Donovan Nagel is an Applied Linguistics graduate hailing from rural Queensland, Australia (the amazing soundscape you hear in the background of our interview) and the man behind the language learning site and community, The Mezzofanti Guild, and the Arabic learning site, Talk in Arabic. Donovan named the site after one of his heroes, Cardinal Giuseppe Gasparo Mezzofanti (1774 – 1849), a hyperpolyglot who Donovan felt a strong connection to given their mutual background in theology, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic, and the fact that they both focus on learning via contact with real people.
Just as corporations can waste lots of money storing unneeded inventory, the human brain can waste lots of precious energy on unneeded information. The Toyota Motor Company is famous for its “lean manufacturing” approach, a big part of which is what’s termed “Just-In-Time” manufacturing (ジャストインタイム). Instead of sinking excessive costs into surplus parts, Toyota does everything it can to ensure that there are just enough parts (not too many, not too few) at just the right time (not too early, not too late) needed for the next phase of production. While our goal here is to learn a language, not build a Prius, we can apply the same basic approach to foreign language acquisition.
Just like learning a martial art, mastering a foreign tongue requires ① time and effort (which is the real meaning of the term “kung fu”), ② the proper blend of “self-study” and “sparring,” ③ a great deal of patience, and ④ a focus on mastering the basics instead of always chasing flashy new moves or words. Read on for tips on how to put more “kung fu” into your language learning.
Kevin Morehouse is the man behind LanguageHero.co, a site dedicated to helping language learners start their journey, find allies, and stay the course. Kevin is a certified Italian teacher and soon to be certified in Spanish as well. In our interview, Kevin and I discuss: 1) The advantages and disadvantages of learning a foreign language in the classroom, 2) The problem with waiting until one is “ready” to start speaking, 3) The fact that immersion is a choice, 4) The power of social accountability (e.g. making commitments to other people), 5) The problem with letting emotions drive when/if one studies, 6) The importance of focusing on process over end goals, 7) The many linguistic and social benefits of working with tutors, 8) The fact that extroversion is not required to learn a language well, 9) What “Language Hero” is and why he created it, 10) Why learning a language is no longer a resource problem, but rather a confidence problem, 11) That the difference between polyglots and failed learners is drive, not ability, 12) A typical day of language learning for Kevin, 13) Kevin’s favorite language learning tools and resources, and 14) The dangers of uncontrolled Internet use.
I’ve been blogging about language learning for 6 years, teaching languages for over 10, and learning languages myself for 15. During this time, I have heard lots of excuses (and made a fair number myself I must admit) about why one/I cannot learn a language well. The most common three by far have been: 1) I don’t have enough time, 2) I don’t have enough money, and 3) I’m not good at languages. But none of these are the real problem. Read on to see what is…