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 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.
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!
Sara Maria Hasbun, a.k.a. Miss Linguistic, is a polyglot, translator, linguist, and the Managing Director of Meridian Linguistics. She speaks Spanish, French, Mandarin, Korean, American Sign Language, Nicaraguan Sign Language, and Indonesian, and has also dabbled in Thai, Cantonese, and Malay. In the interview, we discuss: 1) How Sara Maria got interested in languages, and went from a struggling Spanish student to a full-fledged polyglot. 2) How studying linguistics has helped her learn foreign languages better. 3) How she learned to mimic immersion environments anywhere in the world. 4) The power of probabilistic, statistical learning, and the importance of learning language through high-frequency chunks. 5) Why you should “spam your brain” with language learning input. 6) The power of using online tutors and the importance of removing pain points between you and spoken practice. 7) The importance of getting the sounds of a language into your head. 8) The similarities between learning a language and working out (and how doing both at the same time is a powerful combination). 9) Why you shouldn’t discount the power of passive learning, “dead time,” and habit pairing. 10) The insufficiency of rule-based learning. 11) Why you should work with multiple tutors. 12 ) The power of the “monologue method” and 30-day challenges.
Lindsay Williams has been hooked on languages ever since childhood when she got a taste of French—and the free croissants that accompanied the class! Since then, she’s gone on to learn Spanish, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, Esperanto, Indonesian, Korean, Guarani, and more. Along the way, she developed a passion for teaching languages, too, and has taught learners in Costa Rica, refugees in the U.K., countless learners online, and even employees at a garlic bread factory! She now dedicates time to inspiring independent language learners and online teachers, sharing a wealth of useful tips and tools on her popular site Lindsay Does Language. She has also created one of my favorite new podcasts, Language Stories, a documentary series that highlights various languages around the globe and the people who speak them. In the interview, we discuss: 1) Lindsay’s language “origin story.” 2) Her most memorable language learning experiences. 3) The most common learner mistakes and myths. 4) Her daily language learning routines and “minimum viable daily habits.” 5) How to create “onion goals.” 6) The importance of being kind to oneself and seeing mistakes as evidence of growth, not proof of failure. 7) What to do when motivation and willpower wane. 8) Why one size never fits all in language learning.
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.