What follows is a guide for quickly picking up a new language. It starts out with the most useful, and easiest to learn, elements first and then moves onto the more time consuming aspects of a language. The areas that require the most study, practice, or memorization are saved until you have a framework to build on and barebones language skills that you can use immediately.

You should first read my post on language theory to first decide what your goals are. This will help you reduce the amount of time spent getting to where you want to be even more.

80/20 Guide to Learning a New Language

  • how to pronounce the letters
  • common phrases
  • sentence structure (preferably with the common phrases learned as examples) - statements and questions
  • articles (a, an, the)
  • pronouns (he, she, it, they, you, I)
  • possessive pronouns (my/mine, your/yours, his, her/hers, its, our/ours, their/theirs)
  • grammar
    • direct object vs indirect object
    • making things plural
    • negation
    • possessiveness
    • read several articles on nuances and grammatical structure
  • demonstratives (this, that, these, those)
  • conjunctions (and, or, but)
  • question words (who, what, why, how, when, which)
  • survival 101
  • quantifiers (more, less, few, many, little, much, any, all, none, both)
  • prepositions (at, on, in, from, to, about, for, of, like, with, without)
  • common nouns, adjectives, adverbs
    • colors (black, white, red, green, blue, yellow, green, purple, gray)
    • adjectives are important because you can describe something you don’t know to someone else and they can tell you the word if you have an accurate description.
  • words that are the same or very similar in both languages
    • search for “[language name] cognates” or “[language name] English loan words” to see words they borrowed from us, and finally “[language name] words in English” to see words we borrowed from them
    • reference:
    • false cognates - words that sound the same but have different meanings
  • verbs
    • infinitive form of common verbs
    • conjugations of these common verbs
      • to be
      • to go
      • to do
      • to have
      • to want
    • combination tenses where the infinitives can be used
    • other common verbs, verb phrases, modals, and verbs with infinitives
    • other verb conjugations, especially if there are general rules, find the most common tenses
  • common idioms and figures of speech
  • common gotchas and confusions

Supplemental Resources