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Learn Spanish in ten years Posted by on Feb 20, 2012 in Learning

My business partner Alessandro Brandão, from Montes Claros, MG (Brazil), wrote this awesome post about how nowadays we want to hurry into learning things and don’t respect the proper timing to do so. Alessandro is an IT consultant and has developed online learning systems and things of the sort. In this post he writes about how a change of attitude and way of doing things has helped him be more productive and successful.

I translated his article into English and I hope you enjoy reading it. Leave your comments and impressions below!

Learn Spanish in ten years

I’m wondering: couldn’t we slow life down a bit and still be competitive? The way I see it is that the more information we have available the less we “digest” it. By “digesting” I mean the mental process that turns information into knowledge, that moment when we relate new information with everything we already know. Each day we read more and more titles and subtitles and we consume less content. When was the last time you read a text without feeling anxious to go on to the next one or do another activity? Can you concentrate on reading a text for more than 10 minutes?

This need to do things fast surely takes its toll in our learning. In a fast-paced world, with the “learn in 21 days” or “learn in 15 minutes” books, where the “ephemeral” rules, maybe there is not room for sustainability and quality. I believe that “fast” doesn’t go with learning, but “calm” does.

Since last semester I have been applying the following philosophy: “I’d rather do it right than do it fast”. One of the restults is that in 03 months we were able to get a system off the drawing board, make it happen, something that was supposed to happen since 2007. As we wanted to do things each time faster, we ended up going around in circles and nothing came of it.

Now let’s take this to the learning of a language. Newsflash: learning a language requires time, dedication and lots of effort. Learning a language is a complex process that involves, to a certain extent, teaching your brain a new way of thinking. I find it rather interesting that for subjects that are considered more complex there are no books to show how “easy” and “fast” it is learning it, or do you know any books that teaches Quantum Physics in 15 minutes? Even if it does exist, I don’t think it makes sense.

Check out this interesting piece of information:

Researchers (Bloom (1985), Bryan & Harter (1899), Hayes (1989), Simmon & Chase (1973)) have shown it takes about ten years to develop expertise in any of a wide variety of areas, including chess playing, music composition, telegraph operation, painting, piano playing, swimming, tennis, and research in neuropsychology and topology. The key is deliberative practice: not just doing it again and again, but challenging yourself with a task that is just beyond your current ability, trying it, analyzing your performance while and after doing it, and correcting any mistakes. Then repeat. And repeat again. There appear to be no real shortcuts: even Mozart, who was a musical prodigy at age 4, took 13 more years before he began to produce world-class music.

From the same article:

Malcolm Gladwell states that a study carried out by the Berlin Academy of Music compared the best students in class, the average and the worst ones, and asked them how hard they had practiced. All of them, in every group, started to play at approximately the same age – around 5. In these few years, all of them practiced more or less the same amount of time – around 2, 3 hours a week. However, when they were around 8 years old the real differences started to show. The best students in class had started to practice more than the others: six hours a week at 9, eight hours a week at 12, sixteen hours a week at 14 until they were 20 years old and practiced more than 30 hours a week. At 20 the elite of players had a total of 10 thousand practice hours under their belts. The average students had around eight thousand and the future music teachers had a little more than 4 thousand hours.

Now a question for you: is the magic number 10 years or 10 thousand hours? At any rate I think we need to value the process of studying every day. We should have pleasure being in contact with the language, it is virtually impossible to do something forcedly for 10,000 hours.

But let’s not attain ourselves to numbers, if we all agree that persistance is important I will have reached my goal with this article.

How many hours have you studied this week? How many hours are you willing to put in your study bank?

Read the original article (in Portuguese) – Aprenda Inglês em 10 Anos

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About the Author: Adir

English / Spanish teacher and translator for over 20 years. I have been blogging since 2007 and I am also a professional singer in my spare time.


  1. Neil:

    That’s a great point. I’m going to try and keep it in mind with studying Spanish. I’ve bounced around learning a few different languages. I plan to make Spanish-language learning a life-long commitment. So much about the language and culture I find interesting.

  2. Jane:

    This makes a lot of sense! Will think about this idea and pass it on to others includibg my children.

  3. andreas:

    Estoy de acuerdo. Solo después de unos diez años de estudios siento la verdadera diferencia: le diferencia entre saber algo y conocer el idioma.