The Pareto Principle for language learning means is you need to focus on learning the 20% of knowledge that is going to be 80% useful to you.

Hacking language learning 101

Yet, language hacker Benny Lewis has built a whole business around becoming fluent in as little as 3 months! While there are no such things as shortcuts, there are ways to improve your language learning efficiency. Many of us want to learn a new skill, hobby or language, but often the big barrier is time. 

“You have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé.”

Every learner has their own way of learning and developing. Learning should be enjoyable; this means that before you even touch content, you need to have a positive attitude. Now this isn’t just some fanciful thought. To enjoy a process and to do things that you enjoy doing, you might need to stop going over the same boring learner content that you’re not really interested in, just because you believe that somehow it’s helping your language learning. Do things that you find interesting, get on to compelling content. I also want to stress that what works for one person, will not necessarily work for another. Just because Aunty Ling’s son aced the DELF with no help, doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. 

Secondly, as you learn a language, you will need to realise that attentiveness is important. This means so much more than just paying attention in class, or to the content. It means immersion. Having some touch with the language – every. single. day. I’m not saying you need to move to France to learn French. Reviewing French grammar a little every day should be enough to keep your focus! 

When I listen, I try to take notice of little nuances. When I read, I underline. I don’t expect to remember all of the content, but I do believe that it makes me a little more attentive. If the text is hard, I try to choose things that interest me – for example I read the book Hannibal in French, because I was genuinely interested in the story. There were many words and phrases that I didn’t know and a book that normally would have taken me a week to read, took me a month! But I persevered because I was interested. 

Improve your language learning efficiency with the Agape School of Education

Language hacking is all about finding alternatives to the commonly faced barriers that most learners give up with. 

  1. Making mistakes
    Everyone makes mistakes. If you want to be certain that you’re on the right language learning track, talk with a native speaker and get their feedback. Not only will you learn to use the language more effectively, you’ll get a better ear for it and start to pronounce it more closely to native speech.
  2. Poor vocabulary
    Instead of spending countless hours memorizing vocabulary lists from a textbook, I create my own personalized vocabulary list. That way, I am learning words that I will actually use and need to know.
  3. Forcing yourself
    Don’t just do something for the sake of doing something. Throwing in 10 minutes of extra practice can feel like a good thing, because at least you’re trying, but if you think about it, all you’re doing is killing time. Time, that can be spent doing something worthwhile. So don’t force it, enjoy it. 
  4. Having to learn something you’re just not interested in
    Trying to do it all at once will not allow you to make progress on anything specific. No one can do it all and when you set yourself up for failure like that, it’s easy to get demotivated. Focus on learning what matters and what you are interested in. 
  5. Lots of effort for little payoff
    Apply the 80-20 Rule to get 80% of the results from 20% of the effort. Successful language learners find ways to use the little they know in the most efficient ways possible. So, if you’re interested in learning how to speak in a short amount of time, think about Pareto’s principle. 
    1. The Pareto Principle
      Let’s think about some uncommon words like ‘Aardvark’ or ‘capricious’. Just because you don’t know these words doesn’t mean you’re not fluent in English. Many words like these are so uncommon and unlikely to show up, that not knowing them will make no difference at all in your life.

      If we extrapolate the Pareto Principle to language learning, all this means is you need to focus on learning the 20% of knowledge that is going to be 80% useful to you.

      But how do you know what’s useful? Often these are vocabulary, phrases or scenarios in which you would most often need to use that language. Think about the time and effort that might go into something and it’s pay-off. For example, it might not be easy to pronounce certain German words, but if you work have a situation where you will need to converse about medical terms to a German, that German medical terms might be the first thing you want to learn. 
  6. How far you have to go
    If you’re suffering from guilt or stress about how behind you are on your study hours, then maybe you should stop counting how many hours you’re practising for a few days, and instead see how many more minutes you can squeeze into a day.
  7. The time barrier
    Most of us are busy. Time is limited, but that’s not an excuse. Try micro-commitments and zoning out in your target language. Committing for five minutes is a lot easier than committing for thirty minutes. Cut out 10 minutes from the time you spend on social media or watching TV. No matter how busy you are, how much you work or socialise or devote your time to other important parts of your life, you will have time left over that you may be currently wasting!
  8. Frustrations
    There are not perfect conditions or timings. You can try to make things as ideal as possible in the current moment, but at the end of the day, you need to crack on. When you’re frustrated, using the Pomodoro technique can help you increase your productive sprints. By alternating 25-minute work sessions with 5-minute rests, you allow your brain to rest and then get in more focused work.

Come down to Agape School of Education (ASOE) and pick a foreign language course that you’re interested in! With over 13 different languages to choose from, you’re spoilt for choice! If you’re a Singaporean citizen above the age of 25, you are eligible for the SkillsFuture Credit Scheme!

We keep our classes small so our teachers can connect with their students on a personal level. This helps them tailor their lessons and teaching approaches to the individual student. We also combine the technical aspect of language with the cultural. This reinforces the love of the language and helps the student better grasp the language.

Our goal is to impart knowledge and inspire passion in our students, and our coaching approach helps our students deal with the emotional aspect of learning a new language.

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