As I’ve interviewed dozens of polyglots (those fluent in multiple languages) for The Language Mastery Show, I’ve discovered that the world’s best language learners don’t succeed because of outlier intellects or unusual genetic predispositions. They succeed because they develop and stick to daily habits and routines that provide the input and practice their brains need to a acquire a language. And guess what? You and I can do exactly the same thing, whether we want to learn our first foreign language or our fifteenth. One of the most important daily habits I’ve observed is that polyglots are extremely efficient with their time, and find ways to sneak in a little language study here and there no matter how busy their work or personal lives may be. Here are three ways that polyglots squeeze in daily language practice.
We have been conditioned by well-intentioned mothers to believe that television will “destroy our brains.” This might well be true if one spends their time watching “reality” TV shows that don’t actually reflect reality, the sensationalist 24-hour news cycle, and tasteless drivel that neither entertains nor educates. But if you watch television in Japanese, this otherwise time-wasting and brain-wasting activity can become a constructive form of language learning that even mommy should be able to get behind! Video is also one of the best ways to create a fun, effective, foreign language immersion environment no matter where in the world you happen to live. Here now are my top ten favorite tools for using online video to learn Japanese.
Film is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a foreign language from afar, giving you valuable cultural and linguistic insights from the comfort of your couch. Below you will find my top ten favorite Japanese movies of all time, divided into three categories: 1) “Samurai & Fighting Flicks” for those who enjoy epic hero tales and aren’t squeamish of violence, 2) “Windows Into Japanese Culture” for those want to see different facets of life in modern Japan (some good, some sad), and 3) “Lighthearted & Humorous Films” for days when you need a good laugh. Limiting my list to ten movies was no easy task as Japan is home to prolific filmmakers and some of the best directors in the world.
The holiday season is upon us, a time of fun, family, gifts, and gratitude. But it can also be a time when our language-learning habits fall by the wayside. Travel, new environments, disrupted schedules, less-than-restful sleep, and some formidable hangovers can all throw a wrench in our plans to continue making progress in our target languages. Here are my three best tips for keeping up on your language learning even when your daily routine gets turned upside down.
Interview with Michael & Ellen Robinson from Uncommon Dream on Learning Spanish & Raising Children Bilingually
Michael and Ellen Robinson first met in 2004 while they were studying Spanish in Mexico. Though Ellen had intended not to spend time with any other native English speakers while abroad, Michael’s charm and sufficient command of the Spanish language were enough to overcome her initial objections. They are now married, have two children, have visited 23 countries, and have lived abroad nine times. In the interview, they share key lessons they’ve learned while acquiring Spanish, living abroad, and raising children bilingually.
After many years of requests from Language Mastery readers, I am very excited to announce that today, the print version of Master Japanese is now available on Amazon for just $29! (Cue music and celebratory ninja dancing!) Master Japanese teaches you how to learn Japanese in a way that is both fun and effective, from the comfort of your own home, using my proven method called Anywhere Immersion. It’s not a textbook or course, but a complete guide that teaches you HOW to learn Japanese. Whether you have a business trip to Japan coming up, you want to be able to read manga in the original Japanese, or you want to wow your Japanese partner’s family with your Nihongo skills, I’m committed to helping you reach your goals, whatever they may be.
This is part two of my special two-way interview with Danish podcaster Kris Broholm, host of the Actual Fluency Podcast. We talk about how learning languages and connecting with the polyglot community gave his life purpose, launched a new career, and has allowed him to meet and learn from hundreds of the world’s best language learners. Kris also shares expert tips on how to launch and scale a language business. I really enjoyed our wide-ranging conversation, which Kris jokes was, “…a bit like Inside the Actor’s Studio, except about languages instead of acting. And of lacking James Lipton…”
In 2015, the Danish podcaster Kris Broholm joined me on the Language Mastery Show to talk about how discovering the polyglot community helped pull him out of depression and give his life direction. His podcast, Actual Fluency, is now one of the most popular language podcasts on the planet, with 166 guests to date! Though Kris speaks multiple languages, he sees himself not as a language expert, but as a “language learning journalist” who highlights the expertise of the world’s best language learners. In this special two-part two-way interview (which is also being shared on his podcast), we each talk about lessons we’ve learned in the last four years, patterns we’ve observed after talking to so many polyglots, and how our respective blogs, podcasts, and language businesses have evolved.
I recently started reading Scott H. Young’s excellent new book “Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career.” Though the book is about metalearning in general, it’s loaded with principles that are extremely relevant for language learning. One particularly important concept Scott highlights is directness: “Learn by doing the thing you want to become good at. Don’t trade it off for other tasks just because those are more convenient and comfortable.”
Ruben Adery is a pronunciation and dialect coach who helps learners, actors, singers, etc. develop native-like foreign accents. I first met him at the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava where he gave a talk titled The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Immitating Foreign Accents to Help Master Any Language. The content of the talk itself was great, but the really impressive part was that he had the audience fooled for the first five minutes that he was from Israel when he is in fact from Los Angeles!
I am pleased to welcome back my first repeat guest on the podcast: the author, teacher, and grammar guru Ellen Jovin. A lot has happened since our first chat over five years ago, including travels all over the United States discussing the inner workings of English grammar with passing strangers at her “Grammar Table,” and a new book for English learners called “English At Work: Find and Fix Your Mistakes in Business English as a Foreign Language.”
Katie Harris is the founder of Joy of Languages, a site dedicated to helping make language learning a joy instead of a chore. She was bored to tears with languages in school, but eventually figured out a more fun, effective approach to language learning that is focused on communicating with people and enjoying authentic listening and reading content. With a Masters in Linguistics from Cambridge University and an MRes in Speech, Language and Cognition from University College London, Katie does a great job peppering in just enough linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience to help language learners, but always keeping the focus on fun and efficacy. We first met at the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava where I attended her talk How to Learn a Language by Watching TV and Film. Her philosophy was right in line with my “Anywhere Immersion” approach and I was eager to get her on the podcast.
Gabriel Gelman is the founder of Sprachheld, a popular language learning website for Germans learning foreign languages (and―as an added bonus―non-Germans learning German as a foreign language). On the site, Gabriel shares useful language learning tips and tools, inspirational interviews with polyglots and linguists, and a dialogue-based Spanish course (with other languages slated for production in the future). I’ve followed his work for some time and was delighted to finally meet him in person at the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava.
Today’s Japanese learner is but a click or tap away from a dizzying array of digital Japanese dictionaries. But which should you choose? The plethora of options available can lead to what author Barry Schwartz calls the “paradox of choice.” To help you avoid the anxiety, paralysis by analysis, and decision fatigue associated with so many choices, I have waded through dozens of Japanese dictionary sites and apps for you and selected just the essential few that I think are best suited to mastering the Japanese language. Here now are the top ten Japanese dictionaries available online and on iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows.
Elisa Polese is an Italian polyglot known for teaching multiple languages at once (up to ten languages at a time!), including Arabic, Catalan, Dutch, Italian, English, Esperanto, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. In addition to her focus on multilingual learning, Elisa is also a big proponent of speaking from day one and getting over the fear of making mistakes. I had the privilege of witnessing her impressive multilingual teaching skills firsthand at the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, and it was exhilarating to see so many languages flying around in the room at once!