Make Your Second Language The Center Of Your World


You want to learn a second language? Then make that second language the center of your world. Doing this is key to rapid language learning, and I am about to tell you why and how.

Are Second Languages A ‘Natural’ Thing?

Let’s start putting it out there – second language learning is not something that is ‘natural’ for human beings. Just imagine a stone age person going to another tribe and trying to learn their language, just out of curiosity. Does this sound likely?

No, because the human brain is primarily wired for survival.

However, this does not mean that learning a second language is impossible. It just so happens that intelligence, culture and learning are things that human beings are really good at. This gives humans the ability to learn anything — including a second language —even as adults.

How Does Learning A New Language Work?

In natural conditions, humans learn a single language when they are children. When you want to learn a second language, you need to simulate the natural learning process that you had when you were a child as much as possible, which involves:

  1. An environment with constant feedback
  2. A safe environment for trial and error
  3. A language mentor
  4. Active use of the language on a daily basis
  5. Constant exposure to the language

The primary issue that adult language learners face is not that they are unwilling or unable to learn. Rather, it is the difficulty of creating an environment which provides them with these five natural learning conditions.

Babies are able to spend all of their time observing their environment and learning, whereas adults are much busier and do not have a lot of time available for language learning.

They have jobs to do. They suffer from mental fatigue. They are happy if they just get to rest every once in awhile. The adults whose environment allows them to speak their target language during their daily lives, like at work, with their partner, with their friends etc., are the exception rather than the rule.

Live Your Life In The Second Language

If you want to make fast progress in any second language, you need to start living your life in that language. Everything you do on a daily basis — all of it has to be done in the language you’re trying to learn.

In an ideal world, you would be able to:

  • Redesign your work in a way that gives you the chance to speak the language
  • Do all of your reading in your target language [e.g. newspapers, books]
  • Speak to your friends and your spouse in the target language
  • Do all of your media consumption in your target language (easy thing to do)
  • Listen only to music in your target language
  • Etc.

I know, you do not live in an ideal world. And that is okay. But, really, it all comes down to a single question:

How can you redesign your life in a way that you are exposed to the target language as much as possible?

Follow These 6 Tips


Here are 6 tips on how to design your life to utilize these 5 natural learning conditions even in an imperfect environment:

  • Make friends with people from the target language or people who are also learning the language and try to speak with them exclusively in that language.
  • Ask everybody with whom you speak the language to give you as much feedback as possible.
  • Get some of your close friends or family to study the language along with you
  • Make consuming all your media (newspaper, television etc.) the first step in your process of making the language the center of your world. This is the easiest one to do.
  • Get a language mentor — somebody who is willing to spend some part of his/her time helping you improve your second language skills through speaking, writing, or watching a film together, or a professional language mentor , an teacher, who can design a personalized course just for your needs.
  • Find ways of passively learning the language while doing other things like cleaning the house or driving (audiobooks, radio, etc.).

In the beginning, you might not be able to come close to doing the majority of your daily things in your target language. But gradually, as you are shifting around your daily routines in a way that exposes to you more and more of the language, you will start getting more used to it. As this happens, you will find it easier to make a conscious effort to find ways of making your target language a normal part of your day.  Don’t stop until you can honestly say that your target language is at the center of your world.

To truly master a language, it has to become the center of your universe.

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Tim Rettig is the editor of Intercultural Mindset Magazine and publishes content on intercultural communication on his website


Performance Issue or Language Barrier? How to Know.

language barrier

Recruiting or managing international talent is an important component of today’s global workforce. Large multinational corporations that have a strong base of employees and managers that are local to their region also tend to have less turnover and higher morale. However, when fitting all the disparate people and teams together, the issue of language skills inevitably comes up. While English may be the lingua franca of many large corporations, managers will find varying degrees of proficiency that may or may not be masking larger issues.

This makes employee evaluations one of the more difficult aspects of the job because it can often be difficult to tell whether the issues holding a person back are performance-related or simply due to a language barrier. In this article we’ll look at ways to discern between the two.

Continue reading “Performance Issue or Language Barrier? How to Know.”

Does Your Remote Team Lack Trust? Here’s How To Build Some.

remote team

Trust is a main ingredient in any manager’s recipe for a successful team. When you throw in a lack of face-to-face interactions, time differences, and the geographic distances of remote teams, trust is even more vital.

Muhammad Yasir and Abdul Majid detail how concepts of trust can fit into the different stages of building a “virtual organization” or remote team.

In their article, “A methodical study of the role of trust at various development stages of virtual organizations” they fit trust into Dr. Bruce Tuckman’s theory of team development. Tuckman outlined four stages of group development:

Continue reading “Does Your Remote Team Lack Trust? Here’s How To Build Some.”

What Good Managers Understand About Successful Cross-Border Teams

One thing good managers understand is norms. They establish them at the start, monitor them throughout, and quickly address bad ones when they develop.

But what are norms in a team context?

Norms are standards of behavior. They make teamwork easier and smoother, but they can also lead to conflict if individual members violate them.

Why is it important for team managers to understand group norms?

Continue reading “What Good Managers Understand About Successful Cross-Border Teams”

How To Keep Small Talk Comfortable At Work

Small talk helps you build professional relationships. People do business with people they enjoy being around, and those who make good conversation fall into that category.

Nevertheless, actually making small talk can be intimidating. You don’t want to babble or dominate the conversation, but you also don’t want to be boring.

But most importantly, you don’t want to put your foot in your mouth. Say the wrong thing and you’re looking at a very awkward lunch break or meeting with your colleagues.

Not sure what you should and shouldn’t bring up during small talk? Play it safe by avoiding the following topics. Continue reading “How To Keep Small Talk Comfortable At Work”

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Remote Worker

Remote work

Wish you could work remotely while travelling the world? Eager to win international clients without buying a single plane ticket?

All you need to be a remote worker is a strong internet connection, an in-demand skill set, and a good work ethic.

Business savvy and a tough skin help, too.

But how do you get started?

Continue reading “The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Remote Worker”

5 Reasons Why Companies Should Hire An International Team

These days, there are few obstacles to hiring an international team. Relocation costs aren’t an issue when an employee can work from their home country via the internet. Collaboration isn’t impossible when everyone can tune in through excellent video conferencing tools. And cross-border payments, while still a pain, are much more manageable than they were a few decades ago. With so little standing in the way, what do you have to lose from hiring an international team?

Very little. In fact, you have quite a lot to gain.

Continue reading “5 Reasons Why Companies Should Hire An International Team”

3 Important Talent Management Lessons From Startup Accelerators

There’s a slight difference between an incubator and accelerator. An incubator nurses startups in their infancy and doesn’t rush them out. Accelerators house startups for a limited time where they turbocharge their business before sending them on their way. Those differences aside, they’re both designed to help startups take their business idea to the next level by giving them the resources and support they need.

Continue reading “3 Important Talent Management Lessons From Startup Accelerators”

The Customer Experience Is The New Battle in the “War For Talent”

We’ve come a long way since McKinsey & Company introduced the “War for Talent” concept in 1997. Since then, we’ve established a greater understanding of talent, but we still haven’t figured out how to deal with the problem of talent shortages. And talent shortages are a very real and terrifying thing for many organizations nowadays, taking into consideration a recent study by Korn Ferry, which states that more than half of talent acquisition professionals say that it’s now harder to find qualified candidates than it was a year ago.

Continue reading “The Customer Experience Is The New Battle in the “War For Talent””