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5 Ways to Succeed in Learning a Language Fast and Effectively

You’ve tried everything. You’ve switched the language on your phone and on Netflix and even subscribed to a couple of language apps. You’ve even started practicing the language with friends and acquaintances and still to no avail. You are barely satisfied with the results.

Learning a language is like any type of learning where motivation and commitment play key roles in determining success. Here are practical ways that will help you achieve your desired results.

Specify your Goals.

This is your typical goal setting task of answering, “Where am I now?” and “Where am I going?” Starting from scratch can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. Whether you are starting from scratch or starting all over, here are easy steps to get you started on setting your goals.

Check your Language Level by taking a Test. Surprisingly, some students do not give much value into actually testing their language level. Some assume or guess their language level, hop in a language class and simply tell themselves, I’ll just work harder if it becomes too difficult.

Testing your language level is crucial as this allows you to efficiently determine your starting point and measure your progress. There are a number of possibilities to do this quickly and conveniently. Cambridge English, for instance offers a variety of free online tests including General English, Business English and English for Young Learners.

Knowing your language level also allows you to choose the appropriate resources to aid learning. When you search the internet you’ll find that there are a lot of free resources and worksheets that you can use sorted according to language level.

Make a list of Specific Goals. Breaking down your Goals into smaller specific language components or functions allow you to set goals that are realistic and more relevant to your needs. Start by listing all the items that you would like to learn. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Describing Graphs in English

  • Telephoning in English

  • Use of the Perfect Tenses

  • Business Idiomatic Expressions

  • English Vocabulary for Fields such as HR or Information Technology

Time your Goals.

As all goals are timebound, setting a timeframe or a deadline for acquiring a specific function is crucial especially if you want to measure your progress later on. The timeframe clearly depends on the amount of time you are willing to commit until a specific amount of progress can be measured. Don’t worry about over or underestimating your deadlines. Feel free to adjust your timeframe or deadline based on the realistically available time you have allotted to learning.

Organize your Goals.

You can organize your goals by prioritizing your list. There are a number of ways to do this. The rule of thumb is to give priority to the function or component where you have the most amount of regular exposure. Let’s say learning English vocabulary in the field of Human Resources is on top of your list because you work in the HR department and have opportunities to practice what you learned.

Set the means to achieve your Goal.

You can do this by determining specific ways of learning such as reading, watching and speaking. Here’s an example:

Function Goal: Describing Graphs in English

  1. Search for free relevant resources and worksheets online

  2. Watch YouTube business presentations that show graphs, take down useful expressions

  3. Request to sit in or attend business presentations in the office

  4. Practice useful expressions on your own business graphs with a colleague

Sometimes it is not necessary to attend a language course to learn a business function. Some people acquire the language naturally because of their frequent exposure to the language. The above mentioned are just examples. The key is to find the most efficient way for you to learn the language function or component, whether it is by watching Netflix, reading children’s books or practicing talking with a colleague.

Test your Goals for Achievability.

Trying to learn a number of language functions in a weeks’ time is probably not realistic and will lead only to stress and frustration. Carefully consider the amount of time you are willing to invest to learn a specific language component or function and adjust your goals accordingly. This way, you can measure your own progress and proceed to the next function on your list.

As mentioned, learning a language is like any type of learning. The amount of motivation and level of commitment you put into it determine your success. If you take the time to set realistic goals and monitor your progress, you’ll eventually find yourself quickly ticking off items on your list.


Catherine Basilides Schwarz is the Founder and Language Strategy Consultant of Learning English for German Speakers (LEGS). She holds a BA in English Mass Communication and MBA in International Marketing. She is also an adjunct Professor for Design Thinking and Innovation and Digital Media Technologies at the European University – Business College of Munich.


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