Jake Gill (高健) is a Chinese educator, former “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language” graduate student, and the CEO of Skritter, an innovative language learning app that helps Japanese and Chinese learners master characters through active production (i.e. writing on the screen) instead of passive recognition. In the interview, we talk about how and why he learned Mandarin Chinese, why traditional language classes won’t get you fluent in a language, what he would do differently if he were to start learning Mandarin over again, the limitations of app-based learning and following “the golden path,” the importance of following your passion and curiosity in languages, how to learn to write Chinese characters the “write” way, Jake’s current language learning routines and favorite resources, and the importance of daily habits and focusing on process over outcome.
Skritter has been on my radar for quite some time, but the need to sit at a computer was less than ideal. With the release of their iOS apps, however, Skritter has finally been given the touch-based format it deserves.
I am a big believer in goal setting and have an entire section dedicated to creating specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound language learning objectives in my books Master Japanese and Master Mandarin. Why? Because if you don’t know where you want to go, how in the heck can you ever get there? But it’s critical to understand that goals are just the first step to align your compass. Goals alone won’t get you very far on your journey. The real magic is found in the “process”―the collection of daily habits and activities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) that will inch you closer and closer to your fluency goals over time.
Do you live and breath languages? Do you want to make a good living using and refining your language skills every day? Then professional translation might be just the ticket. In today’s episode, I chat with my friend Sam, who is a professional Japanese translator and one of the best non-native Japanese speakers I know. We talk about how he learned Japanese, how he broke into the translation industry, and his tips for doing the same.
If you have a burning desire to learn Mandarin Chinese but feel overwhelmed at the very thought, then today’s podcast is a must-listen episode for you. Yes, to the uninitiated, Chinese characters look like a random pile of squiggly lines. True, the wrong tones could lead to you inadvertently calling someone’s mother a horse! But don’t let this scare you away, because today’s guests, Phil Crimmins and Luke Neale, have created an innovative language course called the Mandarin Blueprint designed to take these worries away.
Stuart Jay Raj is an Australian polyglot, applied linguist, author, musician, and cross-cultural business consultant based in Bangkok, Thailand. He has presented at two TEDx events (once in English and once in Mandarin), and is the author of Cracking Thai Fundamentals: A Thai Operating System for the Mind. In addition to teaching and writing extensively on effective language acquisition, he has also applied his impressive language skills as a multilingual facilitator in various specialized industries (including aerospace, oil and gas, hospitality, and cyber security) and as the co-host of a Thai travel show called Neua Chan Phan Plaek (เหนือชั้น 1000 แปลก) that explored fascinating people, places, and things around the world via local languages. Stuart holds a degree in Cognitive and Applied Linguistics from Griffith University, and speaks over 15 languages, including Thai, Lao, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Indonesian / Malay, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Hindi, Vietnamese, Burmese, and various other Asian languages and dialects.
Nick Godwin is a British polyglot, English language coach, and course creator living in Tokyo, Japan. He specializes in helping advanced English learners break through plateaus and helping beginning Japanese learners to communicate through by focusing on practical skills that matter. In addition to running the English language learning site ByLingua, he also helped develop the popular story-based course Japanese Uncovered, and recently launched a blog that blends his love of language, learning, and intentional living called Minimalinguist.
There is a lot to like about language learning apps. They allow you to squeeze in more language learning time throughout your day and allow you to outsource motivation to dopamine-driven “habit loops” that keep you coming back for more every single day. That’s the good news. The bad news? Apps alone will NEVER get you to fluency in Japanese. Read on to see why.
Richard Simcott is a “hyperpolyglot” who speaks over a dozen languages fluently and many dozen to various levels; a feat that led HarperCollins to name him one of Britain’s most multilingual people. He is also the co-founder of the Polyglot Conference, an annual event that brings together polyglots, linguists, and lovers of language from all over the world (the event will be online this year from October 16 to 25, 2020). He returns to the Language Mastery Show six years after our first conversation to talk about how he juggles so many languages, the “minimum effective dose” required to move a language project forward, and how he chooses which languages to pursue. He is a fountain of language learning wisdom and I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!
Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, the host of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast, and the creator of the Magnetic Memory Masterclass. He has refined his memory techniques learning a number of languages, including Biblical Hebrew, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Sanskrit, and has gone on to teach thousands of learners how to maximize their memories and create unforgettable associations. I like that his approach combines proven ancient principles with modern brain research, while focusing on practical application (e.g. remembering foreign language vocabulary) instead of impressive but ultimately useless memory feats (e.g. memorizing decks of cards or long strings of numbers).
Nick Velasquez is the author of the new book “Learn, Improve, Master: How to Develop Any Skill and Excel at It.” In the interview, we discuss the core principles, strategies, and tools you can use to master any anything, may it be reaching conversational fluency in Japanese or remembering more of what you read.
Chris Vasselli is a programmer, passionate Japanese learner, and the creator of the Nihongo iOS app, my go-to Japanese dictionary and reading tool for authentic Japanese content. We discuss his language learning journey, how to acquire Japanese the fun, natural, immersive way, and why you shouldn’t fear the Japanese writing system.
I first started The Language Mastery Show in 2009 as a short-term experiment. My initial goals were: ① To test drive the new medium of podcasting. ② To serve and empower independent language learners. ③ To have a good excuse to meet some of my linguistic heroes. Now eleven years later, I am happy to say that the podcast has exceeded all initial expectations. I’ve reached hundreds of thousands of people, interviewed 50 of the world’s best language learners, and befriended many in real life. Before kicking off Season 3 of The Language Mastery Show next week (launching on Friday, July 24, 2020), I wanted to go back and highlight some of my favorite lessons from the amazing guests that have shared their time and wisdom with us over the years, including polyglots, hyperpolyglots, linguists, professors, teachers, and passionate enthusiasts. I’ve learned countless lessons on how to make my own language learning more fun and effective along the way, and I hope you have gleaned some useful strategies, methods, and resources, too.
If you want to learn to speak Japanese with confidence, you have to actually practice speaking DIRECTLY. The problem with this is that it’s hard to find native speakers to practice with, keep yourself accountable, and speaking can be really scary! This is precisely why I designed the Japanese Conversation Accelerator, a live training course to get you having flowing conversations in just 1 month.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” Here are 7 essential principles you can follow to get fluent in Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, or any other target language. You can play with lots of different methods to find what works best for you, but violate these universal principles at your own perel!