Steve Kaufmann is a hyperpolyglot who has learned more than 20 languages (!!!) and the founder of LingQ, an online language learning platform that helps you acquire languages using content you love. He was my second guest on the Language Mastery Show way back in 2009, and returns 13 years later to offer new insights and encouragement for independent language learners.
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.
LMS S4 E3 – Author Scott H. Young on How to Apply His “Ultralearning” Principles in Language Learning
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.
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.