Studying Linguistics in university changed my life. It lead me to travel the world and dive into the languages and cultures of far-off lands, including Japan, Bangladesh, and Taiwan. Linguistics also helped me develop a greater appreciation of my home language and culture, including the many regional dialects, accents, and linguistic varieties found right here in the United States. Perhaps the greatest lesson from Linguistics was learning the difference between “prescriptive linguistics” and “descriptive linguistics.” This critical distinction accounts for the vast majority of the language-related arguments I’ve had with friends, family, and internet trolls. So what is the difference and why does it matter? Read on to hear my two yen.
As Greg McKeown puts it in “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”: “The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we underinvest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution. One of the most common ways people―especially ambitious, successful people―damage this asset is through a lack of sleep.” That was certainly true for me in my 20s and 30s, when I regularly burned the candle at both ends in a foolish quest for productivity. I now know that my chronic sleep deprivation (and all the coffee and alcohol I used to self-medicate) significantly impaired my studies and work. May it be acquiring foreign languages, writing books, or launching businesses, more sleep would have made me more productive, more effective, and more efficient. So what is an optimal amount of sleep? And what kinds of sleep do we need to optimally consolidate, encode, and recall new words, phrases, and structures? Read on to find out.
Since starting the Language Mastery Show in 2009, I have interviewed over fifty of the world’s best language learners, including some “polyglots” who speak five, ten, fifteen, or even more languages! One of the most impressive such individuals is Lindie Botes, a South African UX designer based in Singapore who speaks 12+ languages to varying degrees, including Korean, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Hungarian! So how did she acquire so many languages when most people struggle to learn just one? And just as important, how does she maintain the languages she has worked so hard to acquire? She has many interesting methods, but the one I find most intriguing is “language stacking.” Read on to learn more about what the method is and why you should try it, too.
I’ve written before about whether or not you can learn a language well using smartphone apps. The short answer? It depends. Some language apps can help, but none can replace the primary tasks that will actually get you fluent: tons of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Moreover, most language apps teach languages indirectly and out of context. Not exactly a recipe for fluency. But there are a few apps that do a pretty good job of providing contextual, direct practice. Clozemaster is one of them. Instead of trying to teach you words in isolation as many apps do, the gamified app teaches you vocabulary in context through mass exposure to complete sentences. So how does Clozemaster work? And how can you get the most out the app and ensure that you aren’t wasting your time? After thoroughly testing the app, here now are my best tips for how to use Clozemaster and maximize its effectiveness.
I was greatly saddened to hear that American polyglot and YouTuber Moses McCormick—a.k.a. “Lǎoshǔ” (老鼠, )—passed away on March 4, 2021 from heart complications just shy of his 40th birthday. Though his life was brief, his profound legacy lives on in the millions of people he inspired through his popular YouTube videos, courses, and language coaching. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting Moses in person or having him as a guest on the Language Mastery Show, but I have been watching his videos for years and have learned a lot from his practical, playful approach to learning new languages. Read on to see what I consider to be the three most important pieces of practical wisdom from Moses, teachings that can help you banish perfectionism, bust through fears, reach fluency faster, and have much more fun along the way.
Khatzumoto is the man behind the popular Japanese learner blog All Japanese All the Time (or AJATT for short). While attending university in the United States, he figured out a way to immerse himself in Japanese language and culture nearly 24 hours a day. In an extremely short amount of time, he managed to reach an impressive level of fluency despite not living where the language was spoken and even without many of the learning tools and resources now readily available (he began his journey in 2004).