For many language learners, there is an obsession with speed.  Addicted to the high of accomplishing tasks well ahead of their expected time, language enthusiasts are always chomping at the bit for an edge when it comes to making progress. 

However, language learning, and more specifically becoming fluent, is typically a lengthy and laborious process that involves very few viable speed hacks.  

Is it pure nonsense to believe you could 10x your ability to learn a language? Same old snake oil being sold by the latest and not-so-greatest language influencer(s)? 

Well, the answer is actually a bit more nuanced than you might think. You can definitely speed up the process, but you’ll have to give up time (and probably money, and comfort) in order to get the results you seek. You can get what you wish for, but you’ll have to pay a hefty price. Are you willing to do that?

Let’s delve deeper into the inner workings of how one can 10x their language learning process.  Full speed ahead, mateys! 

High-Intensity Hungarian: Thomas' Story

To expand upon a previous article I wrote earlier this year  How to Learn Any Language SUPER FAST! (My 3-Month Plan), we’re going to revisit my journey with Hungarian and the man who seemingly conquered that glorious language in no time - Thomas. 

My Hungarian journey started in 2016 and six years later in 2022, I had a chance to visit Budapest again, putting some of my Hungarian skills to the test.

There,  I reconnected with a friend I had made a few months earlier, at the polyglot Conference in Teresin: his name was Thomas, and he was from Belgium. 

We spoke a bit in Hungarian, and when I saw him interact with native speakers, I was absolutely floored.

Thomas' Hungarian was so natural, so effortless and seemingly flawless, that I could hardly believe he wasn’t a secret Hungarian agent disguised as an innocent language learner from the southern part of Belgium.  Since I had been learning Hungarian for more than half a decade by then, I was convinced that he had probably been learning for more than double that, if not more.

So I asked him how long he had been learning Hungarian. His answer shook the very ground beneath me and brought me to my humble, hyperpolyglot knees. 

Two years. 

What in Zeus’ name was this so-called Thomas talking about? I was in utter disbelief as I tried, to no avail, to pick up my jaw which had dropped so hard that it startled Thomas. 

Naturally, my quest for knowledge and for answers led to an inquisition of his process. “How did you do it? How did you learn to speak so well so quickly? At nearly 10x the speed that I did, Sir Thomas?” 

Thomas revealed to me that he didn’t use a fancy app or any common methods I’ve learned, instead he relied on the ancient arts of:

  1. Taking an intensive year-long language learning program in Hungary
  2. Dating someone who spoke Hungarian as well 

Granted, the lady he dated was Turkish, not a native Hungarian speaker, but it was the only language they shared. 

Even though his girlfriend wasn't a native speaker, simply having to constantly speak and use Hungarian with someone forced Thomas to quickly develop his skills. The fact that he was on location only expedited his already speedy path to fluency. 

For 730 days, Thomas essentially lived and breathed the Hungarian language, without recourse to French, his mother tongue. 

In one word, the secret to Thomas' mind-blowing progress was intensity. A key factor missing from most people’s language learning adventure for one reason or another. 

Low-Intensity Learning: How Most People Learn

When learning their own target languages, most people can't (or won't) do what Thomas did to learn Hungarian. Rather than relying on massive exposure to the language, they instead opt to learn for a small amount each day, or perhaps even less. Heck, even I recommend to most people to avoid learning for more than 30 minutes to one hour each day, and I consider myself an experienced language learner!

Why do people engage in low-intensity learning, if the alternative, high-intensity strategy gets more impressive results?

I think there's one main reason:

  • High-intensity learning takes a lot of time, energy, and effort. If you don't manage these things well, you risk burning yourself out, which may decrease your capacity or desire to learn languages again in the future. Lots of learners do try the high-intensity learning route, only to give it up when it becomes too much. Alternatively, they'd like to learn in a high-intensity way, but they don't have the resources to even attempt it.

That’s why you can increase your learning rate by 10x, but it's a costly endeavor—it is demanding and unless you’re ready to take on that challenge, it can derail your language learning plans in the blink of an eye. 

Acknowledging the high-risk, high-reward nature of intense language learning is probably enough for most people. They either take on the risk, or they don't. Simple as that.

However, what are some compromises that one could make in order to get as close as possible to Thomas' example? What if we wanted to transform high-intensity learning into a low-risk, high-reward scenario? 

For every problem there is a solution, but you have to be willing to make the sacrifices. Here are five ways you can speed up the process without following Thomas' exact formula. 

  1. Participate in a three-month language learning challenge
  2. Sign up for a one-month language camp
  3. Take frequent, short trips to the country
  4. Hang out with native-speakers that live in your area
  5. If you can, go on dates with native-speakers!

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these. 

1. Participate in a Three-Month Language Learning Challenge

Even if you'd like to pull off something like my friend Thomas' two-year, intensive stint learning Hungarian in Budapest, it's unlikely you could, or would even want to. Most of us have things like work, family, and, well, long distances standing in our way. And for many, these things can't be put aside for two days, let alone two years. 

The easiest way to learn intensively, then, would be to try to replicate the intensive experience from home—without having to travel, and without having to spend two years doing it.

Thankfully, with the advancement of modern day technology, there are plenty of opportunities to do this, typically in the form of online language learning challenges.

While they all have their own unique qualities, most language challenges follow the same pattern. 

In short, these challenges require you to:

  1. Commit to a specific (usually intensive) learning goal
  2. Complete this goal within a specified period of time

The actual length of the challenge can vary, but in my experience, most of the ones you'll find give you approximately three months to complete your goal. There are scientific reasons for focusing on any given goal one quarter at a time, but that’s a discussion for another day. In fact, the two challenges I run in The Smart Language Learning Academy for my beginner and intermediate language courses follow the same principle. 

We all share a spreadsheet where students “tick a box” every time they complete their daily activities for the channel. There’s a daily commitment of learning one’s target language for at least 30 minutes per day. The joy, desire to keep their streaks alive and the results students get make me feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy on the inside. 

Challenges, in general, provide a great way to inject some intensity into your life and language learning without forcing you to sign up for a year long program. Three months of intensive learning, at your own pace, is certainly a lot more manageable than two years. If it doesn’t suit your style or schedule, you can always go back to what works after giving it a shot. 

2. Sign Up for a One-Month Language Camp

If your home environment isn’t cutting it or it’s simply too distracting, then a slightly more bold approach may be what you need to succeed.  Sign up for an in-person, intensive language camp abroad. 

Compared to a three-month challenge, this is a bit more similar to what my friend Thomas did. To participate in such a camp, you would typically have to actually go abroad and physically attend lessons and other activities where use of your target language is required.

At a camp like this, you would do your best to learn and use your target language for a majority of the time. This forces your brain to quickly adapt to the language, and prevents you from using your target language as a crutch. This can be stressful, but it’s also extremely rewarding and in some cases - life-changing. 

Also, you don’t have to enroll in a program for an entire year. Instead, you could take on a weekend retreat, a week long bootcamp or something else along those lines where it won’t require such a large portion of your time. This will give you a taste of high-intensity language learning, but won't require you to sacrifice years of your life to get it.

If you're interested in participating in a program like this, I recommend that you search online. In the country or countries where your target language is spoken, most big cities will have several such programs that you can participate in. If you're lucky, you might even find similar programs in your home country. Americans, for example, can sign up for short immersion programs in over a dozen languages at Middlebury College in Vermont.

3. Take Frequent, Short Trips to the Country

My next tip is for those who can travel to learn, but can't commit to doing so for more than a week or two at a time.

In cases like this, the best way to maximize your learning within a short period is to actually travel to the country where your target language is spoken, and try to learn as much as you can while you are there.

As I've mentioned in a previous article, this isn't a strategy I recommend for beginners, since there's simply too much to adjust to if you’re focused on learning a language from scratch while in “survival mode.”  This is a recipe for disaster for most people and can lead to an extreme case of being completely overwhelmed.  Language learning, at its core, should not be anxiety inducing! 

That being said, learners at the intermediate skill level or beyond can find plenty of benefits from going on a jaunt.  The experiences (and language lessons) that a person takes away from such trips can actually increase their motivation and strengthen their resolve to become an even better speaker of their target language. 

The key here is to spend what little time you have in the country participating in learning opportunities that you would not otherwise be able to.  Making the most of your limited time is absolutely essential to cementing your target language as a lifelong endeavor. 

For example, you'll probably never have better access to native speakers of your target language than when you're traveling through the places where they live and work. Do what you can to communicate with them as much as possible—ask questions, make conversation, get corrected, and listen to what they have to say. Being surrounded by native speakers can make all the difference in going from intermediate to advanced in a matter of months.  Speaking of which…

4. Hang Out With Native-Speakers That Live in Your Area

If you’re afraid of flying, or it’s just not feasible for you at this point in time, then you may need to take a look around - literally.  Find out if there are any native speakers near you! 

For this one, my advice is to try to find native speakers of your target language that live somewhere nearby, and then actually hang out with them. 

How easy or how difficult this is will depend on exactly where you live, but in general, finding local native speakers is becoming easier and easier to do. Many popular language learning apps allow you to search for and contact native speakers according to city, town, or zip code, and some even allow you to find people who are in your immediate vicinity and willing to chat. 

If meeting one-on-one isn't your thing, then you can also use event platforms like Meetup to find language-themed events in your area. Are there any social clubs or language exchange events going on in your area? Look for them and embrace them. It can’t hurt to give this a shot, because the effort on your end is fairly minor compared to the major results you can achieve. 

Even if you live in a place where you think native speakers would be hard to find, it's worth a look—take a chance and see if there’s a language group nearby with someone who speaks your target language! 

Once you find a native speaker to chat with, the next thing to do is simply spend time with them. If you're both open to it, there's no reason why you couldn't do a regular, one-on-one language exchange, or even hang out with them more casually.

Whenever you do spend time with a native speaker, just remember that you have a great opportunity to learn a lot in a short period of time. Be curious, ask questions, and above all, try to have a good time! 

Some of my periods of fastest language learning progress have come from meeting natives and showing them around my hometown, so it's something I highly recommend. You’ll get the chance to enjoy a low pressure situation in order to flex your language skills (or lack thereof).  The process might be awkward at first, but in time, you’ll be thankful that you have an amazing friend (or two or three!) to help you become a better version of yourself. 

5. If You Can, Go on Dates With Native Speakers!

This last tip is quite powerful, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It is taking the intensity to another level entirely: date or marry a native speaker of your target language!

Being in a relationship with a native speaker can result in turbocharging your path to fluency. Imagine the countless hours you can spend exploring the language through everyday activities with that special someone.  This significant other doesn’t have to be your language coach, but you have to be willing to learn from them.  Obviously, this is quite an extreme example but the results will be nearly impossible to replicate with any of the aforementioned methods. 

When you're in a relationship with another person, you're in nearly constant contact with them. For the relationship to succeed, you need to be able to communicate your needs and wants at a high level, and do so consistently. This is a tall order for two people that speak the same language natively, so to pull it off when they're the native speaker and you're the non-native is a huge task that will require a herculean effort on your part, and a similar amount of patience from your partner.

If you can pull it off, though, the results will be unbelievable. I’ve had the fortune of testing out this method a few times myself. It was essential in developing my knowledge and more so my use of the French language.  In my late twenties and early thirties, I could rely on my French girlfriend to immerse my heart and soul into an unfamiliar language like no other technique or method. 

Additionally, spending time with her meant that I got to meet her friends and family members. Those are powerful experiences in and of themselves. After all, I had no idea I wasn’t supposed to “cut the salad” until her cousin told me that was a big no-no in France. 

Much like Thomas' Hungarian experience with his Turkish girlfriend, this is language learning on steroids. Does it get messy and complicated at times? Of course, which relationships don’t go through their rough patches? The beauty is that regardless of the outcome, you’re taking something away from that relationship that can never get taken away from you - experience in the language! 

If you're single and have an opportunity to go on dates with a native, why not give it a try? Of course, I don't think you should ever date someone just because they speak your target language natively, but if you two have a real spark, then you'll have an intensive language learning experience like no other. 


To make a long answer much shorter, you can 10x your language learning but it comes with a lot of sacrifices that you may or may not be able to make.  If you can’t go “all in,” then try going halfway and seeing where you can intensify your learning.  At the end of the day, find what works for you and enjoy the process, regardless of how quickly it’s moving! 

Here’s a quick recap of the five ways you can 10x your language learning. 

  1. Participate in a three-month language learning challenge
  2. Sign up for a one-month language camp
  3. Take frequent, short trips to the country
  4. Hang out with native-speakers that live in your area
  5. If you can, go on dates with native-speakers!

If you'd like to try intensive language learning for yourself, then I recommend signing up for one of the courses in my Become a Master Language Learner Series. I've got one course for beginners, and another for intermediate learners, and if you sign up for those, then you'll be able to join in intensive three-month language learning challenges, which we do several times a year for each course. 

Thanks for reading, and happy language learning!

Written by Luca Lampariello

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  • That’s a really great article Luca ! I’ve asked my teacher to encourage me to get to B2 by next march when we go to Florence.I have personal doubts. I’m not competitive so I don’t go for tests generally but I have tried doing some on youtube and it’s given me quite a huge lift, I know more italian than I thought I did ! 🤣👍

      • Hi Gaby, like you I am doing the same in Francais. Enjoying it but my problem is that I am not consistent, ie every day although a couple of times per week. Bon chance Gaby

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