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When will I get somewhere in the language?
When will I understand what the hell’s going on?

This guide is written for those people who have never learned a foreign language before or have tried and failed. Most importantly this guide serves as an estimate for about when you’ll have advanced passive understanding in your new foreign language. It doesn’t mean you’ll be jabbering away fluently with perfect grammar.

So how will we estimate how long it will take?
By using a large arbitrary number of course! ヽ(´ー`)ノ♪

Actually, while the exact number is arbitrary, the amount itself is from my personal experience in getting to advanced passive understanding in Japanese. Advanced doesn’t mean you’ll know everything and it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to fluently produce the language by spoken or written means. However, you’ll be able to read most common texts (Not academic or specialized areas outside of your interests) and you’ll be able to understand common media and conversation at about 98% of the time.

The large arbitrary number I’ve come up with is 100,000 repetitions.
Once you’ve allowed your brain to process around 100,000 snippets of comprehensible text over a period of time, you should be at around the 98% level of comprehension in your language of choice. Snippets of text? I’ve used this term because they’re not always sentences and they’re not always phrases or single words. Personally, I try to shoot for the 3 to 10 word range for each “item.”

100,000 doesn’t mean 100,000 DIFFERENT items. It simply means that you’ve ton 100,000 repetitions of the content you’ve collected. You might only have 10,000 different items but have reviewed those items 10 times each. Obviously, if you review the same item 100,000 times, you’re not going to get anywhere. Shoot for the 8,000 to 12,000 range depending on how strong your memory is.

How long will this take?
That depends on your daily volume of comprehensible language items. How much of your day can you devote to this task?

This is an important question because people often just like the idea of being able to understand/speak a new language but when it comes down to actually doing the huge amount of work required, the slink back off into the monolingual shadows. There’s nothing really wrong with that though. Some people just don’t enjoy the process of learning languages enough to see it through. Some of us like to learn multiple languages. You’ll have to ask yourself where you fall on that spectrum.

How long and how much:
Around 274 items a day for 1 year.
Around 137 items a day for 2 years.

Which one fits your goals and life? For me I did something like the 2 year plan give or take some months.

If you think these timeframes seem too long or like too much work, you have to re-ask yourself the above question about how badly do you want this new skill. It takes a ton of time to accumulate the vocabulary you need understanding even the most commonplace media. If you wanna keep track of your numbers then you’ll probably want to do your studying using a Spaced Repetition System like Anki.

What’s next? Well, once you’ve completed this task, I’m sure you’ve found movies, books, and people that you enjoy spending time with that involve your new language. After you have this foundation, it’s simply a matter of gaining more and more words and practicing outputting them properly.

Good luck!


I’m writing this post to ask people who know more than 2 languages… or those who are learning their first foreign language how they got past the beginning stages.

Every time I start to play with a new language I get this massive feeling of discouragement mainly because I’ve come so for in my first foreign language, Japanese. In some ways it makes me feel really good about how far I’ve come in Japanese, but other times It reminds me of the pain of starting a new language and knowing almost nothing in comparison. I want to become a polyglot but when I look at a new language I feel like I just don’t have time with my science studies and Japanese studies to take on a new language. This is very frustrating.

In a perfect world, I would get paid to just learn languages and translate part of the day. I’ve almost come to the end of my bachelors degree in Biology and I have to spend a certain amount of time maintaining science knowledge and getting ready for a possible career in science.

So back at the topic at hand. I”m asking this because I’ve forgotten.  How do you mentally cope with getting past the beginning stages in a new language? I feel like I never really experienced this acutely because I was listening to Japanese since i was like 13 by watching subbed anime and randomly playing with beginners lessons before I really got started learning the language seriously at the age of 22 or so. By this I mean I think I remember already having the “melody” of the language in me by the time I started.
Thanks f0r any comments.

I contend that if you do just 20 percent of what professor Arguelles does per day, you’ll be an extremely successful language learner. I wanted to share this video as I watch it every once in a while to boost my language learning motivation when I’m feeling a lag in work ethic.

Dr. Alexander Arguelles shows everyone in this video the work that goes into maintaining his vast variety of languages. The work that goes into becoming a hyperpolyglot is staggering. In order to do this, languages really have to be your passion in life. Using a “learn a language in 5 minutes a day” cd just isn’t going to cut it to learn even one language, let alone learning multiple languages.

I think skill in foreign languages is one to be careful telling others about. There are some polyglots who boast that they are fluent in a ton of languages to the amazement of some people. However, others will attempt to test you as with the case of Ziad Fazah in this clip. Ziad claims to speak 59 languages according to his wikipedia page but shows difficulty in several of them on this show.

The crowd is enjoying it a little too much when he can’t understand a foreign language that he claimed to know. Make sure you know a language fairly well before telling others you can speak it or risk public tests and other such things. At least don’t go on a television show in front of a language firing squad…

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