Michel de Montaigne on How to Learn a Language Effortlessly
Charles Chu

One of the great cruelties are ads that promise, Latin Can Be Fun, Speak Fluent Urdu in 30 Days. Yeah, in the classroom a good teacher’s method can make the course enjoyable, but the nuts and bolts of actual learning are not fun — at least for me. I’ve studied a number of languages (including eight years of Latin and three of Classical Greek) and it was hard work.

Absent native speakers, I found repetition and drill baby drill exercises quite useful. In a foreign country my modus operandi was reading the morning paper’s front page; hearing the same words and patterns on the radio news and talking with native speakers; watching the evening news, and more talk. In one country I went from 20% to 60% fluency in six weeks. After that you hope for that breakthrough when it all falls together…after much hard work.

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