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.
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…”
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!
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.”
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.
In today’s show, I talk with Kris Broholm of Actual Fluency, an excellent podcast and blog boasting an impressive number of interviews with brilliant language experts, zany polyglots, etc. (over 50 episodes as of writing), including many of my heroes and a few guests who have been on the Language Mastery Show. In his own words, Kris is not an expert on languages, linguistics, or learning, is not a great student, and is not gifted at language learning. While I think he is certainly being humble, I love how he shows that anyone can learn a language regardless of one’s level of introversion, aptitude for learning, location, age, etc. Unlike many who come to language learning as just a hobby, languages helped pull Kris out of severe depression and transform his life.