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June 25, 2010



Not another language, but I began learning fiddle a few years ago (and have played other instruments so maybe it's somewhat akin). I think in addition to pure hours, they have to be constructive hours. David Shenk's The Genius in All of Us has a great analysis of how those hours should stretch you beyond your comfort zone.

I love your turning interfaces into Spanish.

Meg Lark

I don't know that I've done the math, per se, but learning Russian is about the most challenging thing I think I've ever done (especially having begun the year I turned 55). It's taken six years of university-level courses -- repeating all but the very first course twice -- plus *having* to speak with Russians who don't speak English, plus taking music courses at a Russian monastery every summer for the past 10 years, to get to a minimally competent level. Next up: I'm waiting till I turn 65 so I can take Russian literature courses for free at the university. When I learned German 40 years ago -- a language I can still speak fluently -- what made the difference was being able to read that language. Trouble is -- German uses the same alphabet as English. ;-)


I didn't know Japanese at all before I graduated from the college. And I come to Japan because there was a Japanese company wanted me to join. Then I started to study Japanese. I watched a lot of animations.It was very hard for me, but now I can understand a Japanese. It is a miracle.

Lynn E. O'Connor

It's fun following you as you learn a new language. A few comments about intelligence and learning --and not just new languages. We used to believe (and many still believe) that "IQ" or intelligence was all genetic and fixed, unchangeable. In the past decade psychology researchers have found that intelligence is incremental, expandable, and more about mind-set and effort than anything else. One great researcher, Carol Dweck (she's written popular books as well as many scientific papers) has spent her career studying what we might call the "mind set" or "effort effect." If people believe their intelligence is fixed, and if they do well in something it/s because of their inborn intelligence, or if they do poorly, it is likewise due to inborn capacity and they are basically hopeless --they are far less likely to do well in many tasks. However if people learn (and understand) that intelligence is expandable --it grows with effort-- and how well someone does is a function of their effort, capacities grow exponentially.

We should all begin school with months of learning about expandable, incremental, effort-based intelligence and capacity, I think the results would be remarkable. I appreciated your recent comments on learning a language (see above) because I think you are giving a real life example of Dweck's conclusions from many years of research (and certainly spelled out by Gladwell).

And by the way, all that aside, I greatly admire your efforts to learn Spanish!



The one trick that has helped me tremendously is loading a bunch of songs in spanish, and then printing the lyrics of a couple of them per week, like that, at the beginning of the week, I can listen to one song while reading the lyrics once, and then listen to that song many times without the lyrics (it is better if you know what the lyrics mean). Your oral comprehension skills will improve, plus you'll get to know some new music.


another really good trick to learn spanish.. depending on where you live.. is to watch spanish television. there are GREAT novelas (soap operas) and talk shows that are way over the top...

just watch a few, and you will definitely want to know what is going on..


This kinda reminds me of what I did to learn Spanish. I really enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work!

Rob Maguire

A refreshing perspective and one that resonates for me being on full time intense language training for french (5.5 hours daily with an instructor and 2-3 hours of self study and exercises). I was told it would take me 1450 hours of instruction and thus far have about 425 hours invested.

Also double check the math on your blog on this for me will you please. 4 x 8 = ?

+ 24…Then I listened to Michel Thomas Spanish, which is only 8 hours, but they are exceptional hours, teaching the backbone of the language: verbs. I’ve listened to it four times, for a total of 24 very valuable hours.


no maths, but would be interested in feedback on http://www.worldwordexchange.com

it was designed to improve on Rosetta Stone etc but I haven't found any reviews yet

Caitlin - Leadership Development

I tried to learn Mandarin using Rosetta Stone before. I got to keep a bit of the words but still not confident speaking long sentences. I think the best teacher of a language is exposure to it.


Learning a second language is too difficult as it is not applied in our day to day life in home as well as it is very time consuming. The best way of learning a second language is to follow three steps. They are reading books a lot to enrich vocabulary,to write what you learn and finally to practice it very often with your own self or with friends. The courses that are good can be beneficial but it is fully dependent on you to learn and be fluent in a second language.Thanks for sharing such valuable thoughts. Keep up the good work.


Although I speak Spanish and French, I decided recently to start learning Russian. Counting the time that it really takes to learn a new language is important and it's something that I take seriously as well. Thanks for sharing this post! It helps me to remind myself of why I love languages!

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