country.
The reason I was able to progress so quickly in Portuguese is because I almost never spoke English during those first two months. This wasn’t an easy feat to accomplish: there were many stressful moments where I was unable to express myself clearly or when I couldn’t understand what someone said to me. I could’ve made my life easier by seeking out English speaking friends, which is what a lot of foreigners do, but I was committed in my mission to learn Portuguese. One thing that made my life a lot easier is knowing that Benny is out there doing the same thing and that it is possible to achieve fluency in three months.
The Language Hacking Guide
You’re probably wondering how it is that Benny is able to travel around the world devoting himself to language learning full time. Was Benny the recipient of a large inheritance? Do his parents pay for everything? Did he win the lottery?
Benny is very good at helping people learn languages FAST. Benny is a digital nomad who is able to support a lifestyle of permanent travel from the language learning resources that he sells on his website. Benny has written a book compiling all of his best tips and strategies from his experience learning over a dozen languages. The Language Hacking Guide is translated in to more than 50 languages and gives you tools and tricks that will help you learn any language. This book was a big help to me when I was learning Portuguese, and I highly recommend you check it out. You can get the first two chapters for free when you sign up to Benny’s mailing list.
Benny’s website also has an active forum where members share language learning tips, share resources, arrange language meetups, and talk about the challenges of learning specific languages.