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Learn A New Language With Tips From The CEO Of Duolingo

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Resolución de Año Nuevo, 新年の抱負, Új évi fogadalom, and Разрешение Новогодний all mean the same thing - this year your New Year’s Resolution is to learn a new language.  Learning a new language as we get older can certainly be a daunting task, but by establishing a process and staying dedicated to your goals, you’ll be speaking in a new tongue in no time.

We reached out to Luis von Ahn, CEO of Duolingo, to share some tips and tricks when it comes to learning a new language.  

Much Ado About To-do

For Luis, everything starts with a to-do list and a timeline. “I look at my todo list every day,” says Luis, so that he can see exactly what he has gotten done and what’s up next.

Start your to-do list by setting up a Trello board.  Think about the language that you want to learn, and set up the steps necessary to establish a learning program. It’s also a good idea to add deadlines for achieving specific language learning goals.

Luis_portrait_lowres“I try to break everything I do into small, achievable tasks that take at most a few hours to complete. These are great at keeping me motivated, because I feel great every time I complete one,” says Luis.

It’s also important not to overwhelm yourself when learning a new language.  Make sure to break up your learning and practice sessions over the course of a week, and don’t just jam it into one Saturday afternoon.

“Practice a little every day — it’s better to practice one hour a day for a week than seven hours in a single day,” says Luis. Not only will this be overwhelming to your brain and prohibit learning, but if something comes up on that Saturday then it means you’ve missed out on an entire week of practice.

Think Outside The Language Barrier

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Don’t forget to make learning a language fun by thinking outside of the box.

“Watch movies or listen to podcasts in the language you’re learning,” suggests Luis. “It will be hard to understand them at first, but it will be very rewarding when you're finally able to,” he says.

Bring friends into the fold that are interested in learning the same language as you, or sign up for sites like italki.com and practice your new language with native speakers.

If you are looking for a way to stay motivated, Luis suggests setting a strict deadline for achieving your language learning goals. He recommends planning a trip to a country where that language is natively spoken. This way not only will there be the motivational factor of wanting to be able to effectively communicate and have a great trip, but also by being fully immersed in the language you will tighten up your skills and develop conversational abilities as well.

While all of this may sound intimidating, Luis offers this advice, “Don’t worry about sounding stupid or being perfect at first. Perfection takes a long time to achieve and is not necessary to communicate.”

So go learn the language you’ve been dying to learn, and don’t hesitate to start speaking it with others. It’s the only way you will truly succeed. As they say, boa sorte, bon chance, iyi şanslar.. or simply, good luck!

Steps To Learning A Language Sample Board

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Here's a sample Trello board to get you going. Allons-y!