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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!

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It’s funny because I recently wrote a post talking about reviewing less  and ever since I wrote that post I’ve been spending a lot more time blasting through cards in anki.

I’ve got decks going for Japanese, Polish, and Mandarin right now and things are going very well, indeed.  I think it’s due to my new 5 card “limit” per day.

You see, this isn’t really a limit and more of an incredibly low starting point to get you in the flow of doing something(anything) at all in that language. I now often find myself knocking down 5 cards an hour in each deck instead of doing 5 a day. I’ve just really been in the mood lately.

Some SRSing things that work for me:

1. Keep cards extremely short. (I can’t stand massive context clozed deletion cards)

2. Keep your decks to under 1000 cards each. My first sentence deck in Japanese was over 5000 cards and when large parts of it got boring, I felt like it would be too much of a hassle to fix it. If you keep your decks limited to something like 1000 cards, your decks evolve over time with your interests and style to keep you progressing as well.

Lately, I’ve been realizing more and more that twitter is one of the best language learning tools. I always have twitter open and check it compulsively every 5 seconds anyway so I might as well have multiple languages being streamed automatically to me anyway to increase exposure.

Right now I’ve focusing on Japanese and Polish so I’ve been subscribing to more and more people who speak these languages just so I can have more content to read constantly. If they turn out to be one of those people who just spams their twitter feed every 2 minutes with uninteresting content, it’s simple enough to just unfollow.

After a while of doing this, you’ll develop interesting and funny language content streams that are constantly delivered for free in front of your eyes throughout the day.

Twitter @loafyi

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