How I Went From Zero To Fluent

There’s a best kept secret behind getting fluent in a foreign language. In fact, in my opinion, it’s the single most important thing you must do if you really want to get fluent in a foreign language.

It’s re-imagining yourself as a speaker of that language. You need to actually visualize yourself as a speaker of this new tongue.

With my experience of mentoring and teaching students for over a decade, I’ve realized that a lot of people actually never think about this simple technique and don’t realize just how important this is.

When I started learning Chinese back in 2005, I realized once I mentally re-imagined myself as a Chinese speaker, I was able to hear more, speak more, and even attract more Chinese language speakers into my life.

I would even dream in Chinese, and I sometimes still do. But this happens more when I’m in China or around the language a lot. It still happens though.

Take, for example, if I’m talking to someone in Chinese on the telephone at night and then I drop off to sleep. There’s a chance I might have a dream about that particular topic or person.

Or if my mind recalls a particular event that occurred when I was in China, maybe my mind will process is and think about it in Chinese.

Sometimes I’ll even think, analyze, and decision make in Chinese, too - especially when I’m thinking of terms, topics, or concepts that I first learned when I was physically in China.

I believe the core reason why, to this day, I still think in Chinese is because of the visualization techniques that I begin in 2005. It set up for a strong foundation for me while learning a foreign language.

These are the same exact visualization techniques I teach learners of foreign languages in my zero to fluent programs. Because I honestly believe that in order to go from zero to fluent in a language, it’s not just about the vocabulary and grammar.  

You need more to really go all the way. And that’s what I help my students do.

My intention was to speak Chinese just like a native Chinese speaker. I set out for that goal, and I teach others how to do that to so that they can get fluent as well. I visualized myself as a Chinese speaker. All else followed.

If you seriously want to attain high fluency in a foreign language, you need to re-imagine yourself as having attained that outcome. This alone will help you get fluent faster.

This is precisely how I was able to speak Chinese more fluently and effortlessly as a black woman.

Because although people from the outside looking in saw me as an outsider, my self-image was far, far different.

I was the “insider.”

I became a speaker of that tongue.

You see, I didn’t imagine myself as a ‘black woman’ per se when I was learning how to speak (even though everyone saw me as that).

I was color blind.

I re-imagined myself as a speaker of a new language, and I fully embraced it.

I visualized it, and I embodied it.

This article was originally featured in the Huffington Post

Lillian Okoye

Lillian Okoye is the Founder of Fluent In Five and the Creator of Zero To Fluent. Zero To Fluent is a language program for global-minded individuals who want to get fluent in lightning speed once and for all.

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