Such wonderful experiences are well within the reach of many of you. Of course, many people cite a bad memory for learning new vocab, so they quit before even getting started.
Since you may be starting from a similar position to where I was (monolingual adult, checkered history with language learning, no idea where to start), I’m going to outline the tips that worked best for me as I went from zero to polyglot. But–here’s the key–you absolutely do need to know all the words of a language to speak it (and in fact, you don’t know all the words of your mother tongue either).
This very detailed post should give you everything you need to know. As Tim pointed out in his own post on learning any language in 3 months, you can take advantage of the Pareto principle here, and realize that 20% of the effort you spend on acquiring new vocab could ultimately give you 80% comprehension in a language—for instance, in English just 300 words make up 65% of all written material.
You can find pre-made flash card “decks” of these most frequent words (or words themed for a subject you are more likely to talk about) for studying on the Anki app (available for all computer platforms and smartphones) that you can download instantly.
Good flashcard methods implement a spaced repetition system (SRS), which Anki automates.
This means that rather than go through the same list of vocabulary in the same order every time, you see words at strategically spaced intervals, just before you would forget them.
It contains TONS of amazing resources I never even knew existed, including the best free apps and websites for becoming fluent in record time. This is a post you all requested, so I hope you enjoy it! Since then, I moved on to other languages, and I can now speak more than a dozen languages to varying degrees between conversational and mastery.
Want to find a native speaker to help you for $5 per hour? You are either born with the language-learning gene, or you aren’t. It turns out, there is no language-learning gene, but there are tools and tricks for faster learning…
But this is about the point when I had an epiphany, changed my approach, and then succeeded not only in learning Spanish, but in getting a C2 (Mastery) diploma from the Instituto Cervantes, working as a professional translator in the language, and even being interviewed on the radio in Spanish to give travel tips.
The worst in my German class in school, only able to speak English into my twenties, and even after six entire months living in Spain, I could barely muster up the courage to ask where the bathroom was in Spanish.
As a “polyglot”—someone who speaks multiple languages—my world has opened up.
I have gained access to people and places that I never otherwise could have reached.