If you’ve dreamed of picking up a foreign language—but you never made it past second-year French in college—we’ve got some good news: There’s never been a better time to try. After all, you can download any of dozens of language apps, you can pull up countless YouTube instructionals, and even download podcasts—all aimed at helping you pick up a second language, no matter your age.
But even with all these great tools, you can’t change the fact that it’s really, really hard to pick up a new language, especially after the age of 25—the age commonly understood as the point when the neural pathways in your brain set in place. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of tricks to try to speed the process up. And don’t take it from us. Take it from a guy who speaks 50 (yes, five-oh) languages.
According to Alexander Arguelles, who speaks French, German, Spanish, Italian, and many others—and who has taught at universities all over the world and currently leads intensive teacher-training programs at the Regional Language Centre of the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization—there’s one hack you need to do if you want to really speed up your studies: Adopt good posture.
OK, I realize that sounds too easy, but Arguelles—and his students—swear by it.
The technique is officially called “shadowing.” First, pick up a book and a corresponding matching audio recording. Then, while maintaining “perfectly upright posture,” start walking and, while still listening and reading, repeat the words out loud, clearly.
“I have experimented with every manner of using this technique, and I have always found that compromising any of the above three points even slightly reduces the efficacy of the method to a very great degree,” says Arguelles. By studying language in a natural state, like walking, the thinking goes, learning a new language becomes second-nature.
That said, he does offer a few variations. For one, you don’t necessarily have to pace back and forth; “You may also prefer to hike a trail,” he suggests. You may want to also want to vary your sessions. He suggests going with multiple 5-minute sessions throughout a given day, or opting for a single longer 30-minute stretch. In any case, this technique beats the stuffing out of yet another banal language app.
And if you’re still not sure if you want to pick up a new language, consider this: Multilingual people are sexier. According to a recent poll, in fact, a whopping 71 percent of people think that people who can juggle more than one language are more attractive than those who are confined to a single one. (Also of note: The remaining 29 percent didn’t indicate that monolingual people were more attractive; they just didn’t find extra linguistic talents to be a bonus.) What’s more, roughly half of respondents actively dreamed about carrying on a romance with someone who speaks a different tongue. So why are you still only speaking English?
Once you’ve mastered your new language, consider checking out any of the other Best Ways To Make Your Commute the Best Part of Your Day.
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