Dr. Gareth Popkins is a lawyer, historian, and former English and Welsh teacher who is fluent in German, Russian, and Welsh, advanced in French, conversational in Hungarian, Finnish, Italian, Portuguese, and Basque, and now hard at work on Japanese. We first met in June 2019 at the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava and I knew right away that I wanted to have him on the podcast to share his language learning story and tips. As he puts it: “I’ve got fluent because I really wanted to and I kept going, despite myself. It’s sometimes said that an expert is someone who’s made all the mistakes in the book. If so, I’m that expert. I’m still experimenting. I’m still learning…. and still making those mistakes, of course.”
Inés Ruiz is an award-winning entrepreneur, a former Spanish teacher at Cambridge University, and now the founder and CEO of Medita Spanish, the world’s first language and meditation app. By integrating mediation and mindfulness practices, she hopes to make language learning more fun and less stressful.
Master Japanese 9.0 is Here: Learn Japanese WHEN You Want, WHERE You Want & HOW You Want Through Anywhere Immersion
After six months slaving over a hot keyboard, I have finally finished a massive update of my comprehensive Japanese how-to manual and resource guide, Master Japanese: How to Learn Japanese through Anywhere Immersion. I began the update with the simple intent of fixing a few typos and adding a few of the latest and greatest online resources that weren’t available when I published the last edition. But as I got underway, I decided to make this a major overhaul of the guide (which will celebrate its tenth anniversary in December 2019!). The new and improved version includes a host of improvements and additions, including: 1) New resource recommendations for apps, anime, books, manga, podcasts, videos, and more. 2) Completely new chapters on increasing motivation, building discipline, and conquering fear (3 of the most common challenges I hear from language learners). 3) A new look and layout that makes the guide easier to read and navigate. And hey, more ninjas!
Gretchen McCulloch is an internet linguist, the “Resident Linguist” at WIRED Magazine (Best. Title. Ever!), the co-host of the Lingthusiasm podcast, and the author of the new book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, a smart, loving, pun-filled look at the evolution of language in the internet age.
10 Common Thinking Errors That Cause Depression & Anxiety and Block Your Path to Fluency in a Foreign Language
I have struggled with depression off and on for much of my adult life. If you’ve ever been severely depressed, you know just how hopeless and meaningless life can feel and how difficult it can be to accomplish even the simplest of tasks. Until recently, I thought that my depression was a product of genetics, my environment, and dietary factors. I now know that the primary cause of my depression has been something internal all along: my thoughts. It turns out that cognitive distortions were the real culprit, and that by identifying and talking back to the twisted thoughts, one is able to recover from depression and anxiety, beat perfectionism and procrastination, and stop self-sabotaging your language learning goals. Read on to see the ten distortions and how to overcome them.
You may be surprised to hear that flashcards can be a rather controversial topic in the language learning world. Some swear BY them. Some swear AT them. So where do I fall in the flashcard continuum? Am I for or against them? Read on to hear my point of view and my tips for getting the most out of flashcards if you decide to use them in language learning.
Shannon Kennedy is a language lover, traveler, musician, and writer. She has written extensively for Fluent in 3 Months and Drops, and is also the Language Encourager and Community Manager for the Add1Challenge. In 2018, she co-hosted the inaugural Women in Language event, an online conference to champion, celebrate, and amplify the voices of women in languages. In the interview, we discuss ① why majoring in music led Shannon to start learning German, Italian, and Spanish, ② how her self-study methods differ from how she had learned languages in school, ③ why learning is short, frequent chunks of time is more effective than longer study sessions, ④ her daily habits and how she fits in language learning around work and motherhood, ⑤ why kids don’t learn languages better than adults, and ⑥ why discipline is more important than motivation when learning any skill.
Training in martial arts has been one of the most rewarding, meaningful pursuits of my life, and I highly encourage you to give one a try if you’ve yet to don a dougi (道着, “training uniform”) or hit the tatami (畳, “straw mats”). Martial arts training has numerous benefits: ① Increased focus, discipline, and self-control. ② Improved strength, flexibility, agility, and bodily awareness. ③ A better chance of defending oneself from bullies, criminals, rapists, etc. But learning a martial arts offers another potential advantage that few people talk about: highly contextual Japanese immersion! Read on to see three reasons why martial arts is an ideal context for learning Japanese, and a few of the most popular bujutsu (武術, “martial arts”) to choose from.
We live in a world obsessed with speed and efficiency. “Faster” is almost always equated with “better” (other than with sex of course). We want our food fast. We want our abs fast. And we want our language skills fast. But the older I get, the more I’ve learned to value slowness. Read on to see why you should savor the language learning process the way you would a fine meal or nice glass of wine.
Despite blogging about languages for over a decade and interviewing dozens of polyglots for The Language Mastery Show and my Master Japanese book, I realized earlier this year that I had not yet attended any of the polyglot events around the world, including the Polyglot Gathering, the Polyglot Conference, or LangFest. When I honestly asked myself why, I realized that the answer was fear. Fear of being judged. Fear of not belonging. Fear of being thought a fraud. I told myself, “A true polyglot speaks 5 or more languages fluently. I only speak a few.” After finally mustering the courage to attend a polyglot event—the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava—I now realize just how ridiculous I had been and how much potential fun, fulfillment, and connection I have missed out on all these years. In an effort to spare you from the same self-limiting beliefs, here are five reasons why you should attend a polyglot event even if you don’t consider yourself a polyglot.
Lindsay McMahon is the co-founder of All Ears English, a podcast and site dedicated to helping people learn natural English in a fun, relaxed way by focusing on “connection, not perfection.” The show, co-hosted by Lindsay (“The English Adventurer”), Michelle Kaplan (“The New York Radio Girl”), and Jessica Beck (“The Examiner of Excellence”), is ranked in the Top 20 Most Downloaded podcasts in Japan, Korea, China, and Brazil, and has been downloaded more than 50 million times! In the interview, we discuss: 1) How living with an 18-year-old French exchange student at age 10 sparked Lindsay’s passion for foreign languages. 2) Lindsay’s experience living and learning abroad after university, including her life changing 1.5 years in Tokyo. 3) How Lindsay got certified in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). 4) The pros and cons of living in rural or urban areas while abroad. 5) How to prepare for standardized tests (e.g. the JLPT, IELTS, TOEFL, etc.) so that you actually learn how to communicate at the same time. 6) The most common mistakes that English learners make and how to overcome them. 7) Why there is no “best” dialect of English and how to choose the right one for your needs. 8) How to stay focused on connection and communication instead of mistakes. 9) How to lower the “affective filter” (psychological blocks to understanding and producing the language). 10) The critical cultural difference between doing business in Japan and the U.S. 11) The most common mistakes Japanese learners of English make. 12) The problems with linguistic interference and direct translation. 13) Why language “immersion” is superior to language “learning.” 14) What Lindsay has changed her mind about in the last few years. 15) How Lindsay prioritizes her life, work, learning, etc. 16) Where she sees All Ears English in five years. 17) Lindsay’s favorite ESL resources, apps, and online tools. 18) The importance of moving on to authentic content instead of only sticking with learner content. 19) The power of having an “internal locus of control” and how beliefs about control and choice vary culture to culture. 20) Lindsay’s future travel plans and why she plans to continue traveling throughout her life. 21) Why you need to keep your eye on what matters.
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: 1) Why Lýdia passed the reins to other organizers for the 2019 Polyglot Gathering. 2) How Lýdia got interested in languages and why the traditional classroom approach didn’t work. 3) How non-traditional methods like reading Harry Potter and watching Friends helped her acquire languages quickly and more enjoyably. 4) How Lýdia defines “comfortable fluency” and what language level she aims for in each new language. 5) Why you should think in terms of hours not years when learning a language. 6) Why success in language learning depends on interest and finding effective methods, not being “good at languages.” 7) Lýdia’s thoughts on the “Critical Period Hypothesis” and why you can learn a language at any age. 8) Why there will never be a “good” time to start speaking so you might as well start practicing as early as possible. 9) How you can use simple language to speak around words you don’t yet know. 10) Why speaking a foreign language is about applying the words you know, not translating word for word from your mother tongue. 11) 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. 12) How to use David James’ “Goldlist Method” to learn vocabulary quickly and easily. 13) 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. 14) The critical difference between “passive recognition” and “active production.” 15) Why Lýdia always elicits specific language learning goals from her clients first and then adjusts her recommendations to fit them. 16) Lýdia’s thoughts on the “I don’t have time” excuse. 17) Why you should focus your time on a small number of core apps or resources. 18) How to fully leverage a single resource with multiple methods.19) Lýdia’s words of encouragement for new language learners. 20) Why you don’t have to be a “polyglot” to attend events like Polyglot Gathering, Polyglot Conference, LangFest, etc.
Tamara Marie is a language coach and the founder of Spanish Con Salsa, a site and podcast that help you learn Spanish through through music, travel, and cultural immersion. In the interview, we discuss: 1) Why high school Spanish probably won’t prepare you for traveling to a Spanish speaking country. 2) Why music and dance are such powerful tools in language learning. 3) Why “Spanish is not Spanish” and why you should focus on learning the sounds and vocabulary of a specific Spanish dialect based on your goals and travel plans. 4) Why you shouldn’t consider languages “easy” or “difficult.” 5) Why one size never fits all when learning a language. 6) Why you need to beware of “false phonetic friends” when learning Spanish. 7) Tamara’s tips for learning languages through songs.
John Dinkel is the CEO and founder of Manga Sensei, an online education company that teaches Japanese through fun, effective, modern mediums, including a weekly comic series, a daily 5-minute podcast (the #1 Japanese language podcast on Spotify), and a free 30-day course on the basics of Japanese. John began his Japanese journey as an LDS missionary in Nagoya, Japan, an experience that changed the trajectory of his life, showed him the necessity of making mistakes, and lead him to start his business and share the lessons he learned. In the interview, we discuss: 1) How John went from a rural farm in Nebraska to a Japanese metropolis. 2) Why you need to make as many mistakes as possible to learn a language. 3) How the LDS approach to language learning is different than traditional courses. 4) The critical difference between chikin (チキン) and chikan (痴漢). 5) John’s frustration with traditional Japanese language education in universities and how it lead to the creation of Manga Sensei. 6) Why John focuses on practical application (and why he didn’t learn the Japanese word for “coffee” until a year into his learning journey). 7) What to do if you are struggling with spoken Japanese. 8) Why John still uses roumaji despite being able to read kana and kanji. 9) John’s favorite Japanese learning resources for beginning, intermediate, and advanced learners. 10) How John learns Japanese in the shower each morning. 11) Why you have to make 10,000 mistakes to get fluent in a language.
The journey to fluency in a foreign language can be loads of fun at times, but it also includes inevitable challenges and setbacks. You will misunderstand others and be misunderstood yourself. You will unintentionally say offensive things or make cultural gaffes. You will butcher grammar. You will order the wrong food and get on the wrong bus. But as frustrating or painful as these mistakes can be, it’s critical to understand that they don’t block the path to mastery. They are the path to mastery. Screwing up and figuring out where we went wrong is an inevitable, mandatory part of the leaning process. The only true mistake is the one we don’t learn from.