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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
We all have days when we’re unmotivated to put in the time. We all endure embarrassing linguistic and cultural gaffes that can make it hard to get back on the horse. And we all encounter learning plateaus when lots of effort leads to little perceived progress. All normal, but frustrating nonetheless. When such challenges inevitably arise, I find it helpful to read the accounts of experienced language learners who have faced (and overcome!) similar hurdles. While reading about language learning is certainly no substitute for actually learning a language, we can gain a great deal of vicarious wisdom from these linguistic “Yodas” who have journeyed before―and farther than―us. To that end, here are five of my favorite language learning blogs that can help keep you motivated through the ups and downs of language learning and provide useful tips to overcome the most common obstacles.