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.
My Japanese language learning journey has been anything but smooth or linear. Sure, I eventually figured out what works best for me, but it took a lot of trial and error. If I were to go back and start learning from scratch, I would certainly do things very differently. And I certainly have done exactly that as I’ve started other languages. At the same time, I am grateful for my missteps as they have proved to be one of the most effective teachers one could ever ask for. As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend Carlos Gracie, Jr. put it, “There is no losing . . . You either win or you learn.” I’d now like to share my “trail map” with you and point out my five biggest blunders so you can avoid them on your Japanese journey. You can then save your mistakes for practicing the language itself instead of “wasting” them on selecting your methods, materials, or beliefs.
After two decades of learning foreign languages and one writing and podcasting about them, I’ve decided to quit this absurd undertaking. It turns out that the monolingual naysayers and forum trolls have been right all along. Life is short, so it’s high time I accept the truth about foreign languages, stop trying to empower independent learners, get a REAL job, and spend whatever leftover time I have on a more worthwhile habit. Read on to see the top three reasons I am throwing in the towel and shutting down Language Mastery.
Author, polyglot, and “langpreneur” Olly Richards from I Will Teach You a Language returns to the podcast six years after our first chat to share what new lessons he’s learned and how a high-altitude near death experience led him to the power of stories in language learning. Olly has been quite the busy bee since we last spoke, going on to build one of the most popular language blogs on the planet, launching a series of in-depth language courses, and publishing 16 short story books with Teach Yourself (with more coming soon, including a Japanese edition)!
Jan van der Aa is a Brussels-based polyglot and entrepreneur from the Netherlands, the co-founder of the language learning site LanguageBoost, and the co-founder of Langpreneur, an event series and podcast dedicated to helping language lovers, teachers, influencers, podcasters, YouTubers, etc. turn their passion for languages into profitable, scalable online businesses.