From full-time Mandarin immersion at Peking University and Shanghai’s Fudan University to years of independent study online, Daniel Nalesnik has spent the last 13+ years on a mission to figure out the most fun and effective way to learn Mandarin Chinese. The result? The creation of Hack Chinese, a powerful spaced repetition tool designed from the ground up just for Mandarin learners, unlike generic SRS apps that struggle to properly handle Chinese characters, tones, etc. In our conversation, Daniel shares the lessons he’s learned, what he would do differently if he started from scratch, and how new language learners can get started.
The short answer? It depends. It depends on your goals. It depends on your level. And it depends on how much time and discipline you are willing to invest.
Scott H. Young is a Canadian writer, programmer, entrepreneur and metalearning expert. He is the author of the best-selling book “Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career,” and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The BBC, Popular Mechanics, Business Insider, and Lifehacker. He has applied and refined his principles in a number of accelerated learning challenges, from completing MIT’s four-year undergraduate computer science curriculum in just one year, to spending a year abroad in four countries with a “No English Rule,” to a one-month at-home challenge to learn Macedonian, his wife’s native language.
Mastering a foreign language is at once extremely complex and predictively simple. On the one hand, you have to learn the nuanced meanings of thousands of words, internalize hundreds of grammar patterns, and be able to understand and use these terms and structures at rapid speed. On the other hand, most of the complexity happens at a subconscious level. Our brains do almost all of the heavy lifting for us if we get enough exposure and practice. In essence, you just have to show up. But how you show up matters. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t learn languages by osmosis. Just being around foreign languages is not enough. Read on to see the 3 essential ingredients you need to ensure that this exposure will lead to fluency.
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.
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.