Transparent Language Blog

6 Tips For Making Language Learning Fly By Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 in Archived Posts

Itchy Feet: Slow Going

Nothing worth doing is fast or easy.

Language learners know this better than most people, I’d wager. You spend all day agonizing over nuances in grammar, trying to memorize obscure and hard-to-remember vocabulary, and attempting to get as much opportunity to speak as humanly possible so you can make those mistakes and get over them. You look up to those that speak better than you, who say to you “keep at it, and one day you’ll just wake up and realize you’re fluent,” and you want to box their ears. It’s a long, hard slog to victory. In this age of 3D printed weaponry and drone-delivered same-day packages, isn’t there an easier, faster way to learn?

You’re in luck! I’m your savior. Here are my six favorite ways to speed up the language learning process:

#1 – #6: You Can’t.

Oops. Hate to break it to you, but there is no way to “speed it up.” There’s no pill you can take or hypnosis you can fall under or electro-shock treatment you can endure to make language learning “go faster.” You’re stuck on the long slog with the rest of us, and you know what? That’s a wonderful thing.

Imagine a world where we could instantly learn anything we wanted by uploading it to our brains, drinking some sort of knowledge soup, or absorbing the souls of our vanquished enemies. Every student’s dream, right? No more hitting the books! No more cramming before a test! Just sweet knowledge, delivered to us in the blink of an eye.

Here’s the problem. If learning is effortless, then nothing is worth learning.

Take long-distance communication as an example. Time was, you had to sit down and write what you wanted to say on a piece of paper, then fold that paper up inside a protective sheath and pay for someone to carry it, by hand, to wherever you wanted it to go. This process took weeks, sometimes months, and was fairly expensive. And when you got a letter, it was a total delight. These days, we turn on our electro-boxes and send our digital messages instantly across time and space, no matter where the recipient happens to be physically. And what are we willing to pay for this incredible service? NOTHING! Not for your email or Whatsapp, anyway.

And why should we? It’s not worth paying for. Communication is so cheap it’s practically free (aside from your internet bill, I guess), and getting cheaper every day.

The fact that you have to actually work to learn a foreign language – for months and years you have to toil, doing hard mental labor – makes the victory that much sweeter. But that feeling doesn’t last. When you reach your goal of reading a book or having a conversation or being fluent, there will be a short period of elation. You did it! And then, the feeling will fade. It’ll just become another one of your skills, and you’ll forget the hard work that went into it, and you might even forget to appreciate that you have it. You can’t speed up the process of learning, but you can learn to take pleasure from the pain.

As I said before: nothing worth doing is fast or easy. So enjoy the ride, because it won’t last forever.

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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.


  1. Gustavo:

    “…enjoy the ride, because it won’t last forever” hahahah, really nice sentence. You know a long time ago when I started to study English I used to think that It was totally senseless: why do they change the word order (I’m a native Spanish speaker)? or why do they use auxiliar verbs for everything? … and so on.
    Now I’m struggling with japanese, but it totally worth it. So yes, you’re right there’s no tearless easy way to learn a language, but it’s not a lonely path.

    • Malachi Rempen:

      @Gustavo Too true. We’ve got lots of company!

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