Lýdia Machová, PhD is a polyglot, language mentor, interpreter, TED speaker, the former head organizer of the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, and the founder of Language Mentoring, a site that shows people how to learn any language by themselves. Her 2018 TED Talk, The Secrets of Learning a New Language, has been watched nearly 4.5 million times, and has brought the language learning secrets of polyglots to a much wider audience than ever before.

In the interview, we discuss:

  • Why Lýdia passed the reins to other organizers for the 2019 Polyglot Gathering.
  • How Lýdia got interested in languages and why the traditional classroom approach didn’t work.
  • How non-traditional methods like reading Harry Potter and watching Friends helped her acquire languages quickly and more enjoyably.
  • How Lýdia defines “comfortable fluency” and what language level she aims for in each new language.
  • Why you should think in terms of hours not years when learning a language.
  • Why success in language learning depends on interest and finding effective methods, not being “good at languages.”
  • Lýdia’s thoughts on the “Critical Period Hypothesis” and why you can learn a language at any age.
  • Why there will never be a “good” time to start speaking so you might as well start practicing as early as possible.
  • How you can use simple language to speak around words you don’t yet know.
  • Why speaking a foreign language is about applying the words you know, not translating word for word from your mother tongue.
  • The four core principles of effective language learning: ① having fun, ② choosing effective methods, ③ taking a systemic, habit-based approach, and ④ maximizing contact with the language.
  • How to use David James’ “Goldlist Method” to learn vocabulary quickly and easily.
  • Why language apps such as Duolingo can be a useful adjunct to other language activities, but why apps alone are not enough to learn to speak a language.
  • The critical difference between “passive recognition” and “active production.”
  • Why Lýdia always elicits specific language learning goals from her clients first and then adjusts her recommendations to fit them.
  • Lýdia’s thoughts on the “I don’t have time” excuse.
  • Why you should focus your time on a small number of core apps or resources.
  • How to fully leverage a single resource with multiple methods.
  • Lýdia’s words of encouragement for new language learners.
  • Why you don’t have to be a “polyglot” to attend events like Polyglot Gathering, Polyglot Conference, LangFest, etc.

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