If you’re lucky, you already know exactly which language you want to learn next. Congratulations! You can skip the following post and get back to bingeing Game of Thrones. But if you are among those struggling to decide which language to learn next, this post is for you. There are approximately 6,500 languages spoken today, and this massive number of options can quickly lead to what psychologist Barry Schwartz calls “the paradox of choice.” Many of us get stuck in “paralysis by analysis,” endlessly weighing pros and cons in a foolish effort to make the perfect choice. There is no perfect choice, of course, so we often make no choice at all. Or if we do manage to choose a language, we are left with a nagging fear that we made the wrong choice. Are we missing out on a more fulfilling adventure? Would another language be more useful in our career? So what to do? While there is no right answer to the question, “What language should I learn next,” there are at least some useful criteria we can use to narrow down the list of options. We can then spend less time deciding what language to learn and more time actually learning it.
Idahosa Ness is an accomplished polyglot, world traveler, musician, and the founder The Mimic Method, which helps language learners adopt more native-like pronunciation through the power of listening, phonetics, and mimicry. In the interview, we discuss how he went from a monolingual speaker in the suburbs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to a globetrotting polyglot who speaks Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Mandarin Chinese, why he focuses on pronunciation and speaking first, how his conversational fluency helped him out of a jam with the Mexican police, why music makes language more memorable and engaging, and much more.
On this day in 1970, the first official Earth Day was celebrated at thousands of schools across the United States. Nearly 50 years later, the day is now celebrated in 193 countries, including Japan, where environmental protection and sustainability have become increasingly important issues. To honor the day—and provide an excuse for learning some Japanese—here’s a bit about how Japan has tried to help the planet through sweat, short sleeves, reducing, resuing, recycling, and rocking out in the park…
Claude Cartaginese is one of the kindest guys you will meet in the language learning blogosphere, and I really appreciate all he has done to encourage language learners, gather advice from the world’s best learners, and share his infectious enthusiasm for language learning. In 2010, he released a monumental e-book called the The Polyglot Project, a free PDF which brought together tips and advice from 43 polyglots, hyper-polyglots, linguists, YouTubers, and language lovers, including Mike Campbell, Steve Kaufmann, Benny Lewis, Moses McCormick, Stuart Jay Raj, Anthony Lauder, and many more. In the interview (recorded in 2010 as part of my Master Japanese guide), we discuss: 1) The mistakes he made when starting out in Japanese and what he would differently if he started over again. 2) Why you should focus on one language skill at a time. 3) Why you should start with listening and speaking before reading and writing. 4) Why it’s crucial to choose methods and materials that support your unique learning goals. 5) When Japanese learners should start learning kanji. 6) Why “mastery” and “perfection” are not the same thing. 7) Barry Farber on how we “marry” some languages and simply “date” others and why “expertise is a narcotic.” 8) The power of modern asynchronous learning. 9) The challenge of “resource overwhelm.” 10) Why language study should not be required in school. 11) Claude’s language learning habits and routines. 12) Why languages are not “difficult,” just “different.” 13) The similarities between learning a language and learning a martial art. 14) How the ego gets in the way of learning a language.
I’d like to talk about one of the most underappreciated tools available to language learners: IPA. No, I’m not talking about “Indian Pale Ales,” though slight inebriation certainly can help some overcome the fear of conversing in a foreign language. The IPA I am referring to in today’s post is the “International Phonetic Alphabet.” I first learned about this powerful phonetic transcription system while studying Linguistics in university, and it has been an indispensable part of my language learning toolkit ever since. So what is so darn useful about the IPA? And why should you bother learning it? Read on to see my three key reasons.