Nelson Dellis is a memory athlete, 4-time U.S. Memory Champion, a Grandmaster of Memory, a high-altitude mountaineer, author, speaker, and all-around cool dude. He is now on a mission to reach conversational fluency in Dutch in just one year, applying all the memory techniques, mnemonics, and visualization strategies he used to train for memory championships.
Last week, I shared part one of my most recent chat with the inimitable Olly Richards, who first appeared on The Language Mastery Show back in in April 2014. Since that time, he’s gone on to build I Will Teach You a Language into one of the top language blogs, launch a slew of excellent language courses, and publish a series of great short story books through Teach Yourself. In part two of our wide-ranging conversation, we get into his language learning routines and habits, how he tackles reading (especially in Japanese), the importance of getting a wide range of high-quality exposure to your target language, the power of following your interest and curiosity, and Olly’s top tips for launching a successful online language learning empire or just a profitable side hustle to help pay the bills.
I am excited to announce that the brand new version of Master Mandarin: How to Learn Mandarin Chinese Anywhere in the World will be released on April 6, 2020 in both digital and print versions. There is still time to make a few changes and additions, so would you do me a quick favor? I am looking for insight on how I can make the book most useful for you. If you have a spare minute or two, let me know: ① What are you struggling with most in your language learning journey?, ② What do you find most difficult about Mandarin Chinese specifically? ③ What content, methods, resources, etc. do you hope I include? You can either leave a comment on the post or send me a quick email.
Author, polyglot, and “langpreneur” Olly Richards from I Will Teach You a Language returns to the podcast six years after our first chat to share what new lessons he’s learned and how a high-altitude near death experience led him to the power of stories in language learning. Olly has been quite the busy bee since we last spoke, going on to build one of the most popular language blogs on the planet, launching a series of in-depth language courses, and publishing 16 short story books with Teach Yourself (with more coming soon, including a Japanese edition)!
Jan van der Aa is a Brussels-based polyglot and entrepreneur from the Netherlands, the co-founder of the language learning site LanguageBoost, and the co-founder of Langpreneur, an event series and podcast dedicated to helping language lovers, teachers, influencers, podcasters, YouTubers, etc. turn their passion for languages into profitable, scalable online businesses.
Netflix may be associated most with binge-worthy series like House of Cards and subtle romantic preambles (“Want to Netflix and chill?”), but it can actually become a fantastic Japanese language learning tool, too, if used correctly. Read on to see how to find Japanese-language TV shows and movies, turn on subtitles and Japanese audio, and change the Netflix interface to Japanese.
As Plato said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” I would add yet three more benefits of music in the context of learning Japanese: ① Music is fun, meaning it will help you get your daily dose of Japanese no matter what (and actually enjoy the process along the way). ② Music makes repetition more enjoyable, allowing you to master Japanese vocabulary and grammar without the boredom that other forms of repetition entail. ③ Music improves memory, increases retention, and provides a scaffolding for new information. So that’s the “why” of music. Read on to see the “how” of the music approach using the Apple Music app. And let me know in the comments if you want me to do a similar write up for another app or streaming service.
Whether you find Duolingo to be a green-feathered friend in your pocket or an intimidating monster lurking outside your door waiting to pounce on you for not meeting your daily study goal, there’s no denying the app’s ubiquity and widespread cultural influence. Even Saturday Night Live has done a skit about it! Given its popularity, I am frequently asked whether I use Duolingo myself and what I think about it as a path to foreign language fluency. The answer to the first part of this question is easy: yes. Every single day. The answer to the second half, however, is far more nuanced and chock-full of caveats. Read on to see why Duolingo (alone) won’t get you fluent in Japanese, but why I think you should use it anyway…
Once upon a time, you had to two choices if you wanted to get fluent in Japanese: ① Take Japanese language classes. ② Move to Japan. I did both and had a (mostly) great time doing so. But while I think classes can be great for those who can afford the time and tuition and that living abroad can be a profoundly transformative experience, neither undertakings are a requirement for learning a language. Today, anyone with an internet connection, a little creativity, and sufficient discipline can reach a high level of fluency anywhere in the world if they design the proper environment. Read on to see exactly how to create a fun, effective Japanese language environment no matter where in the world you happen to live.
Ever catch yourself saying, “I really wish I could learn Japanese but it ain’t ever gonna happen ’cause I can’t just up and move to Japan! Nor are there any native Japanese speakers near me… Guess I will have to put my linguistic dreams up on the shelf alongside competitive caber tossing and having lunch with Warren Buffet.” The bad news? Kilts and cabers can be hard to come by outside of Scotland. And you probably won’t ever share a cheeseburger and coke with the “Oracle of Omaha.” The good news? You can reach and maintain fluency in Japanese (or any other language) anywhere in the world using tutoring sites like iTalki.
Arieh Smith, a.k.a. Xiaomanyc (Xiǎomǎ, 小马), is a popular YouTuber who loves practicing Mandarin on the streets of New York and surprising unsuspecting native speakers. From 24-hour crash courses in new languages like Korean, to learning additional Chinese dialects like Cantonese and Fuzhounese (which are really mutually unintelligible languages), his viral linguistic exploits have entertained and inspired millions of learners around the world. In our conversation, he shares why and how he learned Mandarin Chinese, tips for mastering Chinese characters and tones, and strategies for going from zero to basic conversations in days instead of years.
On August 28, 1963, The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., an American activist, humanitarian, and pastor gave what would become one of the most famous speeches of all time and a defining moment in the Civil Rights Movement. The masterful address, usually known simply as I Have a Dream, was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in front hundreds of thousands of people who had joined the “March on Washington.” If you’ve never watched the speech, or haven’t seen it in a while, please take a moment now to relive a bit of history and honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And for extra points, follow the links in the post to read the speech in Japanese, Chinese, or Spanish!
Interview with Jonty Yamisha: Circassian Language Activist, Accidental Polyglot & Founder of Optilingo
Jonty Yamisha is a language activist, an “accidental polyglot” in his own words, a “third-generation Circassian refugee,” and the founder of OptiLingo, an audio-based language app that uses “guided immersion” to help people reach fluency in foreign languages more quickly. We discuss the Circassian language and cultural history, how he’s raising his children bilingually, and how he “steals back” time for language learning amid his busy professional and family life.
Many TED Talks make you think, but this one gave me so many FEELS! I absolutely love Safwat’s story and how he overcame fear and resistance to be himself, own his voice (Pakistani accent, stuttering, and all), and continue creating his unique flavor of animation.
One of the most common questions I get asked is, “What is the easiest language to learn? What is the hardest?” My answer is rarely what the individual expects, nor is it usually the neat, tidy, TV-friendly answer they hope for…