Jake Gill (高健) is a Chinese educator, former “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language” graduate student, and the CEO of Skritter, an innovative language learning app that helps Japanese and Chinese learners master characters through active production (i.e. writing on the screen) instead of passive recognition. In the interview, we talk about how and why he learned Mandarin Chinese, why traditional language classes won’t get you fluent in a language, what he would do differently if he were to start learning Mandarin over again, the limitations of app-based learning and following “the golden path,” the importance of following your passion and curiosity in languages, how to learn to write Chinese characters the “write” way, Jake’s current language learning routines and favorite resources, and the importance of daily habits and focusing on process over outcome.
Stuart Jay Raj is an Australian polyglot, applied linguist, author, musician, and cross-cultural business consultant based in Bangkok, Thailand. He has presented at two TEDx events (once in English and once in Mandarin), and is the author of Cracking Thai Fundamentals: A Thai Operating System for the Mind. In addition to teaching and writing extensively on effective language acquisition, he has also applied his impressive language skills as a multilingual facilitator in various specialized industries (including aerospace, oil and gas, hospitality, and cyber security) and as the co-host of a Thai travel show called Neua Chan Phan Plaek (เหนือชั้น 1000 แปลก) that explored fascinating people, places, and things around the world via local languages. Stuart holds a degree in Cognitive and Applied Linguistics from Griffith University, and speaks over 15 languages, including Thai, Lao, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Indonesian / Malay, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Hindi, Vietnamese, Burmese, and various other Asian languages and dialects.
Richard Simcott is a “hyperpolyglot” who speaks over a dozen languages fluently and many dozen to various levels; a feat that led HarperCollins to name him one of Britain’s most multilingual people. He is also the co-founder of the Polyglot Conference, an annual event that brings together polyglots, linguists, and lovers of language from all over the world (the event will be online this year from October 16 to 25, 2020). He returns to the Language Mastery Show six years after our first conversation to talk about how he juggles so many languages, the “minimum effective dose” required to move a language project forward, and how he chooses which languages to pursue. He is a fountain of language learning wisdom and I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!
I first started The Language Mastery Show in 2009 as a short-term experiment. My initial goals were: ① To test drive the new medium of podcasting. ② To serve and empower independent language learners. ③ To have a good excuse to meet some of my linguistic heroes. Now eleven years later, I am happy to say that the podcast has exceeded all initial expectations. I’ve reached hundreds of thousands of people, interviewed 50 of the world’s best language learners, and befriended many in real life. Before kicking off Season 3 of The Language Mastery Show next week (launching on Friday, July 24, 2020), I wanted to go back and highlight some of my favorite lessons from the amazing guests that have shared their time and wisdom with us over the years, including polyglots, hyperpolyglots, linguists, professors, teachers, and passionate enthusiasts. I’ve learned countless lessons on how to make my own language learning more fun and effective along the way, and I hope you have gleaned some useful strategies, methods, and resources, too.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” Here are 7 essential principles you can follow to get fluent in Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, or any other target language. You can play with lots of different methods to find what works best for you, but violate these universal principles at your own perel!
A clear purpose is essential in any long-term undertaking like language learning. As Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “If you know the why, you can live any how.” But this WHY needn’t needn’t be something extrinsic or practical. In fact, intrinsic and emotional WHYs are often far more motivating and sustainable. All that matters is that your WHY motivates you day in and day out. Nobody else needs to know your real purpose.