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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